Banners: Handmade Films, Fox Star Studios
Producers: Star India, Sunil Doshi
Director: Deb Medhekar
Cast: Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Hussain, Tisca Chopra, Ekavali Khanna, Brijendra Kala
Writers: Sunil Doshi, Deb Medhekar
Music: Sandesh Shandilya
In 1961, Rabindranath Tagore’s short story was adapted to make the Balraj Sahni-starrer Kabuliwala. The story is about a little girl Mini and her relationship with Abdul Rehman Khan, an Afghan national who comes to India to sell dry fruits. The film explores the father-daughter relationship.
Bioscopewala rides on the same sentiment, only now Mini is no longer a five-year-old, but a 30-something woman and the Kabuliwala has been transformed into a Bioscopewala. The film, set in Kolkata, goes back and forth from 1990 to the present.
Mini Basu comes to Kolkata from Paris when she hears about her father, famous fashion photographer Robi Basu’s sudden death. He was on his way to Kabul, Afghanistan, when his plane crashed and he died. While trying to understand why her father was making this unexpected trip, Mini is forced to take in Rehmat Khan, an elderly Afghan convicted of murder, but now suffering from Alzheimer’s. She also discovers that her father had taken up Rehmat’s responsibility and had made it his mission to find his family in Afghanistan.
Though perturbed and uncomfortable at first, Mini slowly realises that Rehmat Khan is none other than her bioscopewala, the man who had introduced her to the magical world of stories and make-believe. Since he introduced her to cinema, he had moulded her career and life choices. Thus starts her quest to find out more about Rehmat, his past life in Afghanistan. In the process, she unravels several layers of her relationship with her father and Rehmat Khan.
Sunil Doshi, Deb Medhekar and team, inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s short story Kabuliwala, bring us a simple yet heartwarming story. Deb Medhekar’s screenplay, with inputs from Radhika Anand, beautifully weaves the incidents of 1990 with the present-day narrative. The visuals are soft and pleasing, even when showing the atrocities of the Taliban and the riots in Kolkata in the ’90s.
Every frame comes alive along with the characters, whether it is the old Kolkata home, the dingy and busy streets of Kolkata city, vintage Kolkata lanes, the contrasting landscape of Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s and post-Taliban… everything is beautifully captured by Rafey Mahmood.
The musical score by Sandesh Shandilya is pleasing. There is only one song, which is the title track. Penned by Gulzar saab, the tune and the words blend with the story. The haunting vocals of K Mohan add to the charm.
Performance-wise, Danny Denzongpa in the titular role of Bioscopewala is a treat to watch. He gets into the skin of Rehmat Khan with ease. Be it love, pain, loss and anger, every emotion is expressed through his eyes. He has very few lines but that does not stop the veteran actor from owning every scene he is in. Geetanjali Thapa is a natural. Her expressions are natural and never once are they over the top. Adil Hussain is superb. Ekavali Khanna is very good. Brijendra Kala makes his presence felt. Tisca Chopra is good. The rest lend adequate support.
Verdict: Worth a watch!