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Shah Jahan Regency Movie Review: It Is Srijit Mukherjee’s Best To Date

Subhash K . Jha

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Shah Jahan Regency

Starring Abir Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee,Swastika Mukherjee, Anjan Dutta, Mamata Shankar, RituparnaSengupta

Written and  Directed  by Srijit Mukherjee

Rating: **** ½(4 and a half stars)

 Without doubt, Srijit Mukerjee is  the  best contemporary  living filmmaker in  Bengal. The range  of themes in his cinema and  his  actors’ ability to rise above themselves  in  the material he provides, are  staggering,  to say the least.

Staggering,  is  an apt  description of  veteran Anjan Dutta’s character in Shah Jahan Regency. Srijit’s finest  gentlest most moving  work to date. Dutta owns the posh luxury where the drama  of the damned and the doomed unfolds. His wanton wife  who shows up in a hideously embarrassing sequence  proposing a threatening  divorce, has driven  Dutta’s character to  drinking and sobbing in full view  of the hotel staff.

Dutta does it without filters. Happily for us, the outflow of emotions as the film  moves from room to room in search of  the innermost secrets and longings  of the  characters, is achieved with minimalist  drama and optimum emotional  velocity. Except for one  melodramatic  suicide, this is  a  film that   favours  understatement  and  suggestion.

Rather than fling  exaggerated  versions  of  reality into the  proceedings   it tries to be  reasonable  and  mild-tempered  within the given  dramatic structure  of the original  novel by  Mani Shankar  Mukherjee. But once in a while  I could see the  directorSrijit straining to cram in  way too much into the theme. The  gay housekeeper  nicknamed  ‘Nitty Gritty’ for his  fastidious nature, is too of  a token presence  in a  film filled with  hurting grieving  silently screaming  real people.

My favourite chunk  in  the  narrative is  the one featuring  Swastika Mukherjee as a  high-class escort at the hotel who falls in love with one  of her posh client’s  son(Anirban Bhattacharya). Swastika blows  the screen apart with her  smouldering sorrow and reined-in  ire. Her  confrontation sequence with Arnab’s  elitist mom(Mamata Shankar, cast cogently against her iamge)  shows two broken women  trying to lay a claim to the same man’s exclusive attention. This is a  classic representation of feminine conceit  laid bare  in  a manner that’s at once incriminating and intimate.

Elsewhere Swastika’s  drunken amorousness with Parmbrata Chatterjee reminded me  of Meena  Kumari and Guru Dutt in  Dutt’s Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. I don’t think  two planned it that way.

 The film builds  a delectable  parallel between Swastika’s powerful prostitute’s  part  and  the medieval  court dancerAmrapali.But the  historical/mythological  allusions do  not  smother  the characters’ natural instincts.  Srijit Mukerjee doesn’t bind his characters  to a literary  lamppost.  Played by  enormously accomplished actors  the narrative  moves forward to an inevitably tragic conclusion.

The end-game  featuring a generation-challenged romance between  the film’s protagonist hotel manager Sam(AbirChatterjee)  and a  much younger  airhostess Supreeta(Rittika Sen) is done with warmth amusement and  a certain amount of exploratory  curiosity.

The film is remarkably restrained and yet profoundly moving. Every character  big or small, is thoughtfully  delineated . The actors specially Abir Chatterjee, Parambrata Mukherjee and Swastika Mukherjee anchor the proceedings , ensure that the elegiac tenor never  drops. The beautiful  Rituparna Sengupta sits  quietly in a corner of  the hotel  lobby playing an instrument akin to  the sitar,  but  not quite the same.

 Just  like this accomplished  and confident  screen adaptation  of  a literary  masterpiece.

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