Blogadda Who are you reading today?

Visit blogadda.com to discover Indian blogs


Saturday, 21 August 2010

A lot like life (Golpo Holeo Shotti)

I consider myself extremely unlucky for not getting to meet Rabi Ghosh. Especially after learning very soon after marriage that we would have been related very closely. He would have been my uncle-in-law. The thespian from the world of Bengali theatre and films passed away at the age of 66, in the year 1997 (I was in standard 8 and nowhere near to meeting my future husband). If he would have been alive today (he'd be 79), I'm sure he would have regaled us (my father-in-law says that he was a very amiable man) with exciting stories and anecdotes about the film world, bordering on his career and experiences. That would have been quite something. Getting to know about the colourful world of cinema from Rabi Ghosh himself, the man who with his awesome performances in many Bengali films kept the audience riveted to the screen, sounds like super-duper fun.
Rabi Ghosh (he did not use the 'Dastidar') enthralled movie lovers mostly as a character actor. But, directors always made it sure that his character was significant to the plot. Working with eminent directors of his time, he became a household name in Bengali homes. His popularity so climbed the charts that even today one glimpse of him on the screen and many of us stayed glued to the spot where we are standing, facing the television, to see the actor's emotive face. Notwithstanding his short height and unimpressive looks, this veteran went on to floor audiences with his ability to tickle the funny bone and his subtly satirical portraiture. Not just comedy, Rabi Ghosh excelled in serious roles, too. But they never became monotonous or drab. His mannerisms, intelligent acting and voice modulation went on to add colour and depth to the diverse roles he portrayed. In that he was a master.
I am immensely fond of Golpo Holeo Shotti, a Bengali film where Rabi Ghosh plays the lead protagonist, Dhananjay. I can safely put that it is my favourite Bengali film. That tiny man just rocked in this 1966 film directed by the noted Tapan Sinha. The film hints that work is worship and Dhananjay, the newly-employed servant in a Bengali home, drills this point into his masters' heads. Bordering on this main theme is the concept of love and bonding between family members. And as all Bengalis would say, Golpo Holeo Shotti would have been incomplete without Rabi Ghosh.
Truth is, this Tapan Sinha classic is a mindblowing classic. A non-convoluted drama with a special message. And I give it to the director for roping in such fabulous actors who make this film seem a slice from everyday life. Never will you feel that they are playacting. Superlative natural performances, setting, costumes, dialogues and situations make this film so close to reality. Incidents that take place in this particular house shown in the film could have happened in my house, or in your house in the 60s. Many of you'll might have seen its Hindi remake, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Bawarchi, starring Rajesh Khanna in the servant's role and Jaya Bhaduri. But Golpo Holeo Shotti is a different ballgame altogether. It is sparkling, real and lifelike. And it is in black and white, a tint that makes old films even more enjoyable.
Jogesh Chatterjee, Bankim Ghosh and Bhanu Banerjee play three brothers continuously pulling each other down. Life and its niggling worries have eaten into their relationship. Chatterjee is a serviceman on the verge of retirement, Ghosh is a schoolmaster forever ready to bludgeon everyone as 'opportunists' and Banerjee is a cello player, earning some from Tollywood's movie studios. Though you recognise that they all are tired of the tediousness of life, their reactions to it will tickle you. They are constantly bickering, blaming each other for something or the other. Chatterjee's wife is played by Chhaya Devi (a name to reckon with in Bengali cinema) and Ghosh's wife is Bharati Devi. These two quarrel away in the kitchen. Banerjee has chosen to be a bachelor to concentrate on his musical career. But, then in a house that is least appreciative of his talent, Banerjee can do anything but create chart toppers. The eldest couple has a son (Ajoy Ganguli)
who is married. A publicist by profession, he is always doing big talk about intellectualism, the long and shot of it. Note the cameo by theatre artist Rudraprasad Sengupta and his pointed approach towards consumerism and the use of the female body as a tool to sell men's products. It's awesome.
This family is headed by an 80-year-old (or more) man who is so wobbly yet so firm. His firmness of mind irritates his sons and daughters-in-law but it will entertain you. His dialogues are hilarious, especially because of the slurry effect and his exaggerated hand actions. This character loves good food and makes it known to the new servant that he has not been getting enough of that. This actor is someone to take special notice of in the film.
Hell breaks loose when the only female servant calls it a day. She is not going to brook so much work. It's funny how she lectures her masters on the rights of servants as propagated by the servants association! And when she leaves, the members of this family are back to blaming each other for driving the servant away.
The neighbourhood louts send Chinmoy Ray as a servant so that they can pocket the valuables in the house. But for Ray, a stick thin man, working for this big joint family is a big burden.
At this juncture enters enterprising Dhananjay, who is fast, nimble and dexterous in all household chores. But most importantly he is a teacher with an unobtrusive approach. He is modest yet clever, responsible and loving. Even before he is asked to do something, he has done it. He gives the tired souls of the house some days of rest from the daily grind, only to instill in them the fact that it is in their work that they will find joy and happiness (And boy, can he cook!). He is sympathetic towards Krishna, the orphaned niece, who is having a clandestine affair with Alok (Partha Mukherjee). This girl is ill-treated by everyone as she is helpless and alone. She is always at the receiving end of her aunts' wrath and harsh words. By the time the film ends, Krishna gets a new lease of life, courtesy Dhananjay. (I personally like this Krishna over Jaya Bhaduri's Krishna, because she is more true, more real).
Never a dull moment, this film stands out for driving home certain points so subtly yet so firmly. The song Shukh bole otho shaari, ghumayo na aar, e jibon geley phirey ashena abar is such a beautiful way of saying that once today goes it will never return. So do everything that you need to, today, as if there was no tomorrow. Life is small, hence it needs to be packed with so much. What is the use of wasting away a life cribbing about what did not happen and what is not there. We should be be happy with what is, and maximise on that.
Dhananjay does another good thing to the family. He ties all members together with the threads of love and care. These threads had damaged with time and the drudgery of life. Soon, with Dhananjay's intelligent moves, we again find the members laughing with each other and caring for one another. And when his job is done, he packs his bag and leaves. Only to set matters right in another house, facing similar problems. Truly a caring magician, his many powers capsuled neatly in his diminutive frame.
The film is small yet effective. Styled as a tiny fable, the execution is hardly grating.Unlike the Hindi remake, that bogged me down with its length.
This superlative entertainer is available on YouTube and here. So, watch it. Or rather enjoy the experience of seeing Rabi Ghosh deftly bringing about a change in perception and personalities. And, of course, restoring peace in a family. It's a lip-smacking adventure out there, you can take my word for it...

