Review of “Shonar Pahar” – Reinventing the magic of friendship
Director – Parambrata Chatterjee
Cast – Tanuja, Jisshu Sengupta, Parambrata Chatterjee, Srijato, Arunima Ghosh, Gargee Roychowdhury
Overall Rating – 4/5
Shonar Pahar literally means a mountain made of gold which is not less than a treasure. Actually the film Shonar Pahar directed by Parambrata Chatterjee uses the title as a metaphor, the real treasure here is the emotional bonding between a mother and son which is lost somewhere with time. But they rediscover this emotional attachment like discovering a hidden treasure.
The story is about Upama (Tanuja) a lonely aged woman in her seventies. Her only son Soumya aka Baban (Jisshu Sengupta) lives in a separate house with his wife Mou (Arunima Ghosh). Soumya had lost his father at a very young age since then the mother and son were very much close to each other. They used to help each other and understand each other’s needs like close friends. But gradually Soumya grows up and things started changing, the friendship started taking a backseat. After Soumya’s marriage the gap increases more and it finally resulted a lonely life for Upama. But as expected Upama does not appear as a sympathetic victim of negligence rather she is more rough and arrogant in her nature. The struggles of her life has made her more tough from outside. No one dares to break this tough wall but a young 7 year kid does that. The kid is Bitlu an orphan who lives in an orphanage Anandaghar. Soumya’s childhood friend Rajdeep (Parambrata Chatterjee) works with that orphanage home. They run an innovative program where they send orphan kids to the house of lonely old people for a day out where the two persons from different generation can give company to each other and also the kids can learn something. On Rajdeep’s advice, Upama meets Bitlu as part of this initiative. After interacting with Bitlu for some days, Upama starts forming a bond with him. It takes her back to the days when she was similarly close to her son Baban. Bitlu gives her a new name Uma. How the new friends Bitlu and Uma helps to reconnect the old friends Baban and Upama that forms the rest of the story.
It is a nicely written story, penned by Parambrata Chatterjee and Pavel, about a very relevant problem in every household. Every person in the audience can relate with the subject. We all have noticed as well as experienced how the bonding between kids and parents fades away with time once the kids grows up. The good thing about the story is, it talks about the generation gap with out taking side to any of the generation. It does not blame on any side neither tries to find a root cause of why this gap increases. Rather it emphasizes on the fact that life is too short to live with burdens of unhappy relationships, so both side should bend a little to bridge the gap. The screenplay is little slow in pace but that is the beauty of the script. It takes its own time to establish the bond between Bitlu and Upama. The slow pace works in first half because of some beautifully written moments between Upama and Bitlu but same cant be said about the second half. In the second half when all the characters land in Gangtok, the plot feels little overstretched. We all know where its heading but it takes more than required time to reach to that climax. The other good thing about the screenplay is the flashback sequences where we see the story of middle aged Upama (Gargee Roychowdhury) and young Baban, these flashbacks comes in form of stories written for kids. As it has been narrated by Upama to Bitlu in form of stories so it must be simple and comprehensive for a young kid at the same time it is clear enough for the audiences to understand the struggles this mother son duo had to face.
As a director it is Parambrata Chatterjee’s fourth film and he has matured a lot with time. It is his best direction so far, he has narrated a very emotional story close to his heart in a proper way so that the audience can feel connected with it. This subject had a chance to turn into a melodramatic film about ignorance of elderly people but he has controlled his narrative from diverting to that route. He has never tried to manipulate audience with emotional contents except for one sequence in a police station which was anyways required to trigger of the change of heart of some key characters. Also he deserves credit for daring to make a film on a subject where a 70 plus lady is the central lead, many filmmakers would have backed out with this concept thinking about its limited commercial appeal.
Another good point about Parambrata’s direction is the casting which is very appropriate and refreshing. Specially everyone in audience will be thankful to Parambrata for casting Tanuja in the lead role. Tanuja is a solid actress who has been mostly underutilized throughout her career in both Bollywood as well as in Bengali movies. It feels so good to see her in a lead character at this age where she can utilize her acting prowess. She has given life to the character of Upama. In one scene young Bitlu says Upama was crying but there was no tears in her eyes. Just like Bitlu audience can also sense upama’s pain without a trace of tear in her eyes and that is possible because of the superb acting of Tanuja. Jisshu Sengupta has given yet another wonderful performance. There is comparatively lesser scope for his character but in two particular scenes he is just too good. One is where he outbursts to his mother in anger and the second one is his emotional breakdown in the climax. He shines in these two scenes. Child actor Srijato is a powerhouse of talent packed in a small package. First of all big salute to the team who has discovered the potential of this budding talent. He has given a performance hardly expected from such a small kid. For some people his character may look little over mature than his age but here we should consider the background of this character. He is playing an orphan kid who has not been well groomed in a well mannered family, so the kind of language he uses or the way he behaves that is well accepted. Here Director Parambrata is more active than actor Parambrata. Actor Parambrata has very little to do and he is fully there in the character. Same is true for Arunima Ghosh. This talented actress normally gets chance to play supporting parts only and this film is also not an exception. Gargee Roychowdhury appears in a guest appearance in flashback sequences as middle aged Upama. She has no dialogues but she has managed to express with her solid expressions. Soumitra Chatterjee also appears in a cameo. Together Soumitra Chatterjee and Tanuja in a same frame brings back memories of Teen Bhubaner Pare. There is one more reason to feel nostalgic about the film that is a surprising entry of Soumitra Chatterjee.
On a whole Shonar Pahar is well made film with its heart at the right place. It is a film that is made with correct emotions and connects with the audiences. It takes us to our childhood days when a father was a superhero and a mother was the best friend. This is a satisfactory watch and highly recommended for everyone.