BIOSCOPEWALA Movie Review: Danny Denzongpa shines in this meticulously crafted reincarnation of Tagore’s KABULIWALA

Bioscope Movie Poster (Image courtesy : Fox Star Studios)
Bioscope Movie Poster (Image courtesy : Fox Star Studios)

What happens when the nostalgia of Rabindranath Tagore's classic fable KABULIWALA returns to cinemas in a spiffily re mastered form?. A soul searching adage on parenthood, love, loss, redemption and hope is found.

The modern day reincarnation of KABULIWALA by debutant Deb Medhekar meets the pathos of Roman Polanski’s THE PIANIST and finds elation in its quest for hope and redemption through the magic of cinema ala CINEMA PARADISO.

Told through the eyes of a child and a father that sees the prolific veteran Danny Dengzongpa in élan as the good hearted Afghani who sees solace in the cute little Kolkata girl Minnie.

BIOSCOPEWALA is that rare adaptation of a classic that stays true to the core of the emotional father daughter pact and remarkably takes its own turn without trying to ape the 1961 classic KABULIWALA by Hemen Gupta that saw the incredible Balraj Sahni in on of his finest performance.

The modern take set in today’s Kolkata and Afghanistan, opens with Robi Basu (Adil Husain) at the airport on his way to Kabul trying to get in touch with his estranged daughter Minnie Basu (Gitanjali Thapa). Unable to reach her, Robi a well known photographer pens a letter to her. The plane crashes leaving Minnie in a state of shock as an old Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa) an Alzheimer patient is waiting to be taken care of. Rehmat Khan is the kind hearted soul from Afghanistan who is forced to make a living in Kolkata due to the extremist regime in his country. Rehmat makes his living by showing movie clips to children and he is the same ‘Bioscopewala’ that the young Minnie (Miraya Suri) bounded during her childhood days. Rehmat filled the vacuum of Minnie as her father in his ever busy career hardly had time for her while Rehmat found traces of his lost daughter in Minnie. The bonding was natural that crossed boundaries, blood and other prejudice. As the movie progresses, the young Minnie who is pursuing a course in filmmaking comes to terms with her past and better understanding of her father as she revisits her past and simultaneously moves in present to find out what happened to Rehmat’s daughter in Afghanistan.

The story, credited to producer Sunil Doshi takes all the liberty and we are introduced to new characters and twist. The movie also takes different shades and sometime a feel of Iranian cinema is smelled. A burkha boxer Wahida (Tisca Chopra), Ghazala (Maya Sarao) are introduced who have their own stories to say.

The 125+year old Tagore classic had KABULIWALA selling the traditional dry fruits and shawls and was a generous money lender. In Deb Medhekar’s version he is not even a Pashtun, KABULIWALA urf Rehmat is from the Hazara community who runs a small cinema joint in his home. Minnie’s mother is also absent.

The present day take is more about the changing times and its effects on humans, art and culture. It beautifully uses cinema as a metaphor in conveying hope, redemption and love. Art knows no boundaries and love is always unconditional. It haunts back irrespective of time and makes you human. The message is delivered beautifully and whenever the image of Danny Denzongpa singing the title song comes up, you are transported to your childhood, to the nostalgia and feel the movement in your heart.

The mainstream audience remembers Danny as Pathan in Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi starrer KHUDA GAWAH and other films. Here the prolific veteran actor delivers a flawless performance and makes us wonder why he keeps himself away from the camera.

Geetanjali Thapa is first rate and in fact the movie revolves around here and she is the driving force in BIOSCOPEWALA. If Danny is the cinema in the film, Geetanjali’s character works as the lenses to the audience through which they see and feel the journey.

The supporting cast chips in with valuable support as well. Adil Hussain, Tisca Chopra, Brijendra Kala and Ekavali Khanna all are competent and have their moments. Special mention for Miraya Suri who plays the little Minnie is a must.

Technically first rate with rich production values, Rafey Mehmood cinematography especially in Afghanistan is impeccable in capturing the melancholy and the mood. Sandesh Shandilya music is well tuned.

A movie for the connoisseurs of art, BIOSCOPEWALA is that welcome homecoming of the age old nostalgia (childhood memories) that rekindles our faith in humanity. Restoring the bounding between a father and a daughter, the meticulously crafted reincarnation of Tagore’s classic is an arresting piece of art that celebrates life, love, cinema, and gives hope.

Rating 3.5/5

Movie Cast & Crew
  • Actor: Danny Denzongpa, Adil Hussain, Brijendra Kala, Mir Sarwar
  • Actress: Geetanjali Thapa, Tisca Chopra
  • Producer: Sunil Doshi
  • Director: Deb Medhekar
  • Music Director: Sandesh Shandilya
  • Production house: Handmade Films
  • Writer: Deb Medhekar, Sunil Doshi
  • Distributor: Fox Star Studios
  • Release Date : 01 Jan 1970
  • Movie Duration : 1h 31m