Shonar Pahar Movie Review: The Best Gift Life Can Provide In The Movies!

Shonar  Pahar (Bengali)

Starring  Tanuja, introducing Srijato Bandopadhyay, Jisshu Sengupta, Parambrata Chattopadhyay

Written  & Directed  by Parambrata Chattopadhyay

Rating: ****(4 stars)

Sometimes, stating life’s most basic truths and  leaving then unvarnished and  unadorned is the best method of  letting your audience know that life in the movies is no different from life.

That understated  actor Parambrata Chattopadhyay does a brilliant job of bringing to us  a film that is so heartwarming and gentle  it is almost feels like we’re floating effortlessly in the air.  The pulls and  pressures  of life never weight down the storytelling.  Shonar Pahar is  that view from the highest peak of  the mountain where every emotion seems to acquire the clarity of a dream seen early in the morning.

Set in Kolkata the film essentially scoops the bond between a cantankerous  lonely embittered and yet dignified woman and a 7-year old boy whose wisdom pervades the film in unfiltered showers  of  splendor and sublimity.

 It is Parambrata’s  good fortune that he  gets the  flawless actors for the two main parts.Tanuja is  the perfect fit asUpama, a woman who retains her  sense  of pride and dignity in spite of being abandoned  by her son (JisshuSengupta, bringing  a brittle  brio and implosive emotional velocity  to  a thankless role).

Into Upama’s lonely  existence –she has only a  bustling  sanctimonious  maid for company—hiphops  in  the 7-year old wise little orphan Bitlu(newcomer Srijato Bandhopadyay) who is  everything the old abandoned woman thinks she  doesn’t need at this stage of  her life. Precocious, inquisitive, restless and affectionate , Bitlu effortlessly fills  that emotional vacuum in Upama’s life.

 The scenes building the bonding between these two unlikely  friends-their shared lunch at a luxury hotel is a treat– is  done up in life’s most precious colours. We don’t feel  any manipulative hands  behind  the volume of  contagious emotions created  between the two unlikely friends.Their joyous togetherness, their shared time together when the old  woman reads self-written stories to the attentive  responsive  child and the way the child effortlessly takes  over the  authoritarian matriarch’s life…are all  put forward with  a gently  persuasive  nudge that tilts us completely  in favour  the film’s  simple  uncluttered narrative  fluidity.

Watching Tanuja  back on the screen after so long made me  very melancholic. Her  tightly-controlled emotional ownership of  her character is  exemplary. She brings so much gravitas and  simmering discontent  to the surface without allowing the inherently-schmaltzy theme to  bubble over with emotions.

Mid-way the  narrative grows determined to  bring the old woman and her estranged son together again. These efforts, in spite of the little boy’s  artless  charm,   lack the fluent spirit of  the  earlier phase when Upama befriends the  child who insists  on insinuating herself into her life. Indeed the  child brings fond recollections of Satyajit Ray’sPather Panchali and Pikoo’s Diary.

Flawed as  the  narrative becomes in its attempt to find a conclusive  emotional finale,  there  is so much thatParambrata Chattopadhyay says about  autumnal betrayals and  disappointments , about old age,  loneliness, ungrateful children  and difficult parents …that  there is  only  applause and praise to be apportioned to the  film.

 The performances and that includes the  director as a sincere NGO,  never lose their sparkle even when the plot plods its way through redundant  flashback passages.

Then there is the legendary Soumitra Chatterjee who makes a sporting guest appearance as  Tanuja’s old admirer.There  is history  in their reunion.

Shonar Pahar  could easily have become weighed down by its ideas on  the disintegrating quality of  urban existence. Instead  the film celebrates the spirit  of solitude , finds  laughter and warmth in  the  cold climate  of  contemporary selfabsorption .

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