Onto the next release of the weekend and I finished watching the new Bengali film Ballabhpurer Roopkotha which is streaming on Hoichoi. The year 2022 was a splendid year for the Bengali film industry. After a long period of drought, the industry did witness a string of successes with one of them being Ballabhpurer Roopkotha. The word of mouth was absolutely glowing and not only did it result in ample of footfalls but it also did pique my interests. Unfortunately I missed out on watching the film due to its limited release in Mumbai and that too without English subtitles, I was keenly awaiting its OTT release as I was curious to know what the film had to offer. Finally after waiting for almost 3 months, Ballabhpurer Roopkotha did premiere on Hoichoi last night and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. So then does Ballabhpurer Roopkotha manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set in 1961, Ballabhpurer Roopkotha follows the story of a debt ridden King who is bankrupt and wishes to sell off his ancestral mansion until one of the ghost of his ancestors does play spoilsport. Based on a play by legendary theatre personality Badal Sarkar which is in turn based on the 1935 English film The Ghost Goes West, the story has the right ingredients for a rib-tickling supernatural comedy. The screenplay standing at 135 minutes does manage to hold your attention throughout.
The first thing that I really liked about the film was its intriguing setup. The visuals of the night add the right kind of an ambience to the story that does seem to the viewer as a horror comedy. A character is seen making his way to his mansion through the forests while being seemingly followed. While the coast is clear on that front soon after, there does seem to be a ghostly presence in the mansion. With closeups on a few photo frames and statues and the camera slowly panning in on the character, you as a viewer do expect a jump scare round the corner. But to the surprise of the viewer, the character just gasps and utters the word, ‘Raghu Da’. It is this playful start that sets the tone perfectly for things to follow.
This drama is a typical three act play, with the setup, the conflict and the resolution being each of the three sections. This could have been tedious to witness given that films in a single location soon run dry of ideas. But credit to the writers here for creating a situation of intrigue with dollops of humour engrained in it. The setup featuring the introduction of the protagonist(the same character that we see at the beginning) is pretty interesting as it is shown that he is bankrupt. The drama is witty with some sharp lines that formulate the setup in a comedy that ranges from being situational to slapstick in parts.
The flow of the drama needed to be maintained well and that continues through the second act beautifully wherein a buyer and as family enter the arena oblivious of the secrets that the mansion withholds. Their inquisitiveness is at different wavelengths that only adds to the humour of the first half brilliantly. Even though a few lines were lost in translation, I did find myself quite well engaged with the proceedings that were unfolding. Even the bit of a backstory wherein the cards were partially revealed did make for a watch which was frivolous in many wats although true to its source material.
I really did wish that the same momentum would continue through the second hour but honestly so, the second hour does see a slight dip although the humour quotient does remain intact. The dip is only comparative to the hilarious first hour that does see the most laughs. But some of the events in the second hour are well executed as well leading to moments of chaos and confusion. The simplistic and cliched final act not withstanding, the drama is really engaging and engrossing with bouts of humour that will tickle your funny bone time and again. Overall, the screenplay is quite well written.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are witty and quite well written given that the nature of the drama is conversational like a one act play. The music is good and the BGM blends well with the mood of the drama. A tribute to the master Badal Sarkar was really heartening at the very beginning. The cinematography and the lighting does get the vibe of the drama spot on thereby adding a layer of texture to the drama with respect to the surroundings. Director Anirban Bhattacharya in his feature directorial debut does a phenomenal job in keeping the audience invested throughout. The moments that he does create in the drama leading to a bout of laughter was absolutely splendid to witness.
The performances by the ensemble cast is outstanding. Shyamal Chakraborty as Manohar is subtly hilarious. Sandip Bhattacharya and Jhulan Bhattacharya as Mr and Mrs Haldar are splendid with their comic timing. Debraj Bhatracharya as Sanjib is first rate. Surangana Bandyopadhyay as Chanda looks pretty and is outstanding to watch. Some of her sequences involving her inquisitiveness form the best moments of the film. Satyam Bhattacharya as Bhupati(and his twin other roles) is just brilliant and such a natural onscreen. The fact that his comedy works so well is because of the ease with which he utters his lines without much effort. There wasn’t a conscious attempt to make you laugh which in turn results in laughter, in a good way!
Ballabhpurer Roopkotha is a hilarious supernatural comedy that is well worth your time. Available on Hoichoi.