Monchora is the story of a charming thief, who enters a household to steal a priceless gem, and then things get complicated with the presence of a young woman in the household with whom he forms a mixed doubles team and wins the Australian Open. Well, no… of course, not! What are you thinking?
Written by Saradindu Banerjee probably in the 1950s, the story has a certain charm unique to those times, when life was simpler and people were innocent. A film out of such a story can be very promising if it made as a period film or modernized suitably. Monchora does neither and falls flat as a rather dull mish-mash.
Thieves with hearts of gold do have an appeal, if presented intelligently but their motivations and – as importantly – modus operandi have to engage the audience. Thieves wearing black, jumping off parapets and picking up prawn cutlets instead of jewellery could work in a French farce but one needs that mood to hold from start to finish.
Apart from not being updated psychologically, the film doesn’t even keep pace in physical terms. So, Rs 3000 is made to seem like a large amount when a wastrel asks for it – a sum unlikely to last more than half an evening in the places he seems to be frequenting with his lady love. Calcutta’s police chief is constantly hobnobbing with a man whose weekly expenses are no more than Rs 7500 and who doesn’t seem to have any known source of income or power.
Another thing about this film – and most Sandeep Ray films – is the juvenile art direction. A supposedly priceless ruby looks like child’s trinket, bigger and redder than a sugary lozenge. In another scene, a very expensive diamond ring looks like something you’d pick off those temporary stalls that come up during the Pujas. Bengali cinema is no longer hamstrung by low budgets and surely, there are enough jewellery brands – or visual effects studios – who can make these look a bit more believable. This is even more jarring because there are much better looking Bengali films nowadays and certainly the days of clunky sets and props are behind us.
The lead players – especially Saswata Chatterjee – bring in their considerable charisma but the script lets them down and they seldom look more than cardboard cutouts. This story and these characters would have done great in the times of Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen – backed by some kickass music – but in the present day and age, it just doesn’t cut ice.