18 comments:

  1. Beginning to read your review, I was thinking this sounded a lot like Bawarchi, and then of course, you confirmed it... but this sounds much nicer! Will certainly look out for it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Dustedoff: Yes, this one is much much better. Has a whiff of middle class Bengali homes during the 60s. And fantastic performances. I'm sure you will love it. It is funny too, but in a very subtle way :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I can understand how you feel not being able to meet Robi Ghosh particularly when he is your husband's relative. I remember I liked the Bengali version of Bawarchi only because of him. I had the good fortune of meeting Robi Ghosh. He and dad were working together in Satyakam and dad invited him over. I was then just a kid but I remember I found him quite entertaining and a very nice man.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like Dustedoff, my first thought was also Bawarchi! And I can readily believe that this is way better than the Hindi version. Bawarchi, nice as it was, could've been a much better film if only Rajesh Khanna could've been induced to act! I don't think I've seen Rabi Ghosh in anything so far - and this sounds like an ideal place to start. (I have seen Satyakam, but too long ago to remember more than the story and the leads.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Shilpi: You met him?? How awesome. Yes I have heard from my in-laws that he was super fun to talk to. He had fun stories to share all the time and his house used to be inundated with stars all the time. Imagine that!! I'm too too unlucky on that count :(
    I have not seen Satyakam but have heard a lot about it. now i will see it for sure :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Bollyviewer: This is the best place to start as Rabi Ghosh has the biggest and best part. The other actors are superb too. Bawarchi was enjoyable but I found it a bit too stretched. Watch this. I'm sure you will love it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. i wish this movie was selected for the Oscars........

    ReplyDelete
  8. @cancerian: Ha ha... wishful thinking at its best. But truly this film deserves a lot of honour and accolades :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. It was the best movie..but I wonder how do you get these oldies..you should also get Oscar..for writing about it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Abhaya: You can watch this oldie on the internet. And thank you for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Remember it in bits and pieces. Robi Ghosh appeared funny, but the patriarch of the family was hilarious.
    Another nice post :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Netdhaba: You are not doing this film justice if you remember it in bits and pieces. You just have to watch it again then. Thank you for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It's very interesting to read about regional classics--in this case a Bengali film--since they often are forgotten in the glamour and glitz of Hindi cinema. The personal reference to Mr Ghosh makes this post an especially compelling read.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Aditi: i believe Anonymous is you. Yes, this film is a gem. One day we both will watch it together and I'll explain every dialogue. I'm sure you will love it :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. hi sharmi, i liked the way u reviewed this movie, i have grown up watching bengali classic movies and now i am 30 and now growing up appreciating them.This movie is a milestone and evergreen.Mr.Ghosh's all the acting is class from baga bayin to a little guest appearance in Agontuk (utpal Dutta).

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Bits: I knowww. He was go so versatile. And it feels so good to know that we are actually related!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. It hurts to see when I find people saying ". . I liked the Bengali version of Bawarchi. . " It sounds ridiculous when one doesn't understand the difference between chalk and cheese. These types of people would definitely say that 'Hitch' is the english version of the bollywood movie 'Partner'. Please spare us the horror!

    I would request Sharmi to post the link of the movie so that it can be watched online. Although I watched in couple of time, I would like to watch it again. I am outside India now and do not have access to CDs or DVDs.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @Anonymous: Hello and I do agree with you. For, the original has to be given due credit. BUt regarding posting a lonk, I'm afraid it is no longer available online. So I guess you would have to procure a dvd or cd from somewhere to watch this marvellous film again.

    ReplyDelete