A recent report by Reuters says that - “Suicide is the second most common cause of death for young people in India, a country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Some 56 percent of all women who took their own lives in 2010 and 40 percent of men were aged between 15 and 29.” It also says that - “the main risk factors are mental illness - primarily depression - and alcohol abuse, as well as violence, loss, abuse and pressures from cultural and social backgrounds.” We are living in a society where it’s very hard to live up the expectations and very easy to lose hope, and fall into the wormhole of depression. On this ominous backdrop Srijit’s Hemlock Society is very relevant, as it tries to show us the difference of enduring lives and actually living it.
The story is, well, it is somehow different; at least it tries to be. Banker Meghna (Koel Mallick) has been cheated on by her long time Boyfriend Santanu (Saheb Chatterjee) and also is supposed to be fired very soon from her job. Devastated and borderline schizophrenic Meghna couldn’t sleep, she runs to her father Chittaranjan Bose’s (Dipankare de) house where he lives with her stepmom Niharika (Rupa Ganguly), much to Meghna’s annoyance. She demands sleeping pills. Being a doting father that Chittaranjan is he prescribes her some valium. Meghna comes home,and contemplates suicide by consuming all those sleeping pills. Enter Ananda kar (Parambrata Chatterjee), an absurdly charming proprietor of a Bizarre Hemlock Society, where people are taught to kill themselves in a proper way. He offers Meghna the free course and Meghna takes it and together they enter Hemlock Society. But she never knew what was in store for her…
The acting is mostly good, especially for the gentleman called Parambrata Chatterjee.After Baishe.. and Kahaani he can be called as almost a veteran now. he shows his charisma here too (thankfully not as a rookie cop this time, thank heavens!!).his portrayal of Ananda Kar will definitely put a wry smile on your lip.the way he says the objectives of Hemlock Society matter-of-factly, is very impressive. His excellent comic timing and the ability to hold an ordinary scene up is truly commendable. Koel tries toomuch.it can be guessed that she got the role just to achieve the surprise factor. she never looked as depressed as one is supposed to be when he/she is ready to kill him/herself and her kohl-smudged eyes only added to the confusion. Her most striking confrontation with Parambrata towards the climax almost falls flat because she fails to match Parambrata in emoting and expressions. Her chemistry with Parambrata is also tasteless as H2O.
Dipankar de as koel’s father is brilliant. his helplessness in being between a rock and a had place as he cant leave his wife and cant stop loving/worrying for his daughter is beautifully portrayed. Rupa Ganguly acts like, well Rupa Ganguly, a looker and what an actress…especially in the scene where Koel finally comes home, she silently takes the suitcase from koel and quietly leaves to give the father-daughter some space..epic. Shilajit plays his rockstar cum big brother role properly. Piyanka is awesome in the workshop scene.Rest of the cast also does notably well (special mention, Sabitri Chatterjees staring at Parambrata in the TDS scene)
The screenplay is good but is to marred with clichés. Guardian angel with a heart of gold-check, brat girl falling in love at the climax-check, cheating boyfriend getting a Taste of his own medicine-check. Also there was hardly any need for the Param-koel romance subplot. Just like Ananda Kar’s fixation with movies, Hemlock Society too is an assimilation of too many movie ideas.Ananda Kar’s stomping in Meghna’s apartment will remind you of Rabi Ghosh in “Golpo Holeo Sotti”. Sulking Meghna being soothed by Ananda’s Simplicity has some “French Kiss’ element, the Claustrophobia that Meghna feels after being in the society for one day after knowing she cant get out, is almost similar to that of K after staying in Prayogshaala in “No Smoking”. But sadly unlike Baishe here this inspirations work not as seasonings as the Main dish, i.e. the story becomes too bland, as the film progresses. You can almost guess what is going to happen in the second half at the interval only. The second half drags a tad too long and editor should have been more careful. There was almost no need of the last 20 mins. The Cinematography is also quite commonplace…the candid steadycam shots, the long cranes (The one at the highway at first was too bad..) and the most clichéd of it all - Horizontal camera angles at the, you guessed it, climax, been there seen that already. art direction is one field where the film does really well full marks to the art director for creating those riots of color which brought out the surrealism of Hemlock Society so vividly. and the workshop room is the best of the lot.
Now the direction. Here again Srijit fails to match the bar that he himself has set before. Surrealistic and full of black humour,this one is his most abstract film so far. Schizophrenics like Meghna often create an alternate reality for themselves exactly opposite from the depressing society around them. Just like Donnies Envisioning of the giant bunny rabbit,Maybe Hemlock Society and Ananda kar were fragments of Meghna’s own imagination? Ananda Kar had all the qualities that a girl wants and they are as said earlier borrowed from various celluloid sources, what if she watched all those movies before an then created Ananda kar on her own? Possible right? Maybe the nice Set of wheels (BMW Z4) she got from playing need for speed? And the Workshop scenes where she confronts People willing to die with a Mute Referee, is almost Bergmanian. Unfortunately Ideas were so novel but the execution was not.too many things happen too fast and characters often fail to become real.but make no Mistake,This is Still Much better that the others.
On the Music front, no A.R. does not disappoint here . The album again proves that Bengali song are best sung by Bengalis only. The poise and darkness of “Amar Mawte” by Lopamudra,the Playfulness of “Ekhon Onek raat” by AR himself, the Soothing “Ei to Ami Chai” by Shreya are all equally good. But Special mention goes to two songs – one, “Jawl Phoring” with brash vocals by Shilajit and Awesome guiter plucking and two, the epic “Phiriye deoar Gaan” by Rupam is truly a masterpiece. you will be surprised how both Rupam’s vocals and AR’s compositions have matured over the years. On the lyrics front, AR’s magical ability to make marvel out of mundane startles. the best line has to be “Aamake ghuri bhebe oras na,norom angul kete jabe (Don’t fly me away like a kite love,for your hands will be hurt)”.
Overall Rating - 3.5/5