Watching a Mithun-da movie is a pleasure, except of course if it is a Bengali movie. Call it stereotype, but quality is not the first (or the last … or the ones in between) thing which comes to my mind when I think of Mithun & Bengali Cinema together. Well, this was until I saw Shukno Lanka. A movie which made my admiration for Mithun-da go beyond the “Disco Dancer” and the philanthropic traits.
As a movie Shukno Lanka has uncharacteristic complexity, reminding me of the Ray and his works. Each telling multiple stories through the subterfuge little nuances say the inexplicable acerbity of lawyers, the simplicity and happiness of adivasis and the intuition and love of a lady in the movie Agantuk; Lets keep this for some other time.
Shukno Lanka is like the proverbial onion with many layers of themes capsuled in the life of an “extraordinarily ordinary” movie ‘extra’ Chinu Nandy, played by our ex-disco dancer Mithunda; the life of the dry red chilli (which is what shukno lanka roughly translates to). Something which is very much a commodity in Bengali kitchens, with little to no differentiation (one from other), shriveled, deformed, not the sumptuous rich green looks of its younger counterpart but still packing quite a punch; something which is the foundations of a good ‘tadka’.
The movie talks of how someone who lives a pedantry life as a Rs. 250 per day daily wage paid support actor or one of the ‘extras’ could protect his dream and talent from daily scars of insult and humiliation. It tells the tale of how the neighborhood boys are the only one who want to really see him act, how his loving wife (played wonderfully by Angana Basu) has little to complain and as little to desire as a cup of tea while taking a mid-night ‘tanga ride’ through the city and how the daily rigmarole and hardships only embalm and soothen the pain that the self-believed capability to excel in acting would remain just that … self belief.
In contrast is the life of a critically acclaimed, international award winning director Joy Sundar Sen (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) who lives the reclusive life committed to his passion of quality movie making, something which have never done (or for that matter never will do) well at the box-office. Someone for whom commitments could only be towards art and work, much has his wife struggles isolation and neglect. The warmth in the marriage is long replaced by a civility which borders cruelty, reminding us of the heavy price of such creative eccentricity as Joy Sundar.
There are other side (under-the-skin) tales, one involving the warmth and respect and platonic (debatable!) relation between Joy Sundar and a successful Australian actress; One which talks of the almost militant ‘grounded’ and yet highly self-respecting personality of Chinu Nandy juxtaposed against the arrogance and individuality of the maverick genius, Joy Sundar. Another which talks of the self-indulgent lifestyles of the mainstay film heroes and their idiosyncrasies. And another which talks about the regimentation of the ‘elite’ and their self-created belief of being exclusive in generating ‘high quality’ work, when Chinu is repeated reminded (not so much in words) but in actions and warms of him being at the end of the day a Junior Actor by Joy Sundar Sen, which Chinu finally revolts against. Finally the love story of the old and un-shapely (they are ‘aesthetically challenged’, middle age, middle class, low educated) couple of Chinu Nandy with his wife, the love which comes from being considerate and facing the rigmaroles of life which tends to wear out the hope and optimism from the best of us.
Mithun Chakrabarty as Joy Sundar Sen is remarkable. So is his wife, played by Angana Basu (an unheard of name in the movie industry). The music is soul-stirring and meaningful. The script and cinematography are bang on spot.
This is absolutely Satyajit Ray marterial. My recommendation to all who read is then, MUST Watch (even if that means you bribe me with a popcorn & soda to translate the Bengali into whatever language you understand!)