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Sunday, December 3, 2023

LIFF 2021 Review: Nazarband (Captive)

Suman Mukhopadhyay’s film Nazarband, based on novelist Ashapurna Devi’s short story Chuti Nakoch will have its UK Premiere at the London Indian Film Festival.

Speaking about the film, the director says: “Generally, the visual possibility of a story, its characters, and the premises on which the characters operate to appeal to a filmmaker.

Though the short story Chhuti Nakoch was written many years ago, I found it to be extremely contemporary.

I thought it wouldn’t be a major problem to make that displacement from the time when she wrote the story. Of course, to make it contemporary, I had to update the characters.

The protagonists Chandu and Vasanti are two immigrants to the city [Kolkata], where they feel the discrimination any metropolis metes out to its rural immigrants.

We often claim cities are cosmopolitan, but an inherent sense of discrimination and alienation always seem to be there.

These elements of a city appealed to me and also, I could sense that the underbelly of Kolkata could be explored through these characters.”

After five years in prison, Vasanti (Indira Tiwari) is released only to realise that her husband has not come to receive her.

Confused and in despair she begrudgingly teams up with Chandu (Tanmay Dhanania), a male ex-con released on the same day and together they embark on a quest to find her family.

As the pair struggle through the streets of Kolkata, their dependency on each other grows as their search becomes increasingly perilous.

Suman beautifully utilises the surroundings and buildings to depict the changing and class division of Kolkata. With a moving camera shot from the gritty streets to the high buildings, the camerawork is visually compelling.

Another scene also includes a close-up of a frog leaping out of a drainpipe into the street. Such sequences powerfully highlight the plight of the two protagonists. It is quite apt the title is called ‘Nazarband’ because, throughout the film, we see how both Vasanti and Chandu are bound by the brutal hardships of society.

It is very few times in Hindi cinema that we get to see a real, contemporary representation of Kolkata. The movie however does not shy away from showcasing the stark reality of the changing infrastructure of the city, where even the long roads and wide locations seem like a maze.

Developing a short story into a feature film is not easy. However, I feel that the characters could’ve been more compelling with a stronger background written for them.

Whilst we get to know more about the background of both the characters, I would’ve liked to understand why Chandu decided to help Vasanti… I feel that more details and context would have made me resonate with the characters and story.

Furthermore, I feel that smoothness in certain sequences could’ve enhanced the overall appeal of the movie. For instance, a scene where Vasanti and Chandu escape a parlour – could’ve been handled more effectively and in a polished manner.

With that said, actors Tanmay Dhanania, Indira Tiwari deliver sincere performances and they seem to share a great camaraderie on screen. Despite hailing from brash circumstances, there is a mutual understanding between them.

What Suman Mukhopadhyay gets right is that she never glorifies or romanticise the poverty aspect. She sticks to the circumstances that the protagonists are faced with and that approach remains consistent throughout the film.

Nazarband metaphorically scores well and carries some engaging visuals from a cinematic perspective. It might not be a masterpiece, but worth a watch because ultimately, we are prisoners of some kind in our lives – be it bound by emotions, society or a pandemic.

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) runs from 17th June to 2nd July at cinemas in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, or at home, via the digital site www.LoveLIFFatHome.com. Head over to https://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/ for more on their programme. 

For screenings in Manchester and Birmingham, go to: https://birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk/ and https://manchesterindianfilmfestival.co.uk/.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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