Kaushik Ganguly’s Rang Milanti returns to the age-old theme of the woman’s search for the right mate, vaguely recalling innumerable Bernard Shaw plays, particularly Man and Superman, minus the Shavian concept of the woman’s duty of creating higher beings and preserving them. However, the biological primacy of the woman over the man is certainly assumed. Kamalika is in love with four of her very close friends (Rik, a computer engineer; Tito, an aspiring filmmaker; DJ, a DJ; Laden, a clothes supplier), but cannot make up her mind. Deeply despaired of the separation her sister goes through, Kamalika does not want to take any hasty decision in settling on her partner, lest she too ends up in an unhappy marriage.
The interesting part is that film does not moralise about Kamalika’s polyamorous disposition; rather it approves of it jubilantly. The rest of the film is a delightful journey whereby Kamalika puts her four lovers through a series of tests, assisted by an equally delightful fake psychiatrist, suggestively named Anu Ghatak (which translates into catalyst). Kamalika’s brother-in-law (Saswata Chatterjee in an amazingly fun-filled role), lovingly patronizing as he is, doubles up as the psychiatrist to help her choose the right partner. The ten tests he designs for her lovers have names drawn from film titles: Kapurush Mahapurush (test for bravery), Bajimaat (test for presence of mind), Saheb (test for fluency in English), Father (test for baby-sitting), Kori Diye Kinlam (test for financial standing), Amanush (test for sanity in a drunken state), Ashukh (test for fitness), Abhijaan (test for adventurousness), Apanjan (test for love for family), and Lathi (test for respect for old people). Surprisingly, there is no test for sexual compatibility. Either the assumption is that the woman has no sexual desire, or the director did not have the guts to shock his middle class Bengali audience by making the heroine sleep with all the four lovers. The question of sex arises only when Kamalika has decided upon her partner and is thoroughly disappointed by his approach to sex. Then again, she accepts him for the message is that nobody is perfect. It’s disappointing that sex features last in Kamalika’s search for the ideal partner. The search is interestingly more class-conscious and value-oriented: actually, in order to survive happily in the upper/middle class bracket the woman is compelled to judge her partner on the basis of his social functionality rather than sexual prowess. Therefore, sex takes a backseat in the quest for the ideal mate, and practically so.
The four men surprisingly do not fight over the girl; they rather exhibit an incredible sanity in this whole affair, accepting gladly the girl’s agency in deciding upon her partner. They are too careful not to fall out with each other, notwithstanding who Kamalika eventually chooses. I was wondering when men became so civilized and rational. Ganguly’s men have finally come of age, at least on screen. It’s a tad difficult to believe that none of the four men really protest having to play a remarkably passive role.
The final message is that nobody is perfect, and one has to settle on the best out of this imperfect lot. Kamalika is ultimately not agential in this whole affair of making up her mind for the right partner. Her brother-in-law directs her through this utter confusion: the woman does not get the opportunity to consider her own priorities. Her final choice is conspicuously conditioned by the demands patriarchy makes upon women. Her desire for the right partner is given free play so as not to disrupt an existing social structure. The man eventually wins, all over again.
Nonetheless, Rang Milanti is an amusing watch. It is a fun-filled journey, thanks to Saswata’s amazing performance, Churni’s sophisticated demeanour, Ridhima’s vivacity and the credibility of the four men, Gaurab Chakraborty, Gaurab Chatterjee, Tanaji and Indrashish. Ringo as the snobbish Prakash is also praiseworthy. The music is a downer though. What is after all important is unalloyed entertainment, and Rang Milanti does not disappoint you to that end. A packed Star Theatre on Panchami evening was frequently breaking into splits and cheery claps, and that’s all a director wants.