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Taan (Bengali) / Good story marred by bad direction

The original story of Taan written by a noted Bangladeshi writer, Al Mahmud deals with the issue of jalabeshya or sex workers of the waters

Mumbai |
April 4, 2014 1:00:18 am
Rituparna Sengupta in a still from Taan Rituparna Sengupta in a still from Taan

Producers: Surajit Hari and Subrata Das

Director: Mukul Roy Choudhury and Subhashis Sarkar

Music: Indraadip Dasgupta

Cast: Rituparna Sengupta, Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Rajesh Sharma, Debalina Majumdar, Koushik Sen, Debdoot Ghosh, Pamela Bhutoria, Nandini Chatterjee and others

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By Shoma A. Chatterji

The original story of Taan written by a noted Bangladeshi writer, Al Mahmud deals with the issue of jalabeshya or sex workers of the waters (living in the Sundarbans). They operate along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh, which comprises about 75 per cent of the total forest area of the Sundarbans. The sex workers ply their business within the boats on the rivers that run between forests filled with wild animals, rare species of flora and fauna and the mangroves. But their lives and business are controlled by the water mafia leader (Rajesh Sharma). At the same time, a committed social worker (Kaushik Sen) and a young man who runs an NGO (Debdoot Ghosh) are constantly trying their best to take care of these victimised women, who have been trafficked from the mainland to the forest islands.
Their life takes a new turn when a photographer from National Geographic channel (Sumanta Chatterjee) sets out for the Sundarbans with his friend (Pamela Bhutoria), looking for a colleague who had never returned from an assignment he was sent to in the Sundarbans. What happens when the photographer meets the most beautiful woman amongst the sex workers (Rituparna Sengupta) takes the story to an unpredictable climax.
The story had a very powerful concept that could have been explored to make a good and meaningful film. But, the execution of the story by the director, a veteran in making ad films, failed to deliver the goods. Despite good performances by the actors, the film is reduced to a show of cheap and crude titillation and skin show, with badly executed item numbers by the girls. A lot of graphic violence between the villainous water mafia and brothel runner (Rajesh Sharma), who is finally vanquished by these women, ruins the show. The love story between the visiting photographer and Sengupta is lost amidst unnecessary scenes full of sex and violence.
What is particularly jarring is the depiction of the sex workers, who seem quite content with their wretched lives and compete with each other to gain favours from the mafia lord, who ruthlessly uses them. It is only Sengupta’s character that manages to run away and set home with the photographer. Now, why would a Mumbai based wild life photographer want to set home with an illiterate and crude sex-worker remains unanswered.
The use of unnecessary music and songs interrupt the narrative. The entry of an NGO worker and the socially committed medical worker adds some relief to the otherwise depressing narrative, marred by bad cinematography. However, Taan seems to have struck a chord with the audience and is running to packed theatres in the suburbs, small towns and villages of Kolkata.

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