Suicide is an integral part of our society. We read about suicide in the papers, watch it on TV news channels, serials and so on. However, unless it's a sensational episode like some young actress or model committing suicide or some politically sensitive suicide case which can generate some gossip or speculation or mindless banter, it's quickly relegated to the back of our memories. Suicide is hardly a part of our conversation at home, in cafes, in the chatter near the office water cooler. We don't pause to think about the individual who took this drastic step to end his / her life and the circumstances leading to decision.
Suicide is also a part of our movies. We have seen many people who have failed, been tortured or humiliated or raped or subject to some form of misfortune like losing a family member or job or money committing suicide in our films. There are surely a 1,001 reasons behind people committing suicides. But, it's hardly the central subject in the movie. We feel sorry for the loss of a life or even pity the poor soul, but it definitely doesn't take up much of our mindspace.
When Srijit's Hemlock Society started buzzing, what caught my attention is the tagline for the Hemlock Society in the eponymous movie. 'Morle Moro, Chhorio Naa' (loosely translated: Die if you have to, but don't make a mess of it). With this tagline, Srijit gave us ample warning, that this movie is not your usual run-of-the-mill movie. While Srijit has been talking about the movie as a romantic satire (rom-sat), for me, it was more like a rom-sat-com, because, there is plenty of comedy in this satire. And with 'Bhooter Bhabishyot' and now, 'Hemlock Society', it makes me really happy to see how comedy in Bengali movies has improved from slapstick version to real good, witty dialogues and situational comedy.
I couln't help but relate to different characters in the movie with another set of people from our lives.
Koel or Meghna can be equated to Bengali movie fans a few years back. The stars (lover: Shantanu) have deserted her post a long courtship, saying that there is no compatibility between them and busy attending to the 'masses' and working on poor remake of Hindi and South movies. The principal characters in this fictional alternate film in my mind are as follows:
Meghna (Koel Mallick): Bengali movie fans
Shantanu (Saheb Bhattacharya): Bengali movie stars (hero / heroines)
Chittaranjan Basu (Meghna's father: Dipankar Dey): Bengali movie Directors
Meghna's Step mother (Rupa Ganguly): Bengali Movie producers
Ananda Kar (Parambroto Chatterjee): Srijit Mukherji
Bengali movie Directors are often shown as indifferent to Bengali movie lovers, as seen in Meghna's Dad's initial behaviour towards her. But, they do come around, once they realize that their loved one (Movie lovers) could leave them due to their apathy. Producers are often given step-motherly treatment. But, a special note of appreciation for Shree Venkatesh Films, who, precisely with backing films like this one have shown, that Producers, like Step-mothers need not always be a villainous character.
Like experts in different Departments of Hemlock Society who 'guide' students on various methods of committing suicide, Srijit has assembled a great team with Anupam Roy (Department of Music), Soumik Haldar (Department of Cinematography), Indradeep Dasgupta (Background music Department) and Bodhaditya Banerjee (Editing) who take master classes in each of these Departments and show excellence.
For me, all the other characters in the movie are like the character artistes and other crew members, who often go unnoticed and usually not given due credit, but play a very critical role in the film's success.
With Srijit's ascendance in the Bengali film industry horizon and after his troika of success at the Box-office, Bengali movie lovers are reasonably assured, that the future of the Bengali film industry is surely ensconced in secure hands and need not commit any harakiri or give up hope. But, surely sceptics, cynics and naysayers won't be easily convinced. Srijit needs to work on them and convince them one at a time. So, the ending of the movie definitely is quite symbolic and bodes well for the future, as Ananda (Srijit) takes up another dejected soul to work on. We all need some hand-holding at different stages of our lives.
Like the tagline of Hemlock Society - Amader Kono Shakha Nei (We have no branches), Writer-Director Srijit has once again proved his mettel in all departments, with this movie and delivered a clear message, 'Aamar Kono Pratidwandhi Nei' (I have no competition) as far as talent in Bengali film industry is concerned.
To create a movie with suicide as the theme without resorting to pulling emotional strings and then delivering a strong message, while making us laugh and pause and think, Srijit and the entire 'Hemlock Society' team deserve kudos and a standing ovation. Srijit has managed to extract great performance from Parambrata. Koel is definitely a revelation with portrayal of a difficult character, which is far removed from her real self. Dipankar Dey and Rupa Ganguly deliver mature performances and we expect nothing less from them. Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Sabitri Chatterjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, Raj Chakraborty, Priyanka, Bratya Basu, Biswajit Chakraborty, Barun Chanda and Sudeshna Roy all are superb in their respective cameos. Anupam delivers once again with great score. 'Jawl Phoring', 'Ekhon Onek Raat', 'Phiriye Dewar Gaan' and 'Ei To Aami Chaai' stand out for being superbly created and rendered.
One Movie Lover is convinced that 'joie de vivre' (Good Bengali movies) is back in our lives. Autograph and Baishe Srabon were no flash in the pan.
Srijit Mukherji, it's time for a new challenge...