This film has several things going for it in my book: Soumitra Chatterjee being alternately endearing, funny, and poignant; an animated title sequence; and discussion of culture clashes and local identities and worldviews.
Unfortunately, beyond those joys it mostly falls flat. I have no doubt that the better you know contemporary Calcutta, especially the conflicting (stereotypes of?) Bengali and Marwari cultures, the better you will understand this film and thus potentially also like it, but I think it needs better acting to be truly successful. Most of the main characters other than Soumitra (as the granddad of the central family) and Swastika Mukherjee (the wife of the family’s oldest son) speak as though they’re reading from slowly-revealed cue cards. Shauvik Kundagramim as the oldest, foreign-returned son (and Woody Allen-y in a very bad way) and Raima Sen as a manic pixie dream girl for Parambrata Chatterjee’s cowardly middle son are especially grating.
Soumitra’s role is also quite charming and he brings more sparkle and interest to it by simple, slight alterations of facial expressions that the rest of the cast put together can manage for theirs. In addition to providing an almost unspoken emotional focus for the family of grumbling middle-aged parents and three sons who all seem to be on somewhat unconventional paths, he has a cute relationship with a local teenager he runs into at the tea stall. Over the course of the film, he gives her relationship advice and thus quietly, and, without whining about the losses he has seen or grumbling about what’s wrong with today’s youth, ensures that some of the meaningful values of the older generation are translated to and find new relevance in the lives of the young.
Swastika, however, has an uphill battle as a wife largely uninvolved in her husband’s business plan that brings them back to Calcutta from the US and then watches him dither around with new projects and forget her, and her sacrifice, completely.
The story is mostly structured around male characters, but each of them has at least one significant female counterpart, and I think the female characters function well both as individuals in their own right and as symbols (or embodiments?) of challenges facing the sons as each of them learns to grow up a little bit over the course of the film. For those reasons alone I wish I liked this more than I did; it’s not egregious but working on more natural, or at least less boring, delivery would have helped immensely. Soumitra effortlessly proves he’s still got heaps of talent and knows how to use it, and the film is a must-see for fans of Sonpapdi.
And as someone allergic to swimmy things, this makes me laugh.
Thanks to Bala
for bringing this one to my attention and tempting me to watch it by tweeting cute screen shots of Soumitra.