Mithun Chakraborty aka Mithunda has been always regarded more as a star than an actor and that feeling is mainly since the majority of his films are being made for the specific target audience looking out for the star in him. But once in a while he does feature in films which remind us that there is a very fine actor hidden somewhere in this person whom we know is more easily seen as Gunmaster G9, Disco Dancer or Phatakeshto (reference to a sample of his famous avatars). Films like Tahader Katha, Titli, Phir Kabhi, Guru etc are some examples of such films. So when I heard of writer-director Gaurav Pandey’s maiden Bengali film (as director )-Shukno Lanka (dry red chillies ) I was perfectly intrigued and looked forward to the release of the film.
Shukno Lanka talks about the life of a veteran junior artiste, Chinu Nandy ( played wonderfully by Mithunda- more on that later ) as we see the twists & turns in his life, both at work and at home. The movie also is about Joy Sundar Sen (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) an internationally acclaimed Bengali filmmaker who wins the Best Director Award at Berlinale. While in Berlin Joy meets Isabella (Emma Brown), an Australian actress and they start getting close. While on a walk together Joy comes across a book on short stories of Ritwik Ghatak and he is especially enthralled by a particular short story- ‘Parash Pathar’ and decides to make a feature film on it.
Joy’s wife Jhilik ( Debashree Roy ) is dismayed to see that her husband has no time for her and gets all the more concerned as she sees Joy getting close to Isabella. On the other hand Chinu leads a simple life at home which revolves around his wife Bela(Angana Bose). Things turn an interesting turn when Joy casts Chinu as the central character in his new film. One then gets to see these characters taking things forward as the story progresses just like the film being made by Joy. Chinu had almost resigned himself to his fate and was content with his life when this new development turns his life topsy-turvy.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
Right at the very beginning we see Chinu excitedly taking his wife for a late night ride on a horse cart and the story unfolds as the ride continues, through the roads of Kolkata’s Esplanade. Gaurav Pandey intricately weaves the narration as we are able to see so many facets of the story. On one hand there is the Bengali film industry operating out of the studios of Tollygunge and we are witness to some of the true to spirit happenings during the shooting of a Bengali film- like an ageing superstar, a South Indian choreographer teaching the mandatory jhatkas to the dancers, the same old sets etc.
On the other hand we see the contrast in the lives of Chinu the junior artiste, a typical character who is earning his daily salary of Rs.250 and alongside there is the sophisticated Joy who is caught up between the laments of his wife and the attraction he has for Isabella.The art director Indranil Ghosh has impressively recreated the film sets and other locations like the room in Hotel Kenilworth, the ‘pada’ and the flat where Chinu stays, the posh residence of Joy etc and they certainly add a distinct colour to the movie.
Debajyoti Mishra’s music is very pleasant to the ears and certainly suits the film. There are a lot of wonderful moments in the film. My favorites include the ones where Mithunda as Chinu Nandy is interacting with the superstar hero and doing a test shot. Another impressive scene is the one where a big star complains to Chinu that he’s unfairly being denied awards every year and Chinu humbly suggests that the hero should may actually ‘buy’ an award and feel better. But it’s the scenes towards the end that really touch your heart completely. Chinu’s outburst in front of Joy on the sets during the last scene’s shooting and the way the horse cart ride ends are scenes that show of Gaurav Pandey’s talent, both as a writer and as a director.Mahesh Aney‘s visuals are wonderful especially those shot in the night during the horse cart ride.
Sabyasachi is wonderful as ever in his portrayal of Joy and both Debashree and Emma do a decent job. Angana Bose springs a big surprise as Bela and there is magical chemistry between her and Mithunda in the movie especially during the horse cart ride portions. Look out for the scene where Bela demands to have tea during the ride,it’s simply superb. And now let me come to the legend himself, Mithunda. Watching Chiru Nandy, it’s difficult to even think that anyone else can portray this character so well. Even when he becomes the main lead he continues to remain simple and respectful while talking to people. His expressions and body language are picture perfect. The scene where Mithunda breaks into an impromptu jig in a nightclub makes you smile.His character reminds you of the significance of the title ( dry red chillies ) as he remains similar to the chillies- ever present and adding to the flavour, but one who may not be noticed.One yearns to see more such performances from Mithunda in his forthcoming films.
All said and done the movie does have a few minor grey areas too. I felt that the last song which has Debashree dancing looked totally out of place. Even the scene where Debashree barges into the film’s set looked highly unnatural. But these are minor issues and they do not take away the fact that on an overall basis the movie works & works wonderfully at that. Its nice to see people like Gaurav Pandey receiving encouragement from the producers-Mumbai Mantra Media Ltd, who also ensured a very good release for the film. For those who like Bengali Cinema, quality cinema and for those who like Mithunda, this is a film not to be missed.
Note- This post was originally written in July,2010 after the release of the film. But this has now been re-edited and published after watching Star Jalsha line up 3 Mithunda movies ( Tulkalam, MLA Phatakeshto, Ami Subhash Bolchi ) one after the other yesterday ( 29th Jan,2012 )