Review of “Professor Shanku O El Dorado” – More of a jungle safari than a science fiction
Director – Sandip Ray
Cast – Dhritiman Chatterji, Subhasish Mukherjee
Professor Shanku is a nostalgia for many of us who have grown up reading the stories of this genius scientist created by Satyajit Ray. So it was quite exciting for us when Shree Venkatesh Films announced the big screen adaptation of Shanku along with Sandip Ray as the director, but sadly the film fails to fulfill the expectations. It has decent performances and good production values still it fails to make any connection with the characters or the story because of a weak screenplay written by Sandip Ray.
The film is based on the story Nakurbabu O El Dorado written by Satyajit Ray. The story is about Nakur Chandra Biswas (Subhasish Mukherjee), a small town inhabitant who has became a clairvoyant after getting hit by a ball lightening. With his super powers he senses that something wrong is going to happen with Professor Trilokeshwar Shanku (Dhritiman Chatterji) during his journey in Sao Paulo where he is going to attend an exhibition that will showcase some of his innovations. To make sure of Professor’s safety, Nakurbabu joins him in his foreign trip as his secretary. In Sao Paulo they come across a greedy businessman who wants to get the formula of Shanku’s inventions by hook or crook. They also get involved in the myth of the golden city El Dorado.
The problem with Sandip Ray’s screenplay is that it is a line by line adaptation of the story with very minimum change to match the timeline of 2016, in fact in some places the dialogues have been directly lifted from the book. Sandip Ray must understand the difference between the writing process for a book and a film script. Without any doubt, it is not one the best stories of Shanku series, it a very short story where nothing much happens. Still if the makers choose this story to make the film then they must add up things to make it more engaging for both who have read the story and who have not. The first half has been spend only in introducing the characters and the second half works more as jungle safari of rainforest of Brazil. Although there are references and sometime demos of popular inventions of Professor Shanku like Annihillin pistol, Miracurall medicine, Omniscope etc, but not for a single moment it gives any thrill of experiencing those inventions on screen. Even in that jungle safari portion in second half, we do not see anything new. The dense forests, map navigation, boat journey through narrow rivers, local tribes, Jaguar, Anaconda and city of El Dorado created by VFX we have seen all these already in Amazon Obhijaan. Although the film is not boring but at the same time it is not engaging also. The characters hardly builds any connection with the audience, as a result while watching the film we do not bother to care about them. Also it is not very much clear, why the film does not start directly from the main protagonist rather it wastes around five to ten minutes of time adding two extra characters who have found the diary of Shanku and now reading it. This part looks like a separate short film that adds nothing to the main film except run time.
Although the screenplay fails to connect but visually it is not a bad watch. The technical team here is in very good form. Soumik Halder has captured the scenic beauty of Brazil superbly. Barring few scenes specially the anaconda scene in the climax, the visual effects is decent for most of the part. Also the animation in the title credit sequence is quite good. Despite being a Bengali film, most of the dialogues are in English as per the demand of the story and characters and it adds authenticity to the film.
Dhritiman Chatterji has looked and acted very close to our imagination of Professor Shanku. He is undoubtedly the best available option for this character. But the character does not provide him much scope to perform as an actor. Subhashish Mukhopadhay has gotten a better written character and he has performed very well in his part. He has ably portrayed the inhibitions of a common man who is trying to get accustomed with his new acquired super powers. Also he has delivered his dialogues in English convincingly as Nakurbabu who is not very much familiar with the language. The rest of the cast members which includes foreigners only are just okay and adds nothing special to the film.
On a whole, Professor Shanku O El Dorado could not live up to the expectations, it fails to replicate the excitement of reading the original stories by Ray. Although it is quite refreshing to see an adaptation of a science fiction when most of the Bengali film makers are busy in adapting detective thriller. It will not be a bad idea to continue it in a franchise, only if Sandip Ray will choose a better story and will write more engaging screenplay in the next time.