Nirbaak

Director: Srijit Mukherjee | Year: 2014 | Language: Bengali

It is such a pain to write about what you think is an out-and-out bad film. And especially so if it is by  a friend whose work in the past you have liked an admired.

This film reveals the juvenile and morbid facets of Srijit’s creative thinking which have been raising their heads to slither above the surface  in many of his earlier films, but have generally been patted down. The fourth episode of Chatuskone  brought the other three brilliant episodes and the overall film with its childish, gimmicky plotting.

Here this is carried to the extreme. It is boring and disgusting with its total lack of imagination and aesthetic missteps.

Some have try to justify its failure as a result of it being abstract and experimental. It is  nothing of that sort.

Take the first episode featuring Anjan Dutt. He is supposed to be a loner   In love with himself. So the director shows him looking at himself at the mirror for minutes, kissing his own reflection, cutting a birthday cake for himself and masturbating in bed. How abstract!

Nirbaak

The second episode involving the dog is based on equally juvenile concept of a dog being jealous of his master’s girlfriend / wife. Everyone knows dogs are not like that. If one wants to impose such a psychological mould on a poor dog at least the story-telling has to be suitably magical. Here it is all shot so prosaically, propped up on another old wives’ tale that dogs see in black and white. Jisshu looks such a wimp and he is given such ridiculous lines to mouth and such embarrassing scenes to enact.   Take the scene where he is meeting Sushmita on the pork bench and is greeted with a bit of bird dropping on his shirt. ‘Oh shit’, he says. “ Bird shit actually”, Sushmita quips. How clever and funny! “ My Armani shirt and you are trying to make a joke,’ he adds, just when you were about forget the unfunny exchange. One more of such smart alec jokes and I might stop watching Srijit’s films altogether.  And no, this business of using ketchup for altaa  and chips as rice to represent a cute urban couple isn’t cute anymore. And the scene where they are sitting under a quilt on the sofa, bare torso, watching TV looks as plastic as a home furnishing commercial.

The third episode involving the morgue-keeper Mrityunjay’s s love for the dead Sushmita has some conceptual power, and the scenes where he imagines the dead woman as his bride as takes her on a trip abroad trough airports and frolics with her among sea waves are the only ones in the film showing some imagination. They are the only ones bearing a genuine surreal signature to justify the opening dedication to Salvador Dali. But the episode is marred by tool literal staging without any mediating filter of abstraction. The use of Hindi films songs like Andar  se koi bahar na jaa sake, without any creative transformation that could lend the scenes a touch of abstraction,  make the scene look very flat and uninspiring. The macabre end too does not have any stylistic sheen to prevent it from plain disgusting. And if we are to accept that all those Hindi film songs were Mrityunjay’s inner thoughts why that Pardesi Pardesi song after he was dead. Dead men think? And that scene where one dead body is being pushed out of the one locker in the morgue while the other is being wheeled in – how juvenile can you get!

Unlike films of Bunuel or Kashyap closer home the staging is too flat and filmy to create any atmosphere of magic or heightened realism.  What was that scene where Sushmita dancing in a spaghetti top in the park about? Was it put in there because she would look good in such a scene? And why those nyaka movements?

The background score too is very unimaginative and uninspiring. It again is very literal. In the scene, for example, where Jisshu and Sushmita kiss passionately, the flute just mimics the rhythm of their smooching. Why the traditional strings and flute for the episode involving these urban and hip lovers? The song Jodi Aakasher Gaaye appearing during the end credit is full of pretense to deep meaning, and appearing as it does immediately after Pardesi Pardesi, it kind of sums of the plenteousness of the whole film rather effectively

As I said almost all the aesthetic choices made in the film are characterized by singular lack of imagination and a coarseness which leaves a distinct bad taste in the mouth.

Hopefully Srijit has got all this negativity out of his system and can move on to a more wholesome creative process.

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