By: Subhash K. Jha, IndiaFM
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Cast: Lilette Dubey, Victor Bannerjee, Moon Moon Sen, Sabyasachi Chakbraborty, Neha Dubey, Clayton Rodgers
Directed by: Anjan Dutt
Trust Pritish Nandy's production house to give that crucial thrust to deserving cinema. Sure, Writer-director Anjan Dutt's second release in two weeks (after the tepidly -received Bong Connection) is not as powerful and poignant a portrait of the rapidly-disintegrating Anglo-Indian community in Kolkata as Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringee Lane.
The earlier film had a hauntingly intimate quality to its tragic theme of a woman's solitude and emotional exploitation. Bow Barracks Forever is more rumbustious raunchy and scathing. The spoken word is constantly harsh and the songs (composed partly by the director) cheer up only for a few seconds.
Largely the narrative scans the dilapidated tenement with ruthless directness. A lack of romantic yearning is also the presence of a captivating candour in the narration. The more the director looks into these desperate lives for anguished statements, the less representational they seem in their communalized seclusion.
What the saucy screenplay lacks is a kind of subtlety. The characters are as broadly bravura as they are uninhibited in their expressions of geo-political indignance. Perhaps the 'ideas' tend to swamp the emotions at times. The one tenement in Anjan Dutt's plot seems to encompass characters of every shape and size, from the over-sexed rebellious housewife(Moon Moon Sen, in full-blown form) to the battered wife(Neha Dubey, more hysterical than required)....from the footloose moorless boy(Clayton Rodgers) who sneaks into the battered wife's bed to his strong-and-dignified mother(Lilette Dubey) who continues to believe that her elder son will summon her to Australia although he hasn't spoken to her for four years.
These are 'real' people given that cinematic tweak which separates the mannequins from the flesh-and-blood types. The cinematography by Indranil Mukherjee invests these derelicts with a life beyond the womb of the screenplay. The editing, though, could have been crisper. Some of the situations tend to get aggressively monotonous. And you wonder, is the monotony a symptom of the characters' lives, or is that simply an imagined virtue?
And what pray tell, was the planted pre-interval murder in loo, if not a ploy to get the audience back in their seats quickly from the loo? Somewhere towards the end the gifted Roopa Ganguly shows up as an abandoned wife seeking solace from the abandoned husband. Such geometrical gyrations do not take away from the distinctly cutting edge in the plot.
The skyline of the screem-play is ceaselessly scattered with salacious tidbits. Love-making scenes come on with energetic emphasis to remind us derelict lives needn't be dull. The juices and aromas from the kitchen and bedroom hit your senses in perpetual motions.
Standing tall and statately at the center of this awry universe of disoriented fringe- people is Lilette Dubey. What an actor! No Violet Stonehem from 36 Chowringhee Lane, Lilette plays her character with delicious abandon. And yet there's a restrain and dignity in her gait and language, quite like what Shabana Azmi had created in her lonely Anglo-Indian character in Anjan Dutt's Bada Din.
The other imposing performance comes from the irrepressible Victor Banerjee. After seeing him do his ho-hum two-bit in two Hindi films Tara Rum Pum and Apne it's a joy to watch Victor emerge victorious as the twinkle-eyed sodden trumpet player who chuckles loudly in the face of adversity and asks the Lilette character for a li'l kiss ("No real smooch or anything") just to remind you that life goes on....come what may. Another tale of inspirational deprivation? Not quite. Bow Barracks Forever takes the marginal stereotypes by the b...lls and turns them into something distinctly glorious, if not grand.
A must-see for those who love stories about tribulation and redemption. They don't make films about such characters with such ironical integrity any more.