Lalan Fakir, one of the most famous bauls ever, born in 1774 hailed from Kustia (now in Bangladesh) is considered one of the greatest Bauls to have lived on this earth. He was a poet, philosopher and composer and though it is said that he had composed over 10,000 songs, only 2000-3—songs can be traced. The greatest thing about his songs was the philosophy of the songs which preached love, peace, harmony and brotherhood. The songs also told us about the various aspects of life. He was a person who did not like people to be divided on the basis of their religion, cast and creed and so his songs preached equality. He followed neither Islam nor Hinduism and was acceptable to all as a result of which he had followers from both religions.
He is one of the pillars of Bengali folk music and he represents the Bauls, a particular wandering group of minstrels who spread their faith and their philosophy and their way of life through their songs which are very simple in nature. The film ‘Moner Manush’ is periodic and historical because it goes back to a particular era and will also be educational in nature because it tells us about the Bauls, their lifestyle, their philosophy and their ideology and will help to bring people closer when India is going through troubled times everywhere, there are intolerant groups and a sense of unrest everywhere. This will promote peace, harmony and religious unity and preach about life.
The greatest advantage about this film is all the factors mentioned above can be achieved by the one and only superstar of Tollywood.Right now he is going through probably the best phase of his life getting roles in Housefull, Clerk, Autograph and the last but not the least Moner Manush which tops them all. Each role and film is so different from the rest and Prasenjit is shining in every film. The film which has several songs and can be termed as a musical.
The film is based on a novel by Sunil Gangopadhay and is a joint production of Rose Valley productions of India and Ashirbad films of Bangladesh, therefore that makes it an Indo-Bangla production. That is also the reason why a few Bangladeshi actors feature in the film as well and even some other members of the crew are from that country as well.
Firstly a little about ‘Moner Manush’-
Lalan Fakir, one of the greatest Bauls and philosophers of Bengali folk music is seen narrating the story of his life to Jyotindranath Tagore.
Lalan Fakir had contracted small pox when he was a teenager while on his way back from a religious place with his friends. His friends had thought him to be dead and given him a sort of a watery burial whereby his body had been placed on a ‘bed’ made of bamboo and pushed away. An elderly Muslim lady had come across his body when it had washed ashore along the banks at one particular point. She was childless and she had nursed him back to health and considered him to be her own son. The Pirbaba whom the lady followed had converted him to Islam and taught everything about Islam. When he came of age, he had gone away with the Pirbaba and after years when he had gone to his own village where his mother and his ‘widowed’ mother remained, they had been shocked to see him as they had been informed that he was dead. He goes away disgusted and on the way comes across a guy Suleiman who becomes his follower. He starts living with Suleiman, his wife and her father.Gomli, Suleiman‘s wife tries to win him over with her charms, but he is unmoved.
In due course of time, Lalon’s has a huge number of followers as people from all over the village start singing his songs. He also saves a bride from committing Sati one day (in fact she was being forced to commit it). Some disruptive and harmful elements try to spoil the atmosphere and there is turmoil all over. The local zamindar calls Lalon over to sing one day where all the people of both communities are present.Lalon is able to convince everyone that he means no harm and is there to spread peace. There is a situation where the villagers start throwing stones at Lalon’s group and Suleiman gets killed in the process. The zamindar apologizes and promises that the guilty will be severely punished.
Many years pass and now Lalon is an old man. He requests Jyotindranath to forgo any taxes and asks him to donate the land where he stays.Jyotindranath agrees and makes arrangements.
The film which is an Indo-Bangladeshi venture is directed by Gautam Ghosh who is known for such projects. The film was shot in the Chilapata forests in North Bengal (the Indian part of the locations) and the sets by Samir Chanda and the cinematography by Gautam Ghosh himself is very good.
The performance by the entire cast is excellent, but the film belongs to only one man, Prasenjit.Is the role that one waits for in his lifetime? Is this role that helps a man to seek salvation and help a man to reach heights which he has reached never before? Shall a role silence even the harshest of his critics such is the performance? The answers to all these question is yes.Bumba who went in to sort of a professional sanyas in order to mentally and physically prepare himself for the role looks and acts just like the great man himself and nowhere do you ever understand that it is Prasenjit who is playing Lalon.He undergoes a complete character transformation and he leaves the audience gasping and completely shocked with his performance. Kalua or Suleiman played by Bangladeshi actor Chanchal deserves a special mention of his performance.
The film has just won the Golden Peacock, the top award at the Goa Film Festival after nearly a decade and rightly so. Moreover Prasenjit has attained moksha with his performance.