Review of “Ek Je Chhilo Raja” – A refreshing narration of an age-old story
Director – Srijit Mukherji
Cast – Jisshu Sengupta, Jaya Ahsan, Anjan Dutt, Aparna Sen, Anirban Bhattacharya, Rudranil Ghosh, Rajnandini Paul, Sreenanda Shankar
Overall Rating – 4/5
So far many film makers have tried to tell the fascinating story of Bhawal Sanyasi but it can be easily said that Srijit Mukherji’s Ek Je Chhilo Raja is the most authentic representation of the story so far. Although he has changed the names of the people and places associated with the incident and even he has added few more fictional characters but still it looks very real and close to the real events.
There may be different versions of the story by different sources but the basic story is same everywhere. A very popular Zamindar, the second prince of Bhawal estate died in mysterious situations in Darjeeling and cremated there. After 12 years local people discovers a naga sadhu who had sheer resemblance with the dead prince. Later some people from his family and province identified him as the lost prince. He also approved that he is the prince and fought a court case to claim his province from the British rulers. After fighting a long running court case finally he won the legal battle.(There is no spoilers as the verdict of the case is easily available on internet). The interesting thing about Ek Je Chhilo Raja is the screenplay which mostly based on Partha Chatterjee’s book “A Princely Impostor”. Srijit Mukjerji has given more priority to the court case which is the most important thing related with this story but badly neglected in the other movies made on this subject. Here the narrative goes back and forth in time, during the court proceedings we get flashback stories of different stages from the life of Raja Mahendra Kumar Choudhari (Jisshu Sengupta). The first half mainly focus on his luxurious life as the second prince of Bikrampur till his death in Darjeeling. In this part we see him as a guardian figure to the people of his province but in his personal life he has no discipline, he is an alcoholic womanizer and neglects his duties as a husband towards his newly married wife Chandrabati (Rajnandini Paul). The second half shows the story about his transformation as the Naga Sadhu and again his return to Bikrampur to fight court case for his property and identity as well. The script mainly narrates the facts available in the pages of history but the good thing is Srijit Mukherji has given an additional layer to it by adding two fictional characters in form of the two lawyers Bhaskar (Anjan Dutt) and Anupama(Aparna Sen) who are fighting the court case against each other on behalf of Prince of Bhawal and his widow respectively. Through these two lawyers, Srijit has shown that the court case has higher significance than just a man trying to prove his identity. For both the lawyers it does not matter if the man in question is a really a Prince or just an impostor. For Bhaskar it is more of a freedom fight against British rulers, on behalf of every Indian freedom fighter. On the other hand for Anupama it is a battle of a woman against an ignorant alcoholic womanizer husband who don’t deserve to be back in her life rather its better to live whole life as a widow. There is a hint of some past story of the two lawyers too which is not much significant with the main story but its acceptable as it does not take much time. The only problem with the film is it fails to focus on the emotional equations of prince of Bhawal with his family members and friends except for his bonding with his sister Mrinalini (Jaya Ahsan). The story is so much focused about the central character of the prince that most of the other characters don’t get enough chance to explore themselves specially the wife and mistress (Sreenanda Shankar) of the Prince. So less has been told about their pain that one cant feel connected with their emotions.
As a director Srijit Mukherji has made himself as a brand there are so many fans as well as haters but no one can ignore his dedication for his work. In Ek Je Chhilo Raja also his dedication for authenticity and detailing is prominent in every scene. Recreating a historical period that too for a span of around 30-40 years is not an easy task but he has recreated this era convincingly. Plus the film has been shot at different locations of India including some places with extreme weather conditions and to conduct shooting in such outdoors that too in a limited budget is praise worthy. He has been supported by a brilliant technical team who are in complete sync with the vision of the director. Cinematographer Gairik Sarkar is in top form. There are several moments in the film which deserves claps for cinematography like the night sequences shot with natural sources of light or the scenes shot in Jaisalmer or Banaras. The production design and costumes looks perfect to represent that particular era. But the man who deserves special mention in the technical team is the make up artist Somnath Kundu. He has done an award winning job by creating three different looks for the main protagonist. Not only that he has shown his magic for the other characters too, the make up done to show them growing older with time is just perfect. Another man who deserves credit is Indraadip Das Gupta for both the music and background score. This is definitely one of the finest albums composed by him. The music has not been composed to rule the charts rather it has been composed to connect with soul directly.
Besides the technical crew the ensemble cast is also in top form. Jisshu Sengupta has completely surrendered himself as an actor to the director. He has given so many good performance with Srijit Mukherji. There is a wonderful understanding between this actor director duo. From the very beginning till the end Jisshu has moulded himself to fit into this character. In the two halves he has played completely different personalities and it shows in his expressions, body language and dialect also. Not only emotionally, physically too it was a very demanding character to play. Shooting in extreme weather conditions that to in a bare minimum clothes is one tough job but Jisshu has done all these without missing any bit of expressions. Among the others Jaya Ahsan shines in her small screen time, without saying much dialogue she has managed to express all the pains of her character. Anirban Bhattacharya is one brilliant actor who can make his presence felt even standing in background. He has played the negative character of Satya, brother in law of the prince, but he never makes it look a like a stereotype villain with making mock faces of an evil. Both Jaya and Anirban have wonderfully managed to show the change in their age throughout the period. It was lovely to see two veterans Aparna Sen and Anjan Dutt in same frame after so long time. Their verbal duel in courtroom is little melodramatic at some points but for most of the part its interesting and their chemistry is very nice. Rudranil Ghosh has very little to do as the doctor of Bikrampur estate and he is just okay. Sadly Rajnandini Paul’s character has been overlooked completely just like her on screen husband. Its sad to see the actress in such insignificant character after her sparkling debut in Uronchondi. Sreenanda Shankar is mostly there for doing dance performances as a courtesan and for this she had learnt basics of Kathak in a very short span of time. Her effort for learning the dance style is praise worthy but she has not picked up the dance form so well and it shows in her dancing. Although she has managed the inefficiency of her footwork with her expressions. She has only one scene with dialogue in the courtroom sequence and she is impressive there.
On a whole Ek Je Chhilo Raja is brilliant cinematic experience which is a combined effort of a brilliant cast and crew lead by a dedicated story teller named Srijit Mukherji.