Thursday, April 17, 2014

Glam from the Attic: Jaal (1986)

Poking around the filmi attic, trying on lots of dusty things that might not have made it out of the 80's. 

It's been a busy week or so up Filmi-Contrast way--although I was mostly busy being ill, not sleeping, and trying to avoid work--so more movie time was possible than usual. I could blog about some of the serious films I saw this week--Shatranj ke Khilari (1977), or Garam Hawa (1973), or even some of the more recent films, Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye! (2008) and Luck by Chance (2009). But who am I kidding, I *almost* never blog about recent films. And as far as serious films go, I'm still trying to recover from the post-parallel cinema emotional slump. So, I'm just going to wallow in the bright point of my week: Jaal (1986). Emphasis on bright, or similar adjectives. (Flashy, garish, eye-searing will also be accepted.)

This film starts out in familiar territory for masala buffs. A sickly convict is being released from Central Jail (good ol' Central Jail facade, how curious I am why no one was able to escape over you during the course of their ALWAYs unfair and overlong sentence). Cut to a tinsel-trimmed brothel, and the requisite cynical courtesan song about the brevity of love and the victory of wealth.

But of course, when the courtesan in question is Rekha, we KNOW she's got a backstory. The convict (Vinod Mehra) seems to think so too, as he stumbles in, begging an audience.

The courtesan, Meenabai, does recognize him, and tries to have him thrown out. Of course, when filmi characters SAY they are on their last breath(s) you should believe them. The convict collapses on her floor, of course, and non-heartless Meenabai relents and calls for a doctor. But it's too late. Right after whispering something in her ear, the man breathes his last.

Cut to a village scene. The crowd, led by a plucky woman (Tanuja) are demanding their water rights from the local Thakur's goondas. And who steps in but the plucky woman's strutting son, Shankar (Mithun Chakraborty).

Of course, a fight ensues, in which Mithun (curiouser and curiouser) seems to utilize a magic pelvic thrust, stunning his attackers from a distance. I might not have believed it, except, those hips trained at the disco, and therefore anything might be possible. Because Shankar is a classic masala hero, we soon learn that he is an A student, a sacrificial son, but also a bit of a scamp. He soon gets into  trouble with a trio of rich students at school--in which he proves the old adage, "I might not have started the fight, but I can end it."

"Look at us! The pixellation can't even handle our thighs right now." 

Through a basketball dance (I can't believe I just wrote that), moon boots that can ACTUALLY be used to propel one into space, and naughty use of basketball hoop . . . Shankar defeats and shames the priggish and destructive students. This sequence aptly echoes the ethics of the film as a whole: Don't be a jerk. Oh yeah, unless someone else was a jerk first. Then, by all means, RUIN THEM.

Unfortunately, all is not well, elsewhere. Maa is potentially dying of asthma unless she (A) gets expensive medicines, and (B) stops cooking over the hot stove. Luckily, on the other side of town, Meenabai the courtesan has literally burned down her kotha, and is about to embark a new business: Vengeance. And what do new businesses need? Employees.

Of course, the only things made clear about the vengeance business at this point are are the target: Thakur Sahib, and the employee/arm of justice: Shankar. As soon as she can coax/manipulate the nominally honest fellow into the job, that is.

After giving him a lesson or two in worldly pragmatism, Meenabai convinces Shankar to become her spy in the aformentioned evil Thakur's mansion. This prompted much joy on my part. Yay! People doing dishonest things for good purposes! Mithun and Rekha working together! Mithun as a spy again!

It doesn't really matter that Meenabai's plan seems to mostly consist of scaring crusty old men into having heart attacks (literally)  . . .

 . . . and turning Shankar onto the scent of the mystery of his own father's disappearance/death.

Of course, along the way Shankar must strut down some romantic rabbit trails. For WHO returns home from college but Mean Girl in mini-skirt (Moon Moon Sen) and Sympathetic Girl in sari (Mandakini) from the brouhaha on the basketball court earlier. Turns out that mean girl, Sunita, is the Thakur's daughter (and of course still has it out for Shankar) and sympathetic girl, Madhu, is her live-in servant/companion . . .

 . . . the daughter of a gypsy-esque couple that serve the Thakur loyally, have been publically shamed by Shankar [awkward], and undeniably throw a good party.

Of course, both girls proceed to fall for Shankar, but Shankar only has eyes for Madhu.

