Chaar: Film Review

Rating: ★★★1/2

Verdict: Four shorts filmed, each most-simplistically cultivating warmth while brushing past in succession. 

Chaar brings to the fore an anthology of the most-appreciated stories by prolific writers from the land of literature. Director Sandip Ray handpicks two of his father’s stories and the remainder is reserved for a short by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and Rajshekhar Basu also popularly-known as Parashuram.

Chaar, unlike the recent flock of Bengali films is deeply-rooted and shrugs off the baggage of ‘being pretentious’. The film is humble in tone and presentation, and makes up an ideal watch for family-viewing audiences. The cinematography induces warmth in visuals and is also hugely responsible for letting the audiences hook on to the stories, as if they were our own tales of mystery, bonding, cognizance and love.

Bateswarer Abodan or Bateshwar’s contribution’, the opening story, kindles suspense. Parashuram’s narrative is designed to spark speculation. The story is about an author’s conflict with readers in deciding the fate of the fictitious Aloka in his sequel. Bateshwar Sikdar is visited by three readers on different occasions, all persuading him to let Aloka live in the sequel. Is it simply the writer’s ability to infatuate readers or is there an underlying motive? Veteran Paran Bandopadhyay performs brilliantly with an ensemble of talented actors. 

The shelf-life of some friendships last even after staying apart for as long as 25 years. Satyajit Ray’s ‘Dui Bondhu or Two friends’ starts in 1988 when Pratul and Mahim form a pact to meet at Indira Cinema in 2013, exactly 25 years later. The day has come only to leave Mahim standing alone amidst unfamiliar faces at the cinema hall. Satyajit Ray’s story is about the survival of bonds which is beautifully-captured in this short directed by his son. 

Post-interval, Chaar features ‘Kagtarua or Scarecrow’, another story written by Satyajit Ray. Musician Mrigankashekhar Mukherjee on his way to Kolkata is shaken up by supernatural experiences. He meets the deceased Abhiram who is now captured as a scarecrow, and this episode helps find clues to a lost possession. Although the encounter liberates the soul of the dead but leaves the artist comprehending the past. Tollywood’s favorite Saswata Chatterjee shines in this short and carries the film solo. 

Chaar is a film which can be best described as the amalgamation of the magic of storytelling and the art of film techniques. The director’s vision to see his film tugging at the audience’s heart strings and yet not compromising on experimenting with his craft is coherent throughout. And that is why the aspect ratio is cropped as we come to the last short story ‘Porikkha or Test’. 

This film featuring Koel Mallick and Abir Chatterjee is shot in black and white and uses soft focus lenses to highlight the tenderness in that emotion called love. The period film chronicles that lovers often have to pass the test before being completely absorbed and consumed by each other. The production design for this short makes the viewer take note and appreciate. Binayak and Monika’s compassionate love story is the closing short.

Subrata Roy’s work with editing is a trinket earned for Chaar. Sandip Ray’s direction is a testimonial to the filmmaker’s strong sense of visualization. All in all, the film stands tall with a certificate of having excelled in all departments technical. Chaar however fails in casting Rajatava Dutta in Dui Bondhu as the celebrity from the Bombay film industry. The seasoned actor appears a misfit for this role and overdoes his part to instill the persona of a superstar. 

The film comes from a place which brings a sense of belonging and is old school in every way possible. This is what works for Chaar. Sandip Ray’s ensemble deserves praises galore for their acting skills worth the audience’s time and attention. Had the late writers Satyajit Ray, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and Parashuram lived to see the onscreen adaptation of their stories, the director would be entitled to pats on the back, not one but chaar. The last coming from his audiences!

Why should you watch this film?

This movie from the Bengali film industry is purely about stories and not about selling those stories. A captivating storyline cut to restitution of tale cut to vitality of script cut to vintage magic. Sandip Ray offers you reasons to watch this film, not one but chaar.  

By Soham Bhattacharyya

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