Thursday, June 09, 2016

24. Praktan

In a way, Praktan can be broken down into a simple formula:
1. Main story track of estranged lovers
2. Add a comic track (another couple, newly married)
3. Add a music track (four well known Bengali musicians, playing themselves)
4. Add a commentary track (an elderly couple, played by two yesteryear superstars)

This seemingly simple mathematical formula can fall flat due to a variety of reasons - boring setting, indifferent actors, lacklustre music, emphasis on the tracks, so on and so forth. But writer-director duo, Nandita Roy and Shibaprasad Mukherjee, do a masterful sidestepping of all these pitfalls and delivers a script that is thought-provoking and entertaining in equal measures.
In fact, after their previous success - Belaseshe - where they looked at a separated couple at the twilight of their lives, Praktan looks at a young couple's life after their divorce.

As a train goes from Kurla to Howrah, a first class bogey has twelve characters (as above) and film traces their journey. The focus is on Prasenjit and Rituparna, as a divorced couple and a series of flashbacks reveal their falling in and out of love beautifully. Quite interestingly, they are always in the beautiful parts of Kolkata when falling in love and always in their claustrophobic bedroom when falling out of it. There are some cliches in this relationship but the music lifts some of the regular scene really well.

Rituparna and Prasenjit are both good, looking alarmingly young in their pre-marriage avatars but the scene-stealer is Aparajita Adhya as Prasenjit's second wife. Soumitra's presence becomes critical because he closes the interval and the ending with two wonderful readings from Rabindranath - something that only he can do. His role doesn't require an actor of his stature otherwise. Sabitri - as his wife - brings the house down with a monologue in Bengali-accented Hindi. The newly married couple provides a killer comic track, with all sorts of gags. And the quartet of musicians - them of Chandrabindoo, Bhoomi and Anupam Roy - liven up the proceedings with great background music, superb songs and a brilliant antakshari!

About the absolutely stunning visuals of Kolkata in the film, these are some of the most memorable that I have seen in recent times. While Kahaani's Kolkata was grimy, sweaty, mysterious and set to retro music, Praktan's Kolkata is bright, happy, inviting and set to the music of its present day residents. If someone had to make a tourism video for Kolkata, I would recommend nothing but this song.

Overall, Praktan is one of those films that are not entirely novel in their theme but bring in a freshness in its treatment. The direction and acting are competent, the music is great and there is never a dull moment. As commercial Bangla cinema becomes a clone of the worst successes of Hindi cinema, I would love to see more such middle-of-the-road films gaining greater commercial success. On a weekday evening in Bangalore, we had a near-capacity crowd to see a subtitled print. That commercial success may already have been gained.

[Frivolous Footnote: The last time I remember Rituparna Sengupta in a train journey was when she got killed. In Partho Ghosh's Teesra Kaun, she was the victim of a murder during a train journey that also starred Mithun Chakraborty.]


korak datta said...

After a lean time on the blog over last 2 years, I had almost lost hope that you shall return here.
But you are back, and doing what I love most about this blog - films, trivia, and nostalgia.
Thank You for starting #100MoviePact
Time to pick up the pace if you want to hit the 100 mark. :-)
Maybe come down to Hyderabad and attend the Bengali film festival here.. Would add 3-4 films in a couple of days for sure...

Waiting eagerly to read more . . .

p.s. Please add a subscribe by email option on the blog. With the pathetic underdeveloped stage that the blogger app is in right now, subscription would be great for many readers to keep track of your updates... I accidentally came back to the blog after 6 months..

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