Review of “Gumnaami” – A tribute to the legendary freedom fighter Netaji.
Director – Srijit Mukherji
Cast – Prosenjit Chatterjee, Anirban Bhattacharya, Tnusree
Gumnaami, directed by Srijit Mukherji, is a bold attempt to talk about a topic that has been tried to keep secret by everyone having the authority for more than seventy years. The film has tried to highlight three most popular theories about Netaji’s disappearance. Although it has not given equal importance to all three of those and it is more inclined towards one particular theory but it is acceptable as the film has provided enough logical evidences in its support. Also we must remember it is not a fictionalized story from a creative mind rather it is based only on the facts and evidences that were presented during the hearings of Mukherjee Commission. No matter it provides any conclusion or not but at least it has re-initiated discussion about the much controversial topic of Netaji’s disappearance and that is the biggest tribute by the team to the legendary freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
The story begins with the flashback showing the known facts about Netaji (Prosenjit Chhatterjee), how he formed INA after leaving Congress party. It is followed by the much talked about plane crush and Netaji’s death because of that. Then it shifts to late 90’s where wee see Chandrachur Dhar (Anirban Bhattacharya) , a journalist who hardly cares about Netaji and his death. But soon he has to start a research about this topic as part of his professional assignment. This research work changes his life completely and makes him obsessed with the topic. In fact he becomes so much involved about it that he chooses to continue this research leaving his job and formed a group named Mission Netaji. He also presented the outcomes of his extensive research work during the hearing of Mukherjee Commission. He presents the other two probable theories that the plane crush was fake and Netaji had escaped to Russia. Probably he died in Russia or he had returned to India but as a sage who was known as Bhagwanji or Gumnaami Baba.
The best thing about the story is that it is well researched and provides enough information but at the same time it is a weak point also as it is full of too much information which is tough to consume at one go. Getting all the information about Netaji must not had been difficult for Srijit Mukherji as most of the research work was already done by Anuj Dhar and Chandrachur Ghose but writing the screenplay using so much information was quite challenging. It is not an easy task to decide which information should be kept and what should be avoided to keep the film compact within a time frame of around 140 minutes. One must admit Srijit Mukherji has efficiently written the screenplay keeping most of the relevant information. Also he has used some smart tricks to provide some information during the opening and end credits. For examples during the opening credit he has skillfully summed up the whole story about how Netaji formed INA after leaving Congress. Despite of that there are some shortcomings also in the screenplay. Although the character of Chandrachur Dhar is based on the two real life persons Chandrachur Ghose and Anuj Dhar but this character and his track is very much unrealistic compared to the rest of the film. First of all his quick transformation from someone who hardly cares about Netaji to a person who is totally obsessed with the man does not look convincing. The courtroom drama during the hearings of Mukherjee Commission has too much drama which does not gel well with the sincere and serious treatment of the rest of the story. It could have been presented in a more subtle way. The film shows that Chandrachur has formed a group to continue their research work but the other members of the group have been completely neglected. Even in the climax we can see the verdict affects only Chandrachur only as if the other members have nothing to do with the verdict. Also the subplot revolving around Chandrachur and his wife Roni (Tnusree) was not required at all and it has added unnecessary length to the film.
Directing a film based on true historical events is always a tough job. To create that historical ambiance with perfection that too in a limited budget is not an easy task but Srijit Mukherji has manged to do to that with his expertise as a story teller and of course with the help of a talented technical crew. Make-up , costumes, production design everything is very much well researched and have helped the film to give an authentic look specially in the flashback portions. Soumik Halder has shot the film wonderfully creating a visual difference between the three possible theories. Specially the portions featuring Netaji during his INA activities looks so convincing that it actually looks like original footage from archived records. Somnath Kundu is probably one of the finest make-up artist present in India currently, he has once again proved that. The way he has created different looks of Netaji, Bhagwanji and the other historical figures like Gandhiji and Pt. Nehru is commendable. Not only that as the film keeps swinging between past and present so there are some characters who have appeared as both young and older version and Somnath Kundu has created both the looks for those characters perfectly. There are four popular patriotic songs that has been aptly used in the film and Indraadip Das Gupta has wonderfully recreated the songs keeping the patriotic feeling intact.
Among the cast, it is Prosenjit Chatterjee who has done the best work. The way he has transformed himself into Netaji and Gumnaami Baba that is praise worthy. He has efficiently changed his body language and dialogue delivery to suit both the characters perfectly. Anirban Bhattacharya is one fine actor who can play any character with same ease. This film is also not an exception. He has well captured the emotions of a man desperately looking for justice. Tnusree is there in an extended cameo and she was more visible in the promotional activities of the film than the actual film. She has nothing substantial to do but in her limited scope she is impressive. In the supporting cast there are many not so popular but good actors and all of them have done good job.
On a whole Gumnaami is an outcome of an extensive research work and it has been presented wonderfully by a talented cast and crew. This story must reach to a wider section of audience so that it can make people aware of the information that has been kept secret for so long.