Mati Movie Review: It Is A Flawed But Heartwarming Saga!

Mati(Bengali)

Starring  Adil  Hussain, Paoli Dam

Written  & Directed by Leena Gangopadhyay

Rating: ***(3 stars)

At several points in the  fitful storytelling about a Kolkata girl’s search for her roots  in Bangladesh, the narrative falls abysmally short of expectations.

And yet there is a certain grace dignity and  emotional heft about Mitti that saw me living through the film’s low-budget-high-values filmmaking, subsuming as it does,  the Indian historical  process that first broke India into two and then Pakistan which splintered  into Bangladesh. It is that hamlet-like tiny country  of  quaint Bengalis born out of  a history of  violence and bloodshed that Paoli Dam , playing a  spirited history student  from Kolkata, travels in search  of her roots.

 The  film is immensely ambitious in  scope. But  the execution leaves much to be desired. For one, the budget constraints show  up in the mob scenes. You can’t make a  film about a communal holocaust  while  worrying about costs. The low-cost holocaust proves costly to the film’s overall efficacy, as  the narrative must depend  almost entirely on the  performing skills  of  the two principal actors.

This  is where  Mitti scores high points. Both Adil Hussain and Paoli Dam are in full control of their characters .Even when they are woefully let down by the  direction  the two lead actors push on valiantly  creating  sinewy drama  out of their  characters’ reservoir of shared  history.Just in the way  Paoli’s Meghla , the  strong decisive girl searching for her lineage in  Bangladesh, looks at Adil’s  character Jamil—who plays an activist , pacifist and closet-historian—creates an anticipation in the narrative.She  looks like Suchitra Sen. He looks  like nobody that we’ve seem  before.

The  potential in their relationship growing into  something substantial is squandered  in an uneven  unfinished narrative design which leaves many questions unanswered. The  characters often behave  as  though the  director forgot to shoot key scenes with them. At one point when Adil and Paoli are seen strolling in the countryside Paolicomments  about how the conifer  in  Bangladesh  is greener than  in India.

All we see is some tepid  shriveling trees.

Right at  at the start Meghla and her grandfather in Kolkata(played by an actor  with a quivering head and  voice  who gives theatricality a   bad name) is visited by  the girl from Bangladesh Jinia . Within no time Meghla is in Bangladesh  hugging and embracing Jinia and attending her wedding like  an old friend.

The  sequences between Paoli and  Adil in the latter’s ancestral home where her  grandmother(Aparjita Adhya) was killed by rioters led by the family’s  once-faithful servant, convey  the  baggage  of  two actors and their  two characters trying to balance a sense of historicity. I specially  liked  the pen-ultimate  sequence between Paoli and Adil on the rooftop on a sultry Bangladesh night when after Paoli has a heated argument with her  husband on phone,Adil gently  suggests she take rest.

“What  If I say I want to spend the rest of the night talking to you?” she asks in a fit of  haughty  rebellion.

And at that  very moment  the director decides to call it quits.

The story of  this film’s  staccato life.

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