By Dipen Guha(20 Jul 2009)
" Padma Nadir Majhi" ( The Boatman od the River Padma) is an Indo-Bangladesh co-production bringing together the "two" Bengalis. Padma in the first place ,a hymn to the river of that name, a tributary of the Ganges, which flows into Brahmaputra, but itself is fed by other rivers, so much so that the immense delta of all these watercourses merges with the Bay of Bengal much before flowing into it. It is also, in the first part, a rich and indistinct panorama of thr everyday life and work of millions of human beings who live off the river, seen through a poor fishermen's community regularly plagued by famine, sickness and the capricious vagaries of the untamed river.
After the exposition, situations and individuals take shape in the second part of the film. Hossain Mian(Utpal Dutt), the mysterious owner of a cargo boat, hardheaded in business but who is also a kind of St. Simonian Muslim utopist, who intends to settle people in one of the desert islands owned by him--where food, shelter, love and justice are assured in exchange for the work of each and where one can start life all over again. After a storm destroys the boats and the huts of the fisherfolk. Mian lends them money to rehabilitate themselves. The hero of the story Kuber ( Raisul Islam), a kindhearted fisherman, is thus forced to to repay the debt, to ferry Mian's boat upto his land, a journey from which he returns changed, worried and irritable. He falls in love with his sister-in-law Kapila ( Rupa Ganguly) and deeply hurts the suitor of his daughter by breaking his promise of giving her to him . The latter takes revenge by implicating him in a theft in a theft that he did not commit. To escape from the police, the only way for Kuber is to flee to the island of Moina and start a new life, by abandoning both wife and children. Kapila decides to follow him. This humanistic parable, which carries a fervent appeal for communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in a Bengal that was twice shattered on religious grounds--was not always appreciated for what it was worth in India. The audiences are, however, left in the dark about the whereabouts of Moinadwip, or if it does really exist, or a "Utopia" of the suffering humanity.