New Delhi: Bengali cinema has come of age but a few more steps towards something new would not hurt. While on one hand they regularly dish out the commercial fare, they also pull out an occasional gem from the everyday and the common place. However, when it comes to relationships – as experimental and bold Bengali movies have tried to be – they are still a tad bit stereotypical and predictable.
‘Aparajita Tumi’ is no different. The basic premise of the movie rests on these multifarious relationships mostly involving love, a dying love story, a love story that is long over and then some lust. Based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novel - 'Dui Nari Hate Tarabari' – ‘Aparajita Tumi’ literally translated to ‘The unvanquished’ is about situations all too familiar to make the movie a masterpiece.
The story works it self around Pradeep (Prosenjit), Kuhu (Padmapriya Janakiraman) and Ushashi (Kamalinee Mukherjee). Pradeep and Kuhu are married and have two kids. Ushashi is married to Ronojoy. The couples live their ‘perfect’ lives in San Jose. And as most stories go – perfection is only surface glitz.
As Pradeep keeps playing notes to a tune he can’t get right and steals glances at other women – Kuhu cannot understand his ‘juvenile’ oddities. In-your-face Kuhu is too busy running after her kids to make time for such banalities. Ushashi on the other hand nurses serious complexities – she is beautiful but she is under-confident. Her need for approval clashes with Kuhu’s no-nonsense comments. Pradeep tries damage control – but for a woman who has left behind her chances of becoming an actress and is now stuck in the US with a disinterested husband and no kids – solace is a hard bargain.
Hurt after one of Kuhu’s stray unguarded comments made one evening in their house as they host Soumitra Chatterjee, Ushashi and Ronojoy shift to Claremont.
Pradeep gets invited to their new house on one of his business trips to San Francisco. Ushashi seduces him in a span of a dinner and in a few days time Pradeep returns to respond to her advances – their affair starts. Whether she seduces him to get even with Kuhu or it is simply to fill the void in her life - it never becomes too clear.
When Pradeep confesses to Kuhu, she packs her bags and the kids and goes to her mother (Tanushree Shankar). She doesn’t know who the other woman is – and she says that knowing her identity would not change the damage caused. Kuhu leaves her kids with her mother and goes to New York to get some ground on her life. Back to her college days, Kuhu bumps in to her ex-boyfriend Yusuf.
Yusuf follows her relentlessly, admitting that he still loves her and perhaps that is why his marriage failed. Torn between her own dilemmas and love and attention she has missed – Kuhu succumbs to one night with Yusuf. But when morning comes Yusuf leaves her with a poetry book and a note – she had made it very clear that their chapter is over. As Kuhu tries dealing with the changes she receives the news that Pradeep has a malignant brain tumour.
As Kuhu returns to take care of Pradeep, Ushashi comes to confess. Kuhu’s gracious acceptance makes Ushashi feel no better for Pradeep has already said his goodbyes.
The movie has strains of ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna’ but thank God for small mercies – the great couple exchange does not happen. Ushashi does not try to make her way back in to Pradeep’s life or make her amends with Ronojoy nor does Kuhu give up on her place next to the suffering Pradeep.
Predictability and familiarity aside – the movie is beautifully shot. It has the cosy feel of a matured Hollywood love story. And both the actresses – Kamalinee and Padmapriya look stunning in the shots. Padmapriya as Kuhu has the face of the poetic romances – in scenes she looks strikingly like Mahi Gill – but a prettier and a softer version. Confident and intelligent in her role as Kuhu, one expected a little more resistance on her end when she effortlessly becomes the caring wife.
Perhaps relationships are like that – faced with the direst of resistances – personal ego and anger falls away as easily as they find ground as moments of unhappiness.
Prosenjit aces his role as Pradeep. The stolen glances at other women in restaurants, him succumbing to the seduction of the other woman, the aching nostalgia for a tea stall left behind in Beltala and the piano tune he struggles to complete – is all Prosenjit and perhaps originally so. He makes it look all so effortless.
The movie is a slice of life out of the NRI pages – the American accents against the flawless Bengali, the occasional East Bengal strain in the words – all are very real. This is one more of those Bengali films that can boast of exquisite songs. Music director Shantanu Moitra leaves no room for complaints.
The movie flows like poetry – but well in to the movie – one realizes that we have heard the rhythms before, the rhyme is familiar as is the lilting feel of the words. But none the less, as comfortable familiarity goes – one will listen till the end.
Starring Prosenjit Chatterjee, Padmapriya Janakiraman, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Indraneil Sengupta, Tanusree Shankar and Kalyan Ray, it is directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury.