20th November 2020

Switzerland, A Heartwarming Bengali Sondesh

Switzerland

Starring Abir Chatterjee, Rukmini Maitra

Written  & Directed by Souvik  Kundu

Rating: ***

In  these turbulent  traumatic times I wonder why  American cinema is churning  out so many horror films. They  do nothing to  boost our slumping morale. I’d rather watch films with a message  of  hope  and kindness,films that leave us  feeling good about life, and never mind  the   cheerless reality of  the  world outside.

Switzerland  with its charming artless  attitude to  life  and hardships  reminded me of the cinema  of  Basu Chatterjee .The same  smiling homage  to the dreams and aspiration of  the  workingclassIndian family,  the same   quaint rooms with pretty fluttering  curtains and the smell of omelettes  wafting from the  kitchen…

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So little has changed since the time Amol Palekar went to Ashok Kumar to learn  how to  court Vidya Sinha at  the bus top.Abir Chatterjee and Rukmini Maitra in  Switzerland could be Pelekarand Sinha reincarnated  except that  they are better actors. Abir and  Rukimini, I mean.Abir’s Shibu and Rukmini’s  Rumi are  your  average  workingclass couple in Kolkata struggling with  loans and bills, occasaionally making  a trip to her  affluent  in-laws’ bungalow  to hear the relatives taunt him about his meager  income.

 The well-written  family sequences are  the highlights  of  plot  which tends  to lose  its way when  under pressure  to liven  up the proceedings. I could  easily make  out the plot points where  writer-director  Souvik Kundu is  being asked to pump up the drama.Those compromises,  you feel, sit uneasily in a plot where  the  hero’s integrity  never  dithers  no matter what  the provocation.

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I  specially liked  the  moment where Shibu  returns the money  to his  distressed friend who has  just returned  the loan. It says so  much about Shibu, much more than the words which  flow in a torrent  of  banter and  rebuke in this feelingly assembled  family drama . There is also an aged lonely  neighbour  , played  by Arun Mukherjee(the National  award winning actor from Parashuram)  whom Shibu and Rumi look after.

Where does Switzerland fit into  all this? Nowhere, really. That’s  the  whole point to this  endearing  excursion into the heart  of the proletariat tragedy. By the time  the Shibus and Rumisof  the  workingclass-world  finish  paying their loans, life has passed by. As  their old  neighbor says, “I had the choice to  buy  a car or send our son  abroad. Today I’ve neither the car nor the son.”

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There is  a gathering  gloom at  the  end  of the proletariat  life that this  film chooses to  ignore.  Who needs to be reminded  of  death when  life is so beautiful? Switzerland or no.

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