Jimmy (Victor Banerjee) the tea planter from Assam delivers a gem in the last scene of the movie. He quotes Ernest Hemingway in saying, that "The world is a beautiful place, worth fighting for" and he adds, that "The world is a good place, worth writing for" and he has already this book in mind titled Chowrasta - Crossroads of love. Can't say, whether people will queue up to buy the book, if it would have happened in reality. Because, I never really managed to get a good story out of him during the movie, except for some incomplete letters written to his deceased wife and some references to philosophy like, he can walk to the world of the dead or, he could start flying, if he falls off the cliff. Honestly, I couldn't understand some of the stuff that he was saying to himself or why he need to talk in cryptic language while talking to others, unless he decided to talk to himself, anyways in the first place.
When I went to the theater on a Sunday morning, I was initially denied a ticket, as there weren't enough people (read 5) to screen the movie. Finally, some people did turn up, helping me to get an entry to watch this movie. After coming out of the theater, I couldn't understand whether Anjan Dutt (Director) is himself standing at Crossroads of Darjeeling, after making the movie. There are lot of unanswered questions on my mind, as they must have been on the minds of few people, who left the movie mid-way? Why can't the Director or the Producer have an honest self-assessment about the market for these kind of movies? Or, is it good enough to get a thumbs up from a few critics and or may be win an award or two (who gives a serious thought to awards anyways, except the winnners and the Organizers)?
When the Director laments about the people in the hillstations (like Darjeeling), left without any proper consideration or planning from the times of British rule and existing as the smelly armpits of the plains filled with cheap hotels or frustrated aspirations, or something like that...after watching the movie, I noticed a similar expression on the faces of the few people walking out of the empty theater. Or, was it a figment of my imagination. At least, no one was talking about the movie or the performances, people just want to leave this behind.
There are several characters at crossroads here, apart from the director. However none of them got enough attention to help you build a rapport or empathise with them. The construct of the characters or their motivation are not well understood. Why did it take a man with 40 yrs experience lot of time and some simple advice from a terrorist on the run to change tracks and think about writing a book. And if the aim was to commit suicide, why did he spend so much time to write meaningless letters, and sometimes, posting them and at times, throwing them in the wind to his long deceased wife, rather than get on with the act. Why does a person, teaching at a prestigious Insitution like St. Paul's who believes in addressing students with their surnames, teaches Bengali language in 'English' translation find it difficult to talk English (I mean 'talk in English' as his ex-wife corrects him) under pressure?
Though, acting department was rather weak in most cases, I did find some of the characters, real and honest to some extent. The most honest character award goes to the Punjabi lad, Sunny (Naved Aslam) who has only one thing on his mind, i.e. hitting the bed with this new wife, with whom he eloped to the hills, as his wife's educated & cultured family and strict father doesn't accept a Punjabi as his son-in-law. Cliche again! His wife (Aparajita Ghosh Das) on the other hand is suddenly on a mission to change her new husband and make him earn a decent living through hard work. It's not clear, if she herself is well educated and in a good job. But, as the nagging new wife, she fits the role to the fullest. Only, if she had some more meaningful dialogues.
Roopa Ganguly is good as Nandana, the failed actress, who could never hit stardom and had string of relationships, and doesn't give a damn, that she isn't sure about the father of her only son. Her boyfriend, Jojo (Arijit Dutta) has a small role and is busy taking photographs. His moment in the movie arrives when he declares to Deep (Saswata) who asks the innocent question to a man, who is traveling with his ex-wife, if they have been (pause/mumble) and he proudly declares, that he indeed has been intimate with her and has been at it, at all corners of the house to a much embarrassed ex-husband acting like a surprised teenager.
Again with some unanswered questions...Why does Kenny (Atul Kulkarni), the carrier, who is all brute and raw force, when it comes to showing his gun and biceps, working for some unknown party to carry out some unspecified terror attack, so weak and breaking whenever he is talking to some stranger on the phone? His background and story is not given enough importance to develop. Where does he come from and where is he going? What drives him and why does he suddenly have a change of heart and how again a small encounter at the bar can make him learn life's lessons?
Music is passable, though the live performance at the bar could have been avoided. I couldn't understand, why outdoor was not used more extensively, when lot of people would have loved to watch some glimpses of Kanchenjhunga and there are a few minutes devoted to the naming of this mountain. Especially, when one can't appreciate the acting or the story, one can always appreciate nature.
Walking out of the theater...couldn't help wondering, who is the intended audience and where is the market for this movie? Most importantly, Whats the language of the movie? Is it English or Bengali or Hindi or Punjabi / Nepali (given that there are couple of dialogues in these languages, too)? Is it good enough to assume, that the audience will know all the three major languages in equal measure to enjoy the finer nuances of the movie. Or, was the market analysed and segmented with such great skill, that it was intended to be a niche film.
The market for Bengali cinema has shifted to the hinterland. The educated urban audience has moved to Hindi, English after developing a well justified disdain for new age Bengali movies. Anjan Dutt would know this well. May be, thats the reason for him to choose many languages. He couldn't make a movie for the masses or one, that gives financial returns. Just making the movie esoteric and taking it into the realms of imaginary higher intellectual level doesn't make it a great film. What I find unacceptable is the Director's perpetrating the age old cliches about Bongs, that they can't accept the present and can't get over the past and be somehow stranded in the middle.
Do watch, if you are stuck or stranded at some chowrasta and have no other meaningful way to spend a couple of hours. :)