There's not much to get past initially--both have been making serious eye contact since the first time their cars ran into one another (how romantic). Another meet cute by a forest waterfall seals the deal. (OK, he was stalking her, but whatevs. Who bathes in a waterfall if they don't want to be seen?)

Oye Kya Cheez is right! 

He sings a lengthy tribute song to her in the forest . . . in which he can't seem to decide if she looks better as a peacock or a mermaid. But no matter. She's cute and he's cute and she saves him from Sunita's laxative prank. It's love.

Very sensible, these two are. 

Such a smoothly paved courtship is an offense to the Muses of Story themselves, so of course Sunita has to go and fall in love with Shankar, too . . . thereby activating Madhu's inner nobility.

Unfortunately [and in keeping with the general theme of doing something bad to achieve something good] Madhu chooses to announce that she's about to become a dancer at the local skeevy club, a move that *apparently* is shaming to her family and inconsistent with her romantic promises to Shankar.

But I'm not going to complain about the shaky logic to this, because we get a bewafai song out of the deal, and a tearful family conversation after the fact. [Her mother actually realizes the real reason her daughter is acting out of character and makes both her daughter, husband, and Sunita, accidentally, see sense. Amazing stuff for formulaic masala.]

Poor Sunita. Didn't you know that the girl who wears mini-skirts never wins?

I was really hoping that misunderstanding wouldn't take up the rest of the film, and thank the filmi gods, a woman intervened again and made my prayer come true.

Of course, the mystery of Jeetendra's special appearance in the film's credits, Meenabai's past, and Shankar's father's false imprisonment must all be solved. The key question isn't so much "Who really killed the Thakur's brother?" but "Why?" And was Shankar's father truly *gasp* having an affair with Meenabai all those years ago? Do the moon boots forebode other inexplicable American pop-music references to come? And will Meenabai finally get that lovely revenge she's been waiting for?

Jaal is a confusing and sometimes disturbing mix of the rural and urban. Without regard for logical constraints of time or distance, the movie paints a world of rural South Indian plantations, modern universities, feudal-y water wars, family feuds, kothas and clubs. Yes. All those things are apparently within walking-distance in this filmi location. In response I can only say:
A. Now I know where Karan Johar and company got their creative understanding of geography . . .
B. Sign me up for the next bus tour!

[Note: I also have the nagging feeling that this was a remake. It's not that I don't believe the writers could be original, but certain plot choices were so definite in their importance, and yet so vague in their actual realization . . . that I got the feeling the filmmakers were following someone else's blueprint. Maybe it's just a rehashing of familiar elements, and thus the deja vu, I dunno. You tell me!]

That's what I thought, too, Shankar. 

Jaal gets a lot of things right, though. With the exception of the usual overdose of unfunny humor and some grating violence, it moves pretty fast. Even if the mystery isn't all that mysterious, the plot progression is a lot more convoluted than the standard masala flick . . . with the enigmatic woman trope and use of successive flashbacks adding quite a bit of entertainment value. And as much as I might have initially picked this film for the Mithun factor, the female roles are by far the most interesting aspect of the film.

There are five females with significant roles by my count, and four of those women demonstrate cunning and quick reaction time, push the story forward, and at points even get to take part in the action. One could make the usual arguments about their agency being betrayed by the end, but at least in the case of Meenabai, I have few complaints. This story is really about her, her trials and travails and quest for justice . . . and all the men are mostly there to have feelings and populate the action sequences.

Even Mithun's character has little to do except stick to Meenabai's endgame. His successive realizations about the truth of his family's past and his eventual quest to right the multiplicity of wrongs that have been done is really nothing but the harvest Meenabai had planned for all along. Not to say that I didn't appreciate his role--it was believable and he did manage to take a straightforward character and create a Point A-Z arc.

Jaal is a little too choppy of a narrative to really become a lasting favorite, I think. The flow isn't quite right, despite the fact that all the elements of a mass entertainer are definitely there. But taken in smaller bites, there's a lot to love here. It also follows a lot of my personal masala requirements:
1. No prologue. Jumps right into the action.
2. Women join in the action, too.
3. People taking on a false identity (lying, manipulating, essentially joining the darkside temporarily) to serve a greater purpose.
4. No honor killings.
5. Doesn't take itself too seriously.

