Kagojer Bou (The Paper Wife)

re is mood-centric,varying according to situations. Manik Saha’s story of three marriages ending with a fourth,where the wife turns out to be promiscuous,is a visually touching indictment on the institution of marriage.

Written by Shoma A. Chatterji | Mumbai | Published: February 25, 2011 4:22:33 pm

Life is a pay-off. Relationships are bought and sold in an open market if the price is right. “Every relationship can be bought with money.” This is the philosophy of Upal (Rahul),a young,educated but unemployed man who builds up his ideology from his experience of desperate poverty. He fantasises about currency notes showering on him even while he travels in a tram car. “I do not love anyone,I only love money,” he says,resigned to his fate,without guilt. His sophisticated and affluent friend Subimal (Joy Sengupta),hungry for sex beyond marriage,tries to convince Priti (Paoli Dam),a sultry young model,that her current boyfriend (Anindo Banerjee) is two-timing her. Upal asks Ketaki (Priyanka) to sleep with the boyfriend knowing that the young girl,hungry for love,loves him. Upal exposes Priti’s boyfriend. Subimal now wants to divorce his traditional loving wife Shreya (Rimjhim Gupta) that can happen only if she can be accused of adultery.

Money exchanges hands again. Upal pretends to fall in love with Shreya,clicking pictures of the two of them on his cell phone camera. Shreya,hungry for company,falls in love with him. Priti goes on a sizzling weekend to a beach resort with Subimal. Hungry for an upwardly mobile life via the USA,she refuses to carry the adulterous affair to marriage. She proposes marriage to Upal in exchange for a hefty sum and a visa to the US. The two go through a civil marriage. Priti hands him the promised money but ditches him about the USA trip. When Upal reminds her that she is now his lawfully wedded wife,she simply says,“I am a paper wife.”

Upal is so accustomed to his poverty that he gives the money to his neighbourhood don and asks him to free Ketaki from a forced marriage. He also asks him to give up his claim on the family’s ancestral mansion. “You love Ketaki,don’t you?” asks the don. “No,I don’t. I only love money,” he says,journeying aimlessly on an isolated tramcar.

Gaurab Chatterjee’s musical score is mood-centric,varying according to situations. Manik Saha’s story of three marriages ending with a fourth,where the wife turns out to be promiscuous,is a visually touching indictment on the institution of marriage. Bratya Basu gives a mind-blowing performance as Manik Saha. The picturisation of this segment is shot in semi-darkness,lending a surreal feel to the film.

Rahul as Upal finally proves that he can deliver a low-key performance that needs him to carry the entire film on his solitary shoulders with minimum dialogue and little facial expression. Yet,the pain and the suffering come across beautifully. The three contrasting women in his life give him solid support. Paoli invests her character with the silence and sultriness it demands. Priyanka is wonderful as the lost girl who knows Upal will never love her back. Rimjhim Gupta is sedate and dignified even in her immorality. Joy Sengupta is no-nonsense yet diabolic as Subimal. The outstanding quality of the story is the absolute lack of guilt among the characters. Bappaditya rightly refrains from being judgmental about his characters. Nor does he try to rationalise their no-conscience approach to relationships.

Of the three metaphors,the one that stands out is the repeated scene of Upal in the tramcar with the band playing the song of his life. Priyanka and the children playing cheerfully with gulaal is a satire on the poor trying to extract little drops of joy. In the beginning,the gulaal stands for the co-existence of life and death when Upal’s father is dead. But the metaphor of Priti playing on a cello as part of an orchestra does not come across. The camera and the production design are ideally suited to the free-flowing wanderings across the city of Kolkata and beyond. Kagojer Bou is undisputably,Bappaditya Bandopadhyay’s best film to date.

Verdict: ****

The four stars are for the story,direction,acting and music.

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