The Tollywood film industry, known to produce creative content since decades, has repeatedly gifted film-lovers with cinema that dynamically vary from production design to camera operation. Household name Srijit Mukherjee returns with yet another poetic rendition after the highly praised Baishey Srabon.
The life of Portuguese singer Heynsman Antony has been brought to screen earlier as ‘Antony Firingee’ (foreigner) which had Uttam Kumar play the titular role. Jaatishwar seamlessly time travels between the poetic era of 19th Century Bengal and present-day Kolkata. The film defies conventional techniques of movie-making that have been in fashion. Srijit Mukherjee as always gets the audience high on his well-balanced signature style booze which perfectly blends facts and fiction.
Jaatishwar meaning ‘The re-incarnate’ is a musical journey in the life of Rohit Mehta, a Gujarati boy who travels to India to research about Heynsman Antony and his music which he wishes to pursue as a topic for his dissertation coursework. In his attempt to study about the 19th century bard, he meets an assistant librarian Kushal Hajra. Unaware about the consequences of his encounter with Hajra, Rohit explains the purpose of his visit. Here starts the journey of a man who happens to meet the deceased Portuguese poet, this time in the garb of a librarian.
The film is not only well-researched, but also succeeds to set the tone of a time when the poet with a mole on his right leg was heavily-influenced by Bengali literature, culture and poetry. The story carefully maps similarities in the journeys of Heynsman Antony and Rohit Mehta, their passion for Bengali music and the motive behind learning the language. The film has a melancholic feel to it and also boasts of some very well-written dialogues. In a scene where Maya played by Swastika Mukherjee asks her mother about that moment in her life when she realized her equation with her husband was not infatuation or a passing phase but the ‘real’ thing, Mamta Shankar poignantly responds, “on my way back from the crematorium”.
The film explores the music form Kabigaan which holds significance in Srijit’s narration. The principle cast includes versatile actor Prosenjit Chatterjee, Jishhu Sengupta and Swastika Mukherjee who do justice to their respective characters. An interesting observation about Jaatishwar is how Kabir Suman’s music helps elevate the mood created by the lighting department and camerawork. His melodies work in favor for the film to portray the struggle Kushal Hajra goes through. Like most of his films, Srijit Mukherjee does a cameo in this one too. Mamta Shankar does brilliantly in her limited screen presence as Swastika’s mother.
Jaatishwar is yet another milestone in the director’s body of work that boasts of films which do not cater to one particular genre of cinema. The film does slow down in certain portions but manages to keep the audience intrigued. It reaches out to its audience to communicate through the language of cinema. It is the journey of a man whose attempts of fitting into a community despite social taboo and stigma is in a way happening in the lives of many around us. If the idea of watching a motion picture heavily influenced by music and history is appealing, this musical journey is for you.
By Soham Bhattacharyya