Chances are, if you're a Mithun or Rekha fan, you've already seen this film. However, if you're just looking for Saturday evening film with something for everyone . . . with a lot of glitz and "what the hell were they thinking" moments  . . . along with some scary ladies lookin' fine and takin' names, look no further.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sure It's Exotica, But Still: Roop Tera Mastana (1972)

You know how you run into those films every so often that are eminently watchable, unique, sexy, and yet no one ever talks about them? Well, this is one of those. I admit I haven't seen this one with subtitles (and maybe that makes all the difference . . . maybe), but even with a relatively mediocre Hindi vocabulary at one's disposal, it's not very hard to follow and enjoy. (I can always make adjustments to this post whenever I get my hands on a subtitled copy.) As it is, this film is too enjoyable not to share immediately.

The film begins in Cruella de Vil's mansion a Raajkumari's mahal.

It's one of the gaudiest places I've ever seen, and I desperately want to live there for like a month. After that it would either get to be too much, or I would become too much in order to fit in better with the decor. Of course, in such a garishly lit place, only one thing could be currently happening. That's right, a murder.

This is not a murder mystery film, so I might as well tell you that the victim is the owner of the palace, the Raajkumari. The murderer? Her personal assistant Ajit (Pran). . . who has hatched a complicated scheme to amass the princess' house, lands, and inheritance. The key to this scheme? A convenient (this is why fairy tale-villains should all flock to Bollywood) princess look-alike . . . happy village girl Kiran (Mumtaz) celebrating Diwali with her aging and kind of cute parents.

Of course, in a creepy and terrifying sequence (all the more because Pran's character looks so damn smug about it the whole way) Kiran is separated from the crowd, kidnapped, introduced to her dead doppleganger, framed for the murder of the princess, and blackmailed by way of threatening the sweet parental units.

Kiran puts up a good fight . . . unfortunately, her fingerprints on his gun was exactly what Ajit was hoping for. 

And, you guessed it, Kiran is then coerced to play the role of princess until the issue of the pesky inheritance can be sorted out (or rather, sorted into Ajit's bank account). I highly approve of the instant jump-into-the-action formula of this film's first fifteen minutes, but this is where the movie starts to get really fun. Mostly because even though Kiran's real situation is dire, her external situation turns out to be quite unnervingly luxurious. As Ajit constantly reminds her, all she has do is act the part and enjoy the comforts of the good life for a few days. [And maybe some other stuff I didn't get, you tell me.]

After some amusingly disastrous attempts to literally walk in the princess's shoes, Kiran starts to get the hang of things. It doesn't hurt that her predecessor's clothes fit her *cough* perfectly.

But, of course, Ajit has to throw a wrench in the works. "Oh yeah, and one of those aforesaid comforts includes a prince, the late Raajkumari's husband to be. So, don't forget to be in love with him."

Kiran is quite upset about this. Until she goes to the airfield to meet Mr. daredevil fiancee (Jeetendra), that is.

Although she muffs the first impression--she won't kiss him and finds his mid-air antics more terrifying than a turn-on (two things the real princess apparently enjoyed)--she also doesn't seem too bothered because, well, the prince seems nice, can really rock some aviators, and is pleasantly age-appropriate boyish.

Fake princess must now convincingly keep up appearances with her prince, someone who is far more likely to discover her secret than the scared array of servants. Thankfully, this task doesn't prove very difficult at first. The prince is perfectly happy to while away the day, leaping and frolicking and playing the "I almost kissed you, you almost kissed me, aren't we naughty" game as long as the wardrobe changes hold out. Also, Kiran doesn't have exert much effort pretending that she likes him. She's smitten from day one.

All the fresh air and neck nuzzling does wonders for Kiran's complexion. But, day-at-the-spa effects or no, she can't keep away the pesky nay-saying voices.

Best case scenario:
The relationship is doomed, but she'll get the money for Ajit and escape with her life.

Worse case scenario:
The allegations that she is not the real princess will prevent her from getting the inheritance (her ransom for her freedom), her identity will be discovered, the charges of murder lodged against her, her family will die of sorrow, and her now beginning-to-be beloved fiancee will discover who she really is and reject her. Also she might/probably will get snuffed out by Ajit.

Unfortunately, any way she looks at it, it appears that her blooming love story is doomed. But there's no time to waste on ethical or strategic questions. She's got a marriage--of her own--to attend. And a wedding night.

