It’s extremely difficult to review a thriller, for you often tend to give out the plot, which, of course, is commercially murderous for the film. Srijit Mukherjee’s Baishe Shrabon is primarily a thriller, but it is much more than that. The very title of the film, I believe, underscores the hegemony of the poet who has of late become so literally omnipresent (thanks to the farce the new government has made of him) that all other Bengali poets have been swept into oblivion. Sukanta, Sukumar, Binay, Shakti, Joy Goswami, and others are still esoteric property while Tagore has found access to the popular domain: none can deny Tagore’s superlative potentials as a poet; but this is also irrefutable that a politics of canonization can be discerned in analysing Tagore’s massive popularity and the comparatively lesser recognition the other poets have received. The climactic moment of the film therefore coincides with Baishe Shrabon, the day Tagore breathed his last. Interestingly, both Abhijeet and Prabir have to take the assistance of Google to find out the days on which the ‘lesser known’ poets have passed away.
On the other hand, the film is also about the death of poetry. A mad poet, who had set fire to the Calcutta Book Fair for publishers had time and again refused to publish his poetry, is at the centre of the narrative. Baishe Shrabon is different from other thrillers because it is not just about finding out with bated breath ‘whodunit’; it also engages the audience in working out the clue that may be hidden in the poetic lines found in the chits beside every victim. Interestingly, the victims are all from the lowest strata of society, and the verses found next to them are predominantly proletariat in nature. Although the film does not clarify the choice of such verses; but the silence speaks volumes. In fact, there is no criminal in Baishe Shrabon! It is the system! The reference to the anti-Establishment poetic movement (Hungry Movement) of the 60s is of special significance here.
Baishe Shrabon has adroitly blended the esoteric and the populist to a marvellous effect. The handling of the camera, especially in the narrow alleyways of the slum and in the last scene, is simply brilliant. Anupam Ray has not been able to recreate the Autograph magic though. However, Gobhire jao, profoundly rendered by Rupankar, stays with you long after the film is over.
The most promising performance is offered by Parambrata: it is his best, till date. He emotes perfectly, almost flawless; his comic timing is enviable; his accent, recalling his ‘Bengali medium’ background, is awesome. Prasenjit does not disappoint either, as was expected, although the character he plays has affiliation with several suspended police officers we have seen in numerous Hindi films; but, nonetheless, he is good. Raima Sen is effortless and Abir is loveable. The surprise package, however, is Goutam Ghosh. He animates Nibaran Chakraborty with so much life that you do feel your eyes moisten at his death.
Big Cinemas had a considerable number of viewers on Nabami morning, and that speaks for the success the film is already enjoying. Wishing Baishey Shrabon a long run at the box-office! And a request: Those of you who have already watched the film, please do not give out the end! It does not deserve to be given out, really. People must go and find out for themselves, and believe me, it’s worth it.