Story, Script and direction: Atanu Ghosh
Music: Joy Sarkar
Cast: Dhritiman Chatterjee, Aparajita Ghosh Chakraborty, Rittwick Chakraborty, Jisshu Sengupta, Tota Roy Choudhury, Dulal Lahiri, Nitya Ganguly, Barun Chanda, Arunima Ghosh, Mahua Haldar and others
By Shoma A. Chatterji
Atanu Ghosh always explores an original idea based on science – social, psychological or any other. In Ek Phali Rodh, he unfolds the story of Somshankar Roy, a social scientist (Dhritiman Chatterjee) who seems to be obsessed with the ‘Bystander Effect.’ This refers to the human tendency to walk away when one witnesses a street crisis, be it an accident, or, an incident of street violence, etc. He appoints two educated and young volunteers Swagato (Rittwick Chakraborty) and Anwesha (Aparajita Ghosh Chakraborty) to create fake crisis situations to find out how passers-by react. Apparently, there is hardly any response to these situations of fake crisis.
Problems crop up in the personal lives of these volunteers. Anwesha’s boyfriend Joy (Jisshu Sengupta) a famous singer is insecure about his girlfriend’s work. Swagato’s girl is anxious about whether they will get married at all and is plagued by a cancerous mother. Swagato’s retired father helps out with the accounts of the neighbouring shopkeeper whose profits are being looted by local goons. Then suddenly, there is real crisis. During a picnic, Swagato’s girlfriend goes missing. How does the group resolve this?
Atanu has taken great care to flesh out every single character beautifully, investing each with distinct features. These characters offer intriguing sub-plots throwing up a collage of human nature. Swagato’s uncle (Nitya Ganguly) is addicted to daily soaps. The aspiring singer (Arunima Ghosh) who approaches Joy for a break is not a gold-digger but a seductively dressed young woman who understands the love Joy has for Anwesha. Somshankar’s obsession has an agenda revealed only in the climax.
Jisshu as Joy is exceptionally brilliant. With a slight twitch of the eyebrow, a tiny frown he spells out his anxiety about his girlfriend. Dhritiman’s pedagogic opening fades out gradually as he gets involved with his two volunteers. Rittwick Chakraborty is his usual natural self, his anguish when his girlfriend goes missing matched with his shock when he learns why. Does the ‘bystander effect’ resolve itself? For Somshankar Roy, it is an ongoing process as he appoints new volunteers when the two leave. Swagato realises that help in crisis need not be just physical but can be of different kinds as his father exemplifies. Help in crisis happens when his father is attacked by local goons and suddenly a stranger appears from nowhere and rescues him.
Joy Sarkar’s music is richest in the title song rendered soulfully by Rupam Islam. The songs are an editorial strategy to explain things that cannot be explained through words and incidents but one still feels there is one song too many. Soumik Haldar’s cinematography is a precise match for the eloquent title while Indranil Ghosh’s art direction and Sujoy Dutta Roy’s editing round up the technical quality of Ek Phali Rodh.
More than a psychological thriller, Ek Phali Rodh is an emotionally rich document more humane than clinical. This unfolds when the secret of the title Ek Phali Rodh (a ray of sunshine) is revealed. It is an open crack in the wall of Swagato’s girlfriend’s windowless room. Her mother never cared to seal it because it was the only opening from where sunlight could seep in. In reality however, she could not seal it because she had no money. Ek Phali Rodh touches a chord in your heart even as you are struck by the audiovisual ambience it exudes. Like the fragrance of a forgotten perfume floating around.