Review of “Sanjhbati” – Decent performances compensate for a lazy writing
Director – Leena Gangopadhyay & Saibal Banerjee
Cast – Soumitra Chatterjee, Lily Chakraborty, Dev, Paoli Dam, Sohini Sengupta.
Sanjhbati directed by Leena Gangopadhyay and Saibal Banerjee talks about the loneliness and sufferings of elderly people whose kids leave them alone at old age. Definitely the film has a good intention to bring up a socially relevant issue in form an emotional drama but the problem is that it offers nothing new in terms of writing. The film goes through the same old tried and tested path. Although the strong performances by the lead cast has compensated the lazy writing to a great extent.
The film is about two elderly persons Chhana Dadu (Soumitra Chatterjee) and Dida (Lily Chakraborty). They live a lonely life as their own kids are not by their side at this old age. In such a situation two strangers Chandu (Dev) and Phuli (Paoli Dam) who works as their care taker and maid respectively, help them to fill up the void in their life. Gradually Chandu and Phuli becomes more close to them than their biological kids.
The good thing about the story is that it tries to address an important problem with authenticity, in an ambiance with which people can relate easily. But the problem is that we have seen so many movies and TV shows about this subject, more recently Gotro and Bachcha Shoshur had dealt with similar subject. Another problem with the writing is its uneven tone of melodrama, at some points it is subtle and authentic, on another point it is too loud at par with TV serials. There are problems in transition from one scene to another, sometimes the next scene begins very abruptly even before the audience are done with the previous scene. The transformation of the characters is also very abrupt. In the beginning we see Chandu behaves very rudely with his own father and after sometime he becomes so obedient to Dida and Chhana Dadu. Also Chandu and Phuli’s romantic track has not been etched out properly. In fact there is an unnecessary love triangle also including Chandu’s ex-girlfriend Shyamoli (Saayoni Ghosh). This sub track has just added length of the film without doing any value addition. The climax is emotionally manipulative but it succeeds to hit the right notes with the target audience.
All these shortcomings of the writing has been compensated to a large extent by the solid performances of the lead cast. There is hardly anything new to say about the acting abilities of Soumitra Chatterjee, only thing that can be said is that Sanjhbati has offered him a well written character to showcase his talent. Lily Chakraborty is amazing in her character. Her emotions are so real that one can feel empathy for her. Casting Dev and Paoli Dam as Chandu and Phuli is a very refreshing and brave choice by the director duo. Kudos to the director duo for realizing the potential of these two actors and giving them such different characters compared to their on screen image. Both Dev and Paoli have proved their directors right in their decision. Paoli has worked really well with her body language and diction to play a house maid with credibility. The good thing is that she has maintained that throughout the film even in the emotional scenes. It is quite refreshing to see her doing comedy. For Dev it was really challenging to make his presence felt among the company of such brilliant actors but he has succeeded in that. There are several instances where he has to convey the emotions without saying any dialogues and he has done that superbly. In extended cameos Sohini Sarkar and Saayoni Ghosh are very impressive.
Among the technical team, Sujay Datta Ray’s editing has enough scope for improvement. Shirsha Ray’s camerawork is praiseworthy specially the way he has shot the beautiful landscapes of Darjeeling. Raja Narayan Deb’s background is very much manipulative but works well with the mood of the film. Anupam Roy’s songs are nice but except for Khoma Koro the other two songs are not in sync with the screenplay so does not leave that much impression.
Overall Sanjhbati, gives a good message although it is preachy at times. The writing is predictable with cliche plot twists but the strong performances by the lead cast have made up for that. In the festive holiday season it can be good watch for the family audiences.