‘Durga Sohay’ is best enjoyed as an afternoon show with ice cream, cold drinks and generous helpings of cheese flavored popcorn. If you are Bengali, middle-aged, and a fan of television serials or any form of family drama, head for this movie, because whatever its many failings are, it does not fail to entertain. If you are Bengali, young and avoid watching soap serials, definitely go for this movie, because it will give you a glimpse of TV without the uncountable repeat shots, slaps that resound through the auditorium and stock sound effects. And if you belong to neither of these categories of Bengalis, what are you doing in the auditorium in the first place? No child or elderly person should watch this, the old ones would suffer from massive nostalgia about the ‘good old days’, while the kids would simply freak out.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) April 21, 2017
Having finished with the statutory warning, let’s plunge into the story, though watching the trailer would be enough to finish that. Set in Basak bari of North Kolkata just before the Durga Puja, the film opens with the eldest Basak (Sumanta Mukherjee) returning from Apollo Hospitals after a heart attack. He has two handsome sons – Dibyendu (Kaushik Sen) and Subho (Indrasish Roy) – matched with two beautiful wives, Chhotobou or Manashi (Tonushree Chakraborty) and Borobou (Debjani Chattopadhyay). The only daughter of the younger couple is dead while the only son of the older couple is Bhrigu (Ritobroto Mukherjee). Basak Senior has a married daughter too, played so badly by Sampurna Lahiri that we really cannot waste beyond a sentence on her. In this happy family busy with stereotypical bickering, comes nursemaid Durga (Sohini Sarkar). She tries to steal, is caught, forgiven and defended and given another chance by Chhotobou. In turn, she gels so well into the family that she defends Bhrigu from getting beaten up by local goons and foils the dacoit plan on Dashami that her thug husband Madhab (Anirban Bhattacharya) had planned.
With the story done, let us take a closer look at the crew now. Music director Bickram Ghosh has not done anything worth listening to separately as soundtrack. One wished for more, but he didn’t try to experiment beyond a medley number that sounded fun and an agomoni that stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s interesting to note that in an assembly of typical sequences, neither the cutting pattern nor the style of shot taking were in the serial mode, they followed silver screen pot boilers, but not small screen. This is not odd at all, given that cinematographer Gairik Sarkar and editor Sujay Datta Ray are both amply experienced hands. The script by Padmanabha Dasgupta and Sil himself was choking with stock TV dialogues, but it was tightly written and had a certain pace. This means you get to see a well-edited serial on screen without the sequences running on and on like TV. The costumes are better too, though the two Basak wives were drowning in jewellery. It’s not costume designer Sabarni Das’s fault, the Basak family business is a jewellery store and the audience is not allowed to forget (or forgive) that.
The cast, unlike the crew, had no scope of displaying their skills as the melodramatic tone left nothing for them to do. Was director Arindam Sil trying to get the television audience to enjoy a big screen experience with roughly the same content and approach? That seems to be the only answer. But is that profitable for the movie? The ensemble was interesting enough, and the same actors might have pulled off a much more satisfying performance if they weren’t restricted by the director’s vision of who makes the target audience.
So all this brings us to our last area of discussion – Money. Sil had informed the press that the film’s budget was less than a crore. He had added that he would be glad with the cash registers ringing in Rs. 50 lakhs in the first weekend, as he has already bagged a multi-movie deal with Amazon Prime Video, where, as of now, this movie would go in along with his two detective flicks and his upcoming film ‘Dhananjoy’ (on the sensational real story of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, who was hanged for raping and murdering 18 year old Hetal Parekh). There is no doubt that he knows the craft of selling his ware, and that has taken precedence over all other considerations in ‘Durga Sohay’. Needless to say, as audience, we would be more than keen to watch Arindam Sil’s next movie. Let’s hope Sil goes on to build a more rewarding experience for us in future.
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