Yes (if you're wondering) she actually DOES goes through with it . . . on false pretenses. It's a decidedly un-heroine-like move . . . and this was where the film really became:
(A) Exotica
(B) Something memorable

Jeetendra gives pretty good "I suspect you but I love you but I suspect you-face" in this film

But will hubby figure out that she's not the Raajkumari he knew? Will he still love Kiran and/or survive after learning that fact? Will Kiran survive Ajit's duplicity, greed, and endless lectures? Will there be even more dopplegangers than you first thought? Yes, maybe, kinda.

Other things to look forward to . . .  or look out for:

1. First, I should warn you that this film portrays A LOT of violence toward women. However, I didn't really mind because:

(A) The film doesn't seem to condone it in any way (only the villain resorts to it).

(B) There are few character actors that can act this horrid towards women and leave me feeling mostly zen. But Pran is the villain here. And no matter how bad he goes for a role, all I can think in the back of mind is how much I like the man behind the mask.

(C) Mumtaz shows a lot of spunk in this film. Despite getting slapped around, her character turns the tables on Pran's at every turn--which was really fun to watch. Even the final masala battle doesn't completely betray her own agency.

2. Pran is the fine and fabulous villain of many colors here. Literally.

Creepy-Ajit "visiting" Kiran in his robe, telling her to choose between"do raaste, zindagi aur mot!" 
[Note: if anyone knows if there's a lot more involved in Ajit's constant yelling at Kiran then let me know. He usually just seems to be berating her for not keeping up the the pretense well enough--for exposing multiple habits and fears that the real Raajkumari doesn't have. And of course, each mistake earns her a threatening and usually violent lecture.]

3. Also, I never would have thought to pair Mumtaz and Pran in a song, much less a seduction song, much less a revenge-seduction song. But yes. That happens. And it is magical.

Along with THAT song, there are a couple of just downright catchy tunes. But in general,  every one of the song picturizations here are extremely memorable (including a betrayal song, an afterglow song, and Jeetendra channeling Dick van Dyke dance. . . and all serve to tell the story . . . something I can't say about a lot of films.

4. Stylistically, this film is hard to forget. It looks like a candy factory on speed, only slowed down by moments of Byronic melancholia. Minute stacked against minute, this film just can't decide if it wants to be gaudy or gothic. And I'm thoroughly OK with that wobbly indecision. Because as soon as you get tired of this:

Gaudy brooding.

You get this . . .

Gothic Brooding

Overall, this movie is both visually satisfying (albeit for someone who likes crazy eccentric locations), and surprisingly emotionally satisfying. It seems like the lovechild of two of my favorite 70's films, Caravan (1971) and Raja Jani (1972). Caravan obviously has the young-Jeetendra factor as well, but also, similar to Caravan, this film doesn't take itself too seriously. It focuses more on keeping the narrative flow tight than trying to say something important or logical.

And (my beloved) Raja Jani is a natural comparison, considering that it's another look-alike-princess deception plot/love story . . . released in the same year. While this film certainly doesn't have the emotional punch of Raja Jani, it does go some unusual places . . . yet never loses itself in masala madness.

Both movies also feature women who choose to do something wrong (pretend to be someone they're not, lie, romance via deception) in order to achieve something good. Not only does that create the chance for wonderful ethical dilemmas and convoluted relational tight-rope-walking, but it also gives the female characters a chance to bring their "A" game and actually have their efforts mean something. (Actually, Sharmilee and Seeta aur Geeta share this theme as well.) I LOVE this trope . . . and if you can point me to more of the same, I would be much obliged.

By now I've figured out (and you probably noticed, too) that the Desai brand of masala will never be my favorite, however much I appreciate it when I'm in the right mood. The thing is, if I have to work myself into the right mood in the first place, it's never going to be the first film I go to on a bad day. Rags to riches tales, grand blood feuds, one-man-crusades . . . they're all well and good . . . but they're not my first choice for casual entertainment. I prefer masala on a smaller scale most days: with less characters, smaller canvases, and climaxes riding on the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.

Casually filmy, casually meaningful, comfortable in focus and pace . . . these elements go a long way. So, even though Mumtaz and Jeetendra aren't my favorite leads EVAH, they don't have to be. Not only is this a solid film . . . it is the type of film I'm most likely to watch over and over again. It's exotica,  it's a fairy-tale masquerading as a thriller/romance, and it's silly. But that's the way I like it! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Movie Madness Part II: Bangla and Bengali Films (Nayak, Chiriyakhana, Barnali)

A lovely bit of a Tagore poem. Source.
Up till recent days, the only Bengali film under my belt was the deservedly famed (and subsequently ubiquitous) Charulata. However, one or two readers might remember the goal in my New Year's resolution post to stop flirting around with different Indian languages & scripts and just settle down with a second SA language to study seriously. (That wasn't meant to be a tongue twister--but now that it's out there, why not try to say it out loud 3 x fast changing all the "s" sounds to Bangla "sh's". I dare you.)

