Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guhas first released film Cross Connection was a good example of good teamwork held together with a simple and straightforward storyline about contemporary youngsters,thrown together in a post- modernist environment of sexual permissiveness,who sometimes get hitched to the wrong man/woman. In Prem By Chance,their first attempt to give the audience value-for-money with unabashed entertainment,the director-duo has stretched this theory some more without being very obvious about it. The bottomline is that love always happens by chance and can never work on the laws of logic or mathematics. People who are exact opposites in culture,education,affluence and social status,often fall in love but are destined to part till some dramatic catharsis brings them together to live happily ever after.
Raju (Abir Chatterjee) is an orphan who lives in Kolkata with his affectionate maternal uncle (Dwijen Banerjee) and aunt (Rumki Chatterjee) and their son in a very low-middle class locality. Annapoorna (Koel Mullick) belongs to an extended and very affluent family in Noshipur,a distant village. She is a thoroughly spoilt and pampered young girl who has come to Kolkata for higher studies and develops a liking for Shaan,the arrogant,ill-mannered and hot-headed son of the local politician. Raju is a good-for-nothing young man whose life is spent either in flexing his muscles and giving it back to whoever raises his own,or trying to help out the local youngsters at festivals and dos. He has a girlfriend too. These two opposite poles,Raju and Poorna are thrown together by chance when Shaan gives Annapoorna the royal ditch and refuses to accompany her to Noshipur to be introduced to her family.
She persuades Raju to pretend to be Shaan and he can get back once her marriage fixed to the terrible Bijoy (Arijit Dutta) is broken. Half the film is a journey film where they go through several adventures and get to know each other as friends through fights and arguments. When they reach Noshipur,Poornas family becomes a learning process for Raju and a process of discovery for Annapoorna. The film is replete with touching moments,mostly treated with feather-light brushes of humour as Raju tries to familiarise himself with the family,especially with Poornas father Biswanath (Biswajit Chakraborty),who does not quite care for this stranger suddenly imposing himself on the family like an uninvited guest.
The highlight of the film is a tractor race where the totally inexperienced Raju finds himself forced to compete with the second-in-command and obnoxious Bijoy because the reigning champion Biswanath has been laid up for a fracture! The fun is less in the race than in the entire picturisation of the fun,the amusement and the sheer joy it invites the audience to participate in. The steady building up to the race is a strategy for Raju to warm up to the family. The race is voiced over with one of the most hilarious commentaries one has heard in films or in real life.
Delivered off-screen in a tremulous and funny voice,it sends the audience to splits. The commentator informs that Bijoy,the strongest opponent,has just returned from the US after having learnt to drive a tractor there! So much twisting and turning of the tractors is making my head turn so will someone pass on a glass of water please? says the voice-over. Just see folks what a factor a tractor can be, he says another time. Raju takes the trophy back to Annapoornas family and wins Biswanaths heart.
This love story treats love in a rather low-key manner enriched by the sparkling performance of the lovers – Abir and Koel.
Abir proves his versatility in a character that is a polar opposite of the one he plays in and as Byomkesh Bakshi. Koel is a bit hyper in the beginning but mellows later on. Manoj Mitra and Biswajit Chakraborty have given good performances. Tanima Sen and Dipankar De are wasted in inane roles. The film has all the ingredients of a masala film action,well-choreographed and orchestrated songs and dances,family drama,romance everything except an item number.
Prem By Chance is a lavishly- mounted film that offers wholesome family entertainment spiked up with generous doses of intelligent humour. The three stars are for direction,acting and music.