Bor Bou Khela, roughly translated, means ‘a husband-wife game’. The film is based on an extremely popular Bengali stage play called Manmoyee Girls School adapted from a story by Rabindranath Mitra.
The popularity of this play led to many celluloid versions, each one a commercial success. L.V. Prasad made Miss Mary (1957) on this story in which Meena Kumari played one of her rare roles in a comedy. There were remakes in Marathi, Tamil and Telugu also.
Basing his inspiration on the premise of the film’s box office history, veteran director Jagannath Guha decided to make a more contemporary version of the same story. He named it Bor Bou Khela.
Manash (Rahul), a Hindu, and Niharika (Ra), a Christian, are forced to pretend to be husband and wife to get a job at Manmoyee Girls School. They are very good teachers but they constantly work under the threat of getting caught. They fall in love.
How the owner of the school Manmoyee (Kamalika) and her husband Damodar (Tapas Pal), a wealthy man unite them in married bliss offered ample opportunities to build up the momentum to a hilarious and entertaining climax. Alas! Genesis decided otherwise.
Bor Bou Khela, despite the honest intentions of its director and producer Shishir Gupta, is hardly the comedy it was supposed to be. Nor does it offer wholesome family entertainment as some situations and dialogue are really for an adult audience.
The blame lies squarely on the flawed script and the rough-shod editing that leaves almost no stone unturned to lead to a gross misuse of good acting talent.
The script has been penned by three brains – Jagannath Guha, Shishir Gupta and Proshun Banerjee. One wonders why the director needed three different people to design this simple script filled with immense cinematic possibilities for a frothy comedy that could also have been an argument on the institution of marriage.
Logic is something a fun script can dispense with. But the problem with Bor Bou Khela is that its basic premise gets lost once Manas and Nihariksa arrive to teach at the village school pretending to be a married couple.
The problem is that there is no school at all. There is just one song sequence that shows us neatly uniformed girls singing away with Niharika. But it looks more like a dream scene than a part of the story.
Too many characters spoil the broth further. There is a nincompoop advocate (Joyjeet) who nothing but eyes Chapala, the daughter of the older couple. A light-fingered servant (Kanchan Mullick) listens at doors while there is a rival school in the village owned and run by an onion merchant!
There is a durwan who speaks Hindi, portrayed by Guha himself following the Alfred Hitchcock style.
Rahul and Priyanka’s real live-together chemistry fails to work on screen. Tapas Pal holds the film together with a good performance but he should have chosen a better wig! Kamalika is always draped in designer Bengali cotton saris and gifts away expensive jewellery to Niharika who does not like a Hindu bride’s rituals forced on her as it clashes with her Christian faith.
The only ‘contemporary’ feature of the film is Niharika moving around in slightly skimpy frocks in the lush gardens of Damodar and Manmoyee much to the chagrin of all concerned.
The only rating this film deserves is for the work of the acting cast that has tried to do as much justice as it could to ill-defined characters in a story gone awry.