Cockpit: Hanging in the mid-air

Posted by Kaahon Desk On September 28, 2017

Cockpit is one of the 7 glorious sisters among the Bengali films released this Puja. It is special for several reasons. First it is yet another venture by the now doyen of the new Bengali cinema to look out for – director Kamaleswar Mukherjee. Secondly its lead cast is none other than the biggest star of Bengal – Dev. The film Cockpit is more special not only because of the fact that the two are working together (they have already worked together in Chander Pahar produced by Shree Venkatesh Films) but because of the fact that it is Kamaleswar working for the first time with of Dev’s home production. For Dev Entertainment this is their second production only after Chaamp and for the first time with a director who is more ‘sensible’ than many others.

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The film is a sugar coated tale of a pilot who saves the life of 140 passengers on a flight from Mumbai to Kolkata, when the flight goes into a technical snag and exhausts its aviation fuel after beating through bad weather. The story is told in the last twenty odd minutes of the film with the preceding two hours devoting itself to multi-track back stories. Like octopus’s tentacles the back stories branch out into an idealist pilot father with none other than our Prosenjit Chatterjee who was blown in the mid air, a devoted and loving wife Koel Mallik, a pre-marital one sided love affair out of Rukmini, a flight attendant and numerous other passengers either with ‘trying to be funny’ dialogues which are meant to be comic or more back stories of their own. The cast has no dearth of reputed actors from the Bengali cinema with Paran Bandyopadhyay, Priyanka and Sayoni Ghosh to name a few.

Dev is the ideal, macho, caring, clean and ‘no end to superlatives’ man who idealizes his father, loves his wife with most obvious love-lines possible in films (wives not letting their husbands sleep!!! Wooh!), cares for the flight attendant girl who had a one sided feeling for him and is careful in not sharing even one kiss when he has spent hours with her in most personal situations. Now all of this is told as back story for two hours and it is a test of patience to sit through the whole film which vows not to progress in story and plot movement and meanders around the multitude of backstories of the main and numerous other characters. If the director cum writer has tried to built up characters out of several passengers on the ill-fated flight, he misses the entire point of having any synergy within such characters building up to the culmination of the story. In the end it is just a juxtaposition of different characters with or without detail who hang like ill fitted parts of a necklace as a result ofpoor craftsmanship.

Dev’s relation with his wife is sssss…..syrupy and so clichéd that one does not realize the point of attempting to build up any character out of the wife, given by the fact that she is an academician and devotes time to classical dance. Even the smart and chirpy flight attendant’s relationship with the pilot had to be one before Dev-Koel’s marriage. It definitely wants to keep the film and image of Dev clean, clinically clean. So much so that even alcoholism, drug abuse and jealousy leading to suicide attempts had to be handed over in sugar candy packs – oh! the world is full of good people and nobody’s a party pooper. And Koel has to survive all her illness and chances of miscarriage to gift the news of pregnancy to Dev the pilot’s feat of saving lives. The film is successful in its vaccination drive and quarantines any possible viruses like desire, adultery, ego, jealousy, grey areas and finally life in itself.

Now all of this is quite expected when you are walking in to watch a Dev-Rukmini Puja release. You never expect realism to be the key word and it would be blasphemous to demand shades in characters or anything like texture or rhythm. But, one can at least expect twists and turns, laughter and sorrow, winners and losers, songs or at least some one liners. Sadly, Cockpit offers no take home. There is audience who will want their money’s worth being entertained by their favorite star Dev and his current real life partner the refreshing, smart and young Rukmini. But for them there is no sizeable offer in the film. The romance portrayed is not larger than life and is at the same time devoid of any beauty (in whatever way and by whoever the term is defined). And of course there is no drama through the main body of the film for that had to be kept aside for the last twenty minutes. Even the songs portrayal lacks the finesse (or if you want to be a purist, you can call it the popular stylistics) of popular cinema and director with his own and coveted sensibilities is stuck to naïve depiction of human emotions that are entirely false. You don’t expect a white cloth waving over the lead’s face to be the culmination of a song in a Puja release film of this pitch. Dev doesn’t move, Rukmini doesn’t ‘reveal’ any thrust and in the bland choreography the camera even forgets to make any movement to generate energy and rhythm. So for this audience there is no ‘paisa wasool’ what so ever out of Cockpit. It seems that a great deal of the production value has been devoted to computer graphics. This by itself might be called a little saving grace for a Bengali film, although within a short span of time it turns itself repetitive and unimaginative. Over and above being naïve from the entertainment quotient point of view the director keeps injecting pangs of realism into its mold and that is where it becomes nobody’s film.

Just to summarize the whole, the so-called new audience of Bengali cinema must have been appalled by the sense of realism portrayed in the film. First as already mentioned the film is devoid of any plot movement and story progress for almost two hours. Secondly relationships and their shades are so cosmetic and served with so much of extra sweet toppings that one cannot relate to any ambience, mood, tonality or reality of the film per se. Visualizations really need to grow beyond setting up character’s homes at luxury resorts as this film does. So, the film misses a note with this audience as well for there is nothing to engage them apart for the last twenty minutes of the crisis. But before the crisis arrives people have already had their patience overrun and jabber about missing snow peaked terrains and old chai shop biscuits!

The grand mistake is somewhat classical – attempting to delve in both worlds at the same time and missing chord with either. The result being Cockpit hanging in mid-air!!!

Uro Khoi

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