Jyeshthoputro movie cast: Prosenjit, Ritwik Chakraborty, Sudipta Chakraborty, Gargee Roychowdhury, Daminee Basu
Jyeshthoputro movie director: Kaushik Ganguly
Jyeshthoputro movie rating: 3 stars
It has been exactly six years since his death but filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh still presides over Bengali cinema. The thing is Ghosh was not just a filmmaker for many growing in the Kolkata of the 1990s. In a city slowly waking up to capitalism, malls and multiplexes, his films attracted a primarily middle-class audience that headed to standalone theaters like Minar, Bijoli and Chabighar to see characters go through emotions that were pertinent to them. Ghosh shaped our morality. He burst our bubbles. The quintessentially Bengali aesthetics of his films seemed so true to their times that they became almost aspirational for the audience. We wanted to have conversations such as these. We wanted that ceramic bowl on our dining tables.
Towards the later part of his career, however, Ghosh chose to make films that were, for the lack of a better term, more indulgent. Even his biggest fan will admit that films like Noukadubi (2011), Satyanweshi (2013) and Chitrangadha (2012) were not a patch on his earlier films, Dahan (1997), Asukh (1999) and Bariwali (2000). For many, the later Ghosh films were more about the aesthetics than the content. Unfortunately, the Bengali film industry latched on to that very legacy of the celebrated filmmaker.
In an episode of Ghosh & Company, Rituparno Ghosh’s eminently watchable talk show that made even Babul Supriyo sound interesting, Ghosh chides Aniruddha Ray Chaudhuri and Kaushik Ganguly, celebrated filmmakers of contemporary Bengal, for not being true to their craft. The disappointment was like that of an exasperated older sister whose younger siblings ape her blindly. “You have recreated my style but what about the content?” Ghosh asks. Half a decade after the interview, Ganguly has an answer.
Jyeshthoputro (The Eldest Son).
And ironically, the answer is based on a concept of the deceased filmmaker.
Jyeshthoputro, on the surface, is about grief and jealousy. But its moments of heartbreak and quiet gestures of sorrow are almost always accompanied by a sharply judged laugh or a killer put-down.
The film begins with the death of the patriarch of the Ganguly household. The eldest son (Prosenjit Chatterjee), the reigning superstar of Tollywood, seems to be just mildly inconvenienced by it. He stalls the shooting of a film to return to his home-town to be with his family – a disgruntled younger brother (Ritwik Chakraborty) and a mentally-disturbed sister (Sudipta Chakraborty). His three-day visit to the in shambles Ganguly mansion is marred by pettiness, bitterness and bile that death brings.
Kaushik Ganguly channels Rituparno Ghosh to highlight the tangible ordinariness of death that Ghosh so effortlessly conveyed in his films. It’s like an out-of-body experience, the way his camera guides us through the verandah of the household past the lanes of the village, to the open fields of the Bengal countryside. Tea served to guests, the awkward pleasantries exchanged between mourners, the strained conversations and the heaps uneaten fruits (mourning food) – add up to create an atmosphere of a sadness that is almost philosophical.
Ganguly chooses to be inordinately verbose in a film where most of the drama is based on the inability of the characters to articulate their emotions. This works primarily because of the stellar performances of the ensemble cast, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Ritwik Chakraborty, Gargee Roychowdhury, Sudipta Chakraborty and Daminee Basu.
They are effective in their intense face-offs, yes, but are brilliant in the cutaway shots of sideways glances and whispered asides. Parul (Daminee), the garrulous cousin of the Gangulys, for instance, is hiding a secret. That is conveyed through a typically understated sequence — this is not a film that milks its twists for dramatic impact — and all the more devastating for it.
With a running-time of just about two hours, Jyeshtoputro is leaner than most of Kaushik Ganguly‘s earlier films. But even if it ran for hours, the film would have been worth it for a searing scene between the two brothers. A drunk Chakraborty, the loser brother, is trying to bridge the ocean that has opened between them, only to find the distance too great. Chakraborty, an actor who is often celebrated more than he should be simply for being good in an industry full of mediocre talent, makes use of his full range here. From playful and boisterous to husked by sorrow, he flickers from boyish to broken within matter of seconds.