After the phenomenal success of Icche which was a turbulent drama about the relationship between a mother and a son, the director duo Shibaprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy are back with their latest film Muktodhara. Just like their last film , this film is also a thought provoking film about the lives of jail inmates and about the relative term called freedom.
The film offers a very interesting insight towards the actual meaning of freedom. Is the film about the jail inmates who get freedom from their daily lives when they are given a chance to do something constructive-stage a dance drama called Balmiki Pratibha which might bring out their inner feelings, expressions and thus get a chance to express themself and redefine themselves in society? Does it mean freedom for Yusuf, the smartest and intelligent jail inmate who thinks Balmiki Pratibha can help to stage his daring escape which he had been planning all this while? Does it mean freedom for Niharika , the talented dancer and wife of the Public Prosecutor who gets a chance to express herself and her talent and thus get a chance to get away from the mental agony which she is facing in her marriage currently as slowly her relationship with her very social and outgoing husband is becoming incompatible?
These are some of the questions which are raised while one is viewing the film. On one hand, Niharika (Rituparna) has to deal with her cold and ruthless husband who will pull her down at any cost and promote his own ambitions even neglecting their own daughter who is deaf and dumb and on the other hand she has a mammoth task of reforming the convicts through culture therapy. We also have Yusuf(Nigel)playing the smart and articulate convict who as the gangleader plans a daring escape from jail with a few of his fellow convicts , but eventually his conscience makes him return back to the jail with his inmates.
The film has a lot of ‘firsts’ going for it. Firstly the girl who plays the character of Niharika’s daughter Spriha( a deaf and dum girl) is actually a deaf and dum girl, Suchitra Chakrabarty,a student of the Kolkata Deaf and Dum School . Danseuese Alokananda Roy who was responsible for training the jail mates has done a splendid job in bringing out the inner qualities of people who have nothing to look forward to in life and are also looked down upon. The inmates have proven that even they have certain qualities which can be highlighted if someone motivates them. In fact that applies to the entire film because we get to see a certain talent in most inmates which can be made use of if there is a guiding force. While Bratya Basu is excellent as the cold and ruthless husband of Niharika, Rituparna herself does a good job of playing Niharika who craves for her own independence while trying to reform the inmates at the same time. Arun Mukherjee as Rashid Mian is excellent once again after his major role in Mahanagar@Kolkata. The stars of the film are however two other people. Firstly let’s talk about Nigel Akkara. How does a person who was once convicted for kidnap and murder, sentenced to life imprisonment but acquitted after nine years in jail become an actor? More so, the role might be tailor made for him and he might be just playing himself, but still how does a convict manage to come up with a mindblowing perfromance? His body language, looks and expressions along with his towering presence makes the character of Yusuf stand out completely from the others. Shib Prasad Mukherjee, one of the directors or Shibu as he is better known shows us what a powerhouse of talent he is with his potrayal of ‘Happy Singh’. Few can believe that Happy can ever commit any crime and when we come to know that he had once raped a 8 year girl and the reason why he just can’t even look into Spriha’s eyes, that indeed comes as a shock and is one of the best moments of the film. With his accent, his mannerisms, he is just so natural as the comic Sardar who is more than a wily customer. Noted theatre actor Deb Shankar Haldar is also very good as the I.G who presents a different side of the law in comparison to one of his subordinates, Lakshman Panda who shows us how unionsm has even taken over jails and it exists in every place in our system.
Muktodhara is for everyone and the freedom is not just of the inmates or Niharika, but is a rejuvenation of the soul.