Satyam Bhattacharya, Debraj Bhattacharya, Shyamal Chakraborty and Surangana Bandyopadhyay shine bright in this offbeat venture
Story: Bhupati Ray (Satyam Bhattacharya) – the last descendant of the Ray dynasty lives in a picturesque hamlet, Ballabhpur but can’t afford his gigantic yet crumbling palace anymore. He wants to sell the house to pay off loans to the local grocers and to set up dentistry. Finally, he gets a buyer, Mr Halder (Sandip Bhattacharya), who comes to see the place with his wife, Swapna (Jhulan Bhattacharya), and daughter, Chhanda (Surangana Bandopadhyay). Bhupati and his man Friday Manohor (Shyamal Chakraborty) welcome them in, giving them royal treatment. