Movie Reviews

Gumnaami Movie Review : It Re-opens Uncomfortable Questions On Bose


Starring Prosenjit Chatterjee, Anirban Bhattacharya

Written & Directed  by Srijit Mukherjee

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars)

Srijit Mukherjee is unarguably  the  most prolific  filmmaker  of  Bengali cinema.  He switches from intimate  human  portraits  to  wide-canvassed  bio-pics with  the ease  and fluency of a pro.

This  time  it’s  the controversial  nature  of Subhas Chandra  Bose’s   life and death  that  occupies his creative spectrum. Based  on the  controversial Mukherjee Commission Hearings  it  fuses a  fictional Orson Welles-inspired  hero who like  Citizen  Kane sets  out to  uncover the truth about  the death  of   Netaji, with  a fund of historical facts that permeate  imminently into the  narrative.

It is a fascinating  character  study of  an obstinate leader determined  to free  India from  foreign rule  , though the  film is  not fully freed  of  foreign  influences  (Citizen Kane,  Roshomon). Ironically Anirban Bhattacharya as  the  Netaji-obsessed  journalist  Chandrachur  Dhar gets much more footage than Bose who is played by the  redoubtable  Prosenjit Chatterjee as a cheerless(didn’t the Netaji ever smile?) stoic mumbling  selfrighteous  statesman whom both

Gandhi and Nehru(played respectively and  respectfully by  Surendra Rajan and SanjayGurbaxani) conspired to sideline from  the top post.

Most  of  the narrative tries to piece together  the provocative  hearsay regarding  Netaji’s death by weaving in and  out  of   lives that  are documented  by history  and  fomented  by  the  imagination.  

Believe  it  or  not,  there  is  a marital drama tucked away in  the  folds of  this historical  treatise.  While Chandrachur becomes  progressively obsessed  with  Netaji(he even buys  rounded spectacles  like Netaji) his wife(Tanushee Chakraborty) is understandably embarrassed to share the marital bed with this unlikely  competitor  for her husband’s attention.She quits the marriage while  her husband continues  to  mumble  Netaji’s name.

There is  an unintentionally  funny bedroom sequence  where  the wife tries to seduce  the  journalist as he mutters  facts about Netaji absentmindedly.Finally when Chandrachur’s  quest for the truth hits  a permanent  roadblock he  sits in his  workroom burning all the books and material on his  obsession.

Sanjay Leela Bhnsali’s Devdas  couldn’t have been more  paranoid even if he  had tried.

The film could have  avoided  being  so  literal in its  quest for  the  truth.However, there is much 

to be applauded in  Gumnaami. Director Srijit Mukherjee feeds on  the  nation’s  relentless curiosity  about Netaji’s  death by  drawing hypothetical  situations in  a seamless  flow of  known and  unknown facts.For  the  sequences in  the  1940s  Mukherjee  makes telling use  of black-and-white  images with some  interesting  ‘period’ touches that don’t go overboard.

Since  the  film follows  the proceedings of  the  Mukherjee Commission it tends  to get wordy.  But when we come  away  from  Gumnaami we  do get a sense  of  a mysterious nationalist who has been wronged by history.And that’s  more of  a takeaway  than  most bio-pics these days.


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