Kaushik Ganguly’s “Palan” is an almost believable social drama structured through human emotions, repentance and sacrifice. The film was promoted as a sequel to Mrinal Sen’s Cannes jury prize winner “Kharij”. It is very difficult to achieve the kitchen sink realism, Mrinal sen used to adapt in his films. Kaushik Ganguly has tried to channel that realism in “Palan” also. The staging and blocking were particularly effective in every scene and pays a proper homage to Sen’s work.
The social commentary in the film is surprisingly unfaithful to its predecessor, in “Kharij” Sen was vocal about the blame of everyone in the servant boy’s death be it the employer’s (Anjan and Mamata) ignorance to let the kid sleep in the kitchen in a chilly night without ventilation, the incompetence of the landlord in providing ventilation, the society which has forced a boy (whose age is fit to go to school) to work to make his living. The incendiary activist approach in the narrative hit us in the right spot, has questioned our so called perfect society.
But “Palan” has simply taken a backseat in addressing those social issues, it paints the main protagonists as the voice against that oblivious Bourgeois society which they themselves had been a part of, as if they are not answerable for the death. The hapless condition of the almost bedridden Anjan dutt’s character here is being compared to palan, which seems so out of the place. Palan was plagued by poverty and literally forced to sleep in the floor, whereas it’s the naivety of the old man who although being aware that he can afford to go and stay in better place is making a choice to live in that shabby residential, a choice which Palan didn’t have the luxury of .Maybe it is a little harsh, but the film completes misreads the point of its predecessor.
But if you just take this as a standalone film, it’s a well made social drama. The director has prominently addressed the frail condition of old structural rentals in dangerous conditions, the ignorance of the authorities to repair those buildings, let alone finding a proper alternative for the residents there, how only an unfortunate event can only trigger changes. The film also portrays the lives of two couples in two phases of their lives in a believable manner, how the dynamics changes as life goes on. Kaushik Ganguly has always been an acute observant in portraying family dramas, and has almost been successful in marginalising melodrama and authentic emotion which actually sets the bar between a good and bad family drama. The understanding between the old couple seems more mature than the young ones, which Kaushik Ganguly so beautifully indicates through subtle nuances in various scenes.
The side characters are very one-dimensional, their characters are never fully developed; they seem to be there for only the sake of it. There also seem to be few instances, where it seems that the director is literally forcing us to feel for the characters, however unrealistic the scene may look.
The camera work is spectacular in many scenes; it beautifully uses staging and blocking to depict the difference in the opinions, principles, age of the characters. The background music by Neel Dutta suitably fits in the film to reflect the flow of emotions throughout the film.
What keep the film so much watchable are the performances, Anjan Dutta performs like a true maverick. The emotions, anger, frustration of a senile old man is being so organically brought to screen, and he literally lived the role. Mamata Shankar has also been absolutely phenomenal reprising her role from “Kharij”,a true performer she is. She is never utilised properly post Ray-Sen era, but in here she delivers like a true veteran. The undeniable chemistry Anjan Dutta and Mamata Shankar holds onscreen is another strong point of the film, it makes us unknowingly root for the couple to have what they are seeking for. Jishu Sengupta and Paoli Dam are nice enough in their characters but sometimes their dialogues especially Jishu’s feels out of the place for the film. The portrayal of the relation between son and daughter in law with their parents is devoid of the melodrama Bengali film usually has, which thus solidifies the relevance of the relationship between them.
The ending of the film also pays a tribute to the ending of “Kharij” with brooding silence, but in Kharij the silence feels surreal, in here it seems director indicates a possible verbal duel before cutting to black screen.
As a standalone film, ”Palan” is undoubtedly watchable mainly because of the performances, but still the social messaging seems flawed and opposite to what Mrinal Sen has given in “Kharij”.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.