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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Chaar (2014)

I stumbled upon Sandip Ray's Chaar yesterday night while rummaging through Amazon Prime Movies and it didn't disappoint at all. Rather it uplifted my stressed nerves to a happy state and I went to sleep satiated. You see... I am having a rough time at work not because of the work load. The
volume I can manage. But when the powers-to-be are adamant about being irrational and difficult it's then that the going gets tough. Hence my seeking solace in cinema. After Malhar...

Chaar is a Bengali anthology film that brings together four crisp stories by three brilliant writers in the history of Bengali literature. When Sandip Ray started his cinematic journey, all eyes were trained on him to check whether he would be an able successor to his father, Satyajit Ray, the name that is synonymous with brilliance, elegance, technical prowess and magic in the film world. I don't want to delve too much into the maestro's craft here because this time the spotlight is taken by the son and with a brandish. With every film Sandip is getting there; he is subtle, sure and deft with his direction. His marvellous genes are showing their true colours. He is taking these little stories and making some gems out of them. I wonder how the film did when it released but last night it made me a happy person. Four short stories, presented in a no-nonsense format, supported by a wholesome cast, Chaar was quite a pleasant surprise that I unraveled by sheer chance...

Part One is based on Parasuram's short story Bateswarer Obodaan and has a very Gift of the Magi hangover without taking away from the original author's style and plot. It harps on the beauty of hope and how a tiny gesture can form the fulcrum of life. A popular writer of novels that are published as running series in an entertainment magazine is requested by three of his readers for a favour. He is about to wrap up a novel and wants it to have a tragic denouement with the death of the lead heroine. Aloka. One day, a young man accosts him on the road and implores him to spare Aloka in the story. The writer, perfectly essayed by Paran Badopadhyay, is adamant about not changing his plot. The following day a successful doctor, played by Saswata Chatterjee (this guy just makes everything look so easy and amiable) comes over to his house to plead for the same thing... the life of Aloka. In the evening a popular actress (Sreelekha Mitra does these parts so well) stops by at the writer's house to buy the rights of the same novel. Piqued by the interest his fans are showing in his story, the writer does change the way the story ends. And then what...

Satyajit Ray's Dui Bondhu is the second story in the film where the lead roles are played by Pijush
Ganguly (what an untimely death he had!) and Rajatava Dutta. Sudipta Chakraborty plays Pijush's wife. What I love about this story is the surprise element. In a swift stroke, the story hinges from a regular tale of two friends who promised to meet up after years, to a script that is fancy and full of drama. I do not want to tell you what happens. That will be such a spoiler. The expressions of these actors are just splendid. Towards the end you will be left smiling. For sure.

A spooky element colours the third story, Kagtarua also penned by Satyajit Ray. But apart from that it also delves into the human qualities of trust, faith and redemption. A popular singer enroute his home in the city is faced with the question of whether he was just to his servant, a poor old man who served them for 20 years. Without any proof the man was called a thief and driven out of the house by the master as the singer and his wife watched without contesting the ruthless decision. The story harps on how humans misjudge and get away with it. Lives are ruined as a result. An eerie sense of foreboding envelops this part. Here I would like to mention Saswata Chatterjee's effortless ease in translating every role with such utmost precision. His irritation is so real when he chides his driver over an indiscretion. Similarly, his boredom seeps out of his every pore while he waits for his driver to come back. And, his scared expression on seeing the ghost of his servant is done with aplomb...

The last story Porikkha, by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay, is a cute love story dealing with the emotions
of suspicion, trust and faith. Shot in B&W, it stars Abir Chatterjee as a well-to-do government engineer and Koel Mallick as the girl who he wants to marry. But the girl doubts the man because she keeps hearing about his so-called daliances with other women, she knows he drinks and smokes and appears to one gallivanting character. So one night she visits him to allay her suspicions. An interesting question-answer session follows and we get to see the obvious attraction the girl has for this man. But she cannot marry him unless her doubts are cleared. Through some clever strokes the man appeases the woman and it's a happy ending...

That's Chaar for you. It's a tight knit film that wastes no time with inane meanderings. No songs, no dances and no dithering. You must have noticed that I've kept the descriptions pretty short. Yes. That's also how the film is. Precise and perfect. Just how a short story is supposed to be...   


  1. Well, Char is a must watch, not only for the merits of brevity (read, tight editing), music which is a throwback to Ray and fine acting, but also for realising how nice the third film, 'Kagtarua', could have been had Ray (Sandip) shaved off five minutes from the end.
    The rendition of the first story is flawless, partly because Ray is blessed with another gem of a Parashuram story (all his stories are) and partly because he gets the commas and fullstops spot on (essentially in a 30-min film). The second, the story of which has a O Henry-esque in its climactic twist, has to be a winner, well, because of the twist. Would have been easy for any good director, I guess. The third is a tad too slow for my liking though i realise that may have to do with the slow brooding build-up of a supernatural finale. The landscape of rural Bengal is pleasing to the eyes, though boring after a point. The close shots of the caterpillar and the birds and bees (so to say) appear a forced tribute to Pather Panchali's scene where Nischindipur gets its first rain. Though the passage of the day reflects the protagonist's changing mood, the film could have ended the driver starts the Amby again and the protagonist takes a last last look at the paddy fields. The only b/w story in the quartet is probably the weakest, but i guess it was meant only to be a light, frothy rom-com that acts a dessert to the three other films. It's as if Ray's way saying, 'ektu mishtimukh korun' (have a little bit of sweet) after a sumptuous 3-course meal :)

    1. You couldn't have put it better. But in this age where you hardly come across films that leave a lasting impression this was really pleasant!!