[Note: I'm sure there are a lot of people out there in the world who like/love language in its purest state. Who learn languages for travel and work and friendship purposes. Who can live on syntax and random conversational opportunities alone. I am not one of them. I have firsthand knowledge of their existence in several of my friends AND my mother (who may be a literature teacher, but could survive on nothing but grammar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if necessary). Not me. Anyway, last year, I realized that the reason I had never gotten into another language seriously was because I am primarily motivated by language in the context of story. Without stories dangling like the proverbial carrot in front of my nose, I'm not going to get very far. Conversely, my ongoing obsession with Hindi films--their lyrics, poetry, and high-strung verbal dramatics--have shown me where proper motivation can take me. But now that I'm on the long post-grad trek of studying Hindi/Urdu media and literature (even if I wasn't pursuing it formally, it's how I spend 75% of my free time), I know that I want to plumb the depths of more than one Indian storytelling sphere . . . and thus, another language is a must.]

Well, you guessed it. After heady, promiscuous nights spent in the company of Tamil and Gujarati and Bengali and Panjabi and Malayalam, I settled with Bangla. When I found myself being drawn back to the script and dipping my toes into the grammar more readily (and happily running into comfortable sanskritic root words like old friends) . . . I realized there was only one deciding question left: "Can I get into Bengali films?"

While it still felt like the wrong order of events--considering that I got into Hindi films first, Hindi after--I decided to play Bengali roulette, going to one arbitrarily chosen film for the answer.

Nayak (1966)

Metacommentaries on the pitfalls of stardom are fairly common in Hollywood. If they are a little less so in Indian cinema, I still feel I've seen a fair few. But you know, this is a Ray film, and you can expect his personal spin and his keen social awareness to bring a different structure to the stereotype.

The Plot:
A film star gets on a train. Film star has an existential crisis on train. Film star gets off said train.

The first thing that struck me about this film was the overwhelming sense that the protagonist (the "hero" of the title, played by Uttam Kumar) is NEVER alone. Ever. Not in a privacy sense, at least.

No matter where he goes, he is exposed to everyone's adoration, judgment, anxiety, confusion . . . and most uncomfortably, everyone's desires. Rather than a human being, he is an object to almost everyone (placed either on a pedestal or grasped for as a commodity). Worse, almost everyone has already labeled him with an opinion and stuck him in a filing box for storage long before meeting him face to face.

Even the most enlightened specimen of humanity of the cast of characters--Sharmila's bespectacled highbrow-journal editor--begins by both judging him and trying to get something from him. Eventually she grows in her own perceptions and understandings of him (would you expect less of the woman pictured below?) but she still holds back. She doesn't engage completely.

Gosh, as if I needed another reason to love Sharmila.

Perhaps that is the "hero's"greatest curse--the isolation from his fellow humans. And although I know that this isn't a new concept applied to celebrity-dom, it still feels fresh in this film. Not that I think we are meant to like Uttam's film star. Far from it. He's self-obsessed, whiny, pompous, and irritatingly apathetic. However, one does find oneself caring about him, in almost a maternal fashion . . .despite all best intentions. And honestly, who hasn't had an existential crisis on a train at some point? (Gosh, I can count several, alone or among friends).

Waking up all kinds of sick in the middle of the night on a train . . . I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

I think I could make a good argument FROM SCIENCE that a long train journey logically and inevitably causes dangerous levels of self-reflection (spurred by extra time, discomfort, fatigue, and the disconnected sense of passage through space), and obviously, despair is easily triggered by excessive self-reflection.

So, without going into detail about the entire plot (it's better to just watch and feel one's way through it initially, I think), I will say that my favorite part of this movie might actually be the extra-textual "What Happened Next" in Amrita's review on Bongalong. Do yourself a favor and read it! I enjoyed the film more in tandem with that post than by itself (sorry Ray-ji!). But more importantly--did this film serve my own selfish purposes?

Did it sell me on Bengali films all on its own merit?

Well, kind of. I got the bug, anyway, which was enough (and all I could really ask of one film). Like in Hindi films, I'm sure it will take a while to build an understanding of what the symbols on the screen actually mean . . . but I was certainly intrigued.

