There is something to be said about Bengali cinema’s ongoing fascination with Satyajit Ray and yes, you can add Uttam Kumar to that. At one point in this able fable, the film’s scholar-hero Subarn Sen (played by the always watchable Abir Chatterjee) says cheekily, “Before and after Partition Bengal was obsessed with ‘UK’ — the United Kingdom and then Uttam Kumar.
There is a dash of Uttam in Abir, a fine actor who creates a graph for his character even the script is not of much help. Here, Abir yokes a sense of childlike fun with a somber and not always consistent meditation on the loss of cultural heritage in Bengal brought on by the designs of plunderers and marauders.
Often the screenplay (Dhrubo Banerjee & Subhendu Dasmunshi) seems weighed down by the sprawling onus of conveying a sequence of historical events that underline the fun aspect of the treasure hunt. Miraculously, the narrative succeeds in floating above the bedrock of erudition.
The stamp of Ray’s Feluda series can be felt in the way Abir’s erudite characters moonlights as a detective on a treasure hunt with his two charming assistants (who are in love, of course).
Though some of the writing especially that featuring two small-time goons chasing the film’s heroes down for the hidden treasure, is clunky, there is nonetheless a certain charm in the way director Dhrubo Bannerjee brings out elements of a typical treasure hunt tale, Awhile wrapping the idea of a lost cultural value around the theme.
The scenes in an ancestral mansion with its ongoing Durga festivities are done with warmth. The cast is spirited if at times a little theatrical. But AI can see Abir Chatterjee returning in a third movie as Subarn Sen.
Did Uttam Kumar just smile? [Subhash K Jha, IANS]