I don't think any children's film has attained this success. Even after so many years Shriman Prithviraj is like a picnic for the senses. Freewheeling, funny, innocent and entertaining, this film is special to me for reasons I cannot define. I just know that it is special. Yes, even Haridasher bulbul bhaja, the national anthem...
Alarmed at the thought of getting tied down by matrimony, Rashik decides to become an ascetic and tries to run away to Tibet. Watch him plan the trip before his friend, who is another scared soul. Rashik's world is small, so he believes that it will take a tiny train trip to reach the snowy heights! He carries a miniscule bag with a packet of puffed rice, two onions, a couple of green chillies and iodine! Yes, that's his ration. Children and their imagination, I tell you...
One sweet yet comic scene takes place during the wedding night of Rashik and Amalabala. Rashik is now a married man. He walks and talks with a swagger just to impress his newly-wed as well as his friends. He orders his child wife around. But then when he gets to know that she is a bit more educated than him, he nonchalantly declares that he will learn everything from her. There is no battle of the sexes here. After all these are children we are talking about. Then suddenly, through the window Rashik's friends emerge into the room to congratulate Rashik and his wife. They get a gift for the couple-- a storybook called Shriman Prithviraj. Little do they know that after some months Rashik will be enacting the story from this book in his real life!!
So this is how the couple spend their wedding night. Soon, Rashik gets to meet Saraswati (Sandhya Ray), Amalabala's best friend. She is a beautiful woman who is bubbly. But behind her chirpy exterior she hides a melancholic soul, courtesy the separation from her husband Akhil (Biswajit), as he is a Swadeshi. Saraswati gifts the couple a book of stories harping on adolescent love and adventure. This is the first time that Rashik will encounter thrills of adulthood. It is from here that Rashik starts growing.
The National movement is a perfect backdrop for this sweet love story. Or do we call it a coming-of-age tale of Rashik and Amalabala. For, this is a lad who spend his nights reading exciting love tales to his wife as he too is curious about all these adventures. In the process he dozes off every morning when the Sahib is trying to teach him some English!
Most importantly, Rashik falls in love with his child wife. Why else would he throw a tantrum when his father fixes his marriage once again. Watch him plan the elopement with Amalabala and you would know that our boy has grown up. Surely he has his faithful compatriots helping him out, but the initial game plan belongs to Rashik. I love the scene where he writes a letter to his wife about his plan. When he hands it over to a friend to be read, that boy is scandalised to see that Rashik has greeted his wife with kisses!!! See, Rashik is growing up to a romantic and brave man!!!
Rashik's juvenile battles with his enemy's team are hilarious. I see him as a Robin Hood here, helping the poor, teaching the baddies a lesson. But what's sad is how he is misunderstood after he beats up the villains! But then a child's world is full of troubles that are somewhat nonsensical. It's sheer fun to watch Rashik and his cronies, namely Makhna, Bhola and Bhuto function.
Tarun Majumdar saves the best for the last, when Rashik goes to fetch Amabala. This is seriously rib-tickling. The boy does not know how to drive, yet is running the vintage car at top speed! You just have to see it to believe it. Our hero can do almost everything. Nothing is impossible for this firecracker of a boy!
This film is a beautiful love story. It is innocent and magical. So, the performances are obviously flawless. Utpal Dutt is mindblowing, Mahua Roy Chowdhury is sheer bliss and Sandhya Ray is perfect. Every character in the film is earthshatteringly good.
But the film belongs to Rashik, in other words Ayan Banerjee. This teenager just rules from frame one. He is effortless, smart, flamboyant, goodlooking, brave and charismatic. I have to admit that as a teenager there have been times when I flipped for this Rashik.
Tarun Majumdar has painted an immaculate picture of rural Bengal--the paddy fields, the old havelis of the landlords, the green countryside, the costumes, the customs, everything is absolutely perfect.
But my most favourite part is the ending of this great romantic comedy. In the initiation to Rashik and Amalabala's adult love story is hidden a magical touch by the director. As Amalabala places her tiny feet on Rashik's booted foot, she is embarking on a journey of love. She is now a woman, married to the man of her dreams. The man who is now no longer the wayward enfant terrible. He has done a brave deed. He deserves the reward...