Chiriyakhana (1967) 

The next slice I bit into was THIS noirish Ray experiment . . . and I say experiment because I don't think it quite works. Considering that the main reason I watched it (without any foreknowledge of other people's generally poor opinions on it) was that it was a Bengali gumshoe film, I wasn't really satisfied with the outcome. It's logically messy by any standards . . . which is a little bit hard to swallow in a detective story. I mean, if the writer of Encyclopedia Brown could swing a believable progression of clues. . . you should be able to. On the other hand, even Raymond Chandler messed up some times (by his own admission). Specifically, his story The Big Sleep (which is perhaps better known via the film version with Bogart and Bacall), which really is driven more by style than sense . . . and has some gaping plot holes.

Other people have far better background knowledge in Chiriyakhana than I do (obvs.) and therefore I direct you here for a plot summary and review.

I will say that I liked the (Ray-originating) elements of eccentricity in Byomkesh's character . . . the skulls, the sign fetish, the snake . . . I LOVED the snake. I did not enjoy the the weird Japanese "disguise" gag . . . but (I realized in hindsight) that it did kind of fit well with Byomkesh the detective's general disregard for human feeling or social courtesies. It also wasn't that far-fetched that he would like a reptile more than his own brother. (And in that, he's really no worse than the original Sherlock Holmes, and certainly not as out of control as some modern interpretations like Gregory House). Overall, I felt like it was worth watching, but not necessarily re-watching. Unless you happen to be a rabid Uttam Kumar fan, and then, more power to you.

Barnali (1963) 

Ok, so this film deserves its own post. It really does. However, because of how much I loved it-- and how much it towers over the previous two films mentioned (a nice bonus for anyone still reading this post)--I am a little at a loss to describe its merits. There are just so many! And I know that if I don't mention it now, it will be quickly hidden away in that place I keep my most favorite stories and will never see the light of day.

Think of what a 1960's Bengali version of Blackmail (1973) might look like. Now, dial the plot timespan back to events of just several successive days. Now cast Vinod Khanna (the only Hindi film star I would find comparable to Soumitra Chatterjee) across from Rakhee instead of Dharmendra.

"Gasp! Treason! The Redcoats are coming!"
"Calm down, it's just an exercise in filmi comparison."

Now, I dare to commit blasphemy in comparing this film to Blackmail because:

(A) The romance here is JUST as overwhelmingly good in its own way.

(B) Both sets of characters are kept from embracing their feelings for one another, and just embracing in general, because of their reluctance to say what they are really feeling and fearing . . . and the problems that come with unfortunate romantic history, ethical lies (misleading someone for their own "good"), and plain ol' shyness.

(C) Like in Blackmail, these characters have problems BECAUSE they are good people, trying to do right by their families and for their own futures. They are introverted, earnest, and thoughtful. This duo also has a similar (if more carefully sketched) penchant for extended emotional processing.

Which is why these two characters are completely perfect for one another. Not a little perfect. Totally perfect. (And isn't that necessary for the best romance films?)

They both actually take the time to listen and work through their feelings. Protracted silences be-damned. Because when they listen, they try to hear one another. And when they say things, they really SAY them. With that relationship work ethic, it's inevitable that they eventually get past their most carefully guarded secrets. This relational style reminds me of nothing so much as the raw, questioning and listening-oriented relationship between Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando's characters in On The Waterfront (like in this scene), and given some other similarities, I can't help but wonder if the director was an Elia Kazan fan.

Soumitra is like a tall glass of refreshing personhood in this film. He'd be refreshing even if he wasn't playing the hero, but as the hero . . . well, I have no words.  Sharmila is a smart, self-possessed, philosophy student. She actually sticks up for what she wants. She is many-layered in personality, situational reactions, and projected desires. By the end of the film, they will both break your heart AND put it back together better than it was before.

You don't really need to know much about the plot. Just be prepared for a slow first 5-10 minutes . . . which happens to be just the amount of time you'll need to prepare yourself for a literal storm of feelings. And, guess what? It's available on YouTube with Eng. Subs legally, so you can let it tear apart your world and stitch it back together sooner rather than later. (Also, it's often name-dropped as a favorite by Beth of BLB, so you should seek her out with any deeper questions about the film.)

Let's just say, if the other films didn't sell me, this one sure did. I may have peaked too early (will any Bengali film hit me harder than this?) but that's a decent problem to have. Bring on the Bangla everything!