Banner: Shree Venkatesh Films
Producers: Shrikant Mohta, Mahendra Soni
Director: Dhrubo Banerjee
Cast: Abir Chatterjee, Arjun Chakraborty, Ishaa Saha, Anindya Chatterjee, Kaushik Sen, Kharaj Mukherjee, Aryann Bhowmick, June Maliah, Lily Chakraborty, Debjani Chatterjee, Arindam Sil, Kamaleswar Mukherjee, Baishakhi Marjit, Lama Halder
Writers: Subhendu Dasmunshi (Story & Dialogues), Dhrubo Banerjee, Subhendu Dasmunshi (Screenplay)
Music: Bickram Ghosh
The second instalment in the franchise, Durgeshgorer Guptodhon will take you several autumns back when life was simpler. It will remind of you all of those sun-soaked afternoons and dhunachi (incense burner) and shiuli (night jasmine) smeared evenings that you spent playing hide-and-seek with your friends during your Durga Pujo vacation.
It is not every day when films entertain and educate you on your history simultaneously. More than anything else, Dureshgorer Guptodhon will make you acknowledge your roots and leave you with a wide smile.
The film revolves around a History professor, Subarna Sen, who is fondly known as Sonada. One day, he gets a call from a cop who informs him that a vintage, precious dagger, an heirloom, which belonged to the Deb Roys have been stolen. This silver dagger has two names carved on it, those of Mehtab Chand and Durgagoty Deb Roy. Coincidentally, one of Sonada’s students, Dumble, who is part of the Deb Roy legacy, invites him along with his partners-in-crime, Aabir and Jhinuk to their ancestral mansion in Bonpukuriya to celebrate Durga Pujo. They find out that there is some hidden treasure lying in Durgeshgor, a fort close to Bonpukuriya. This treasure was gifted by Maharaja Krishna Chandra Roy from Krishnagar to Durgagoty Deb Roy, a zamindar. The rest of the film follows the trio’s trail as they begin a fun adventure to unearth the treasure.
Amidst the treasure hunt, we are told how the Maharaja started celebrating Durga Pujo that takes place during autumn every year and which has now become the most important festival for the Bengali community. A lot of credit goes to the writing team for an in-depth research on the historical background of Bengal and the cultural significance of various rituals and festivals celebrated by them. Never once does the information flow appear preachy and forced. It happens in a lucid manner and is intricately woven in the dialogues spoken by the characters.
Several allusions are made to Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Battle of Plassey, Mir Jafar, Mir Qasim, Jagat Seth and Lord Clive among others. But the writers make sure that we don’t feel left out.
What does appear over-the-top at times is the use of humour in dialogue to lighten up situations. For a film that has a light-hearted vibe to it, the presence of slapstick humour feels unnecessary. And this makes the writing inconsistent. Doing away with these frills could have resulted in a more compact narrative.
The makers do not waste any time and quickly dive into focus in the first half. It is the second half that lags. The climax is a tad too stretched and it leaves you restless.
The opening and the end credits of the film deserve a special mention for their novelty. As the opening credits roll, we are shown animation montages with a voiceover that gives us a thorough understanding of the history which is the foundation for the story that is in store for us. The end credits encompass a series of sketches using black and red hues with a rather edgy background score.
Its background score is one of the strongest links. Durgeshgorer Guptodhon is peppered with keertans (hymns), folk songs and thrilling background music. Bickram Ghosh’s compositions are a major catalyst that accentuates the drama and the thrill quotient of the film. Musical riddles and puzzles is the most used device in the film. They guide the trio to unravel the hidden treasure.
Apart from music, the film largely rests on quotes and couplets by Rabindranath Tagore. Some of his greatest works such as Parboni, a Durga Pujo special issue for children, which he penned in 1918, are also mentioned in the film. The inherent ‘Bangaliyaana’ (Bengali sentiments) looms large over the film.
Cinematographer Soumik Halder has captured the essence of the biggest festival of Bengal with aplomb. The village of Bonpukuria, the green ponds, the narrow roads covered with red soil, the isolated fort and the lavish palatial mansion are beautifully framed. The camerawork has been accentuated with impressive special effects. The VFX team has done an impressive work on the climax sequence.
What works for the film is its treatment. Despite being along the lines of a mystery-adventure, it is light-hearted and has a rather smooth texture to it. It is clear that director Dhrubo Banerjee wants to walk the path less taken. In this mystery entertainer, there is hardly any room for clichés (coincidences are forgivable). Here, the characters crack clues by decoding cryptic songs that were composed centuries before. Peripheral elements such as dance sequences and a romantic angle that is uncalled do not form part of the narrative.
Performance-wise, Abir Chatterjee steals the show. As Sonada, the actor is a natural. He seems extremely at ease. It is a bliss watching Chatterjee perform. Arjun Chakraborty as Aabir and Ishaa Saha as Jhinuk are delightful. Moments where they share stolen glances leave you with a smile. Kharaj Mukherjee (as Apuda) Kaushik Sen (as Shuli) own every frame they appear in. Lama Halder performs extremely well in his limited screen time. Leela Chakraborty and Aryann Bhowmick play their parts well. Anindya Chatterjee, June Maliah and Debjani Chatterjee suffer due to half-baked roles. Arindam Sil, Kamaleswar Mukherjee and Baishakhi Marjit are okay in their cameos.
Verdict: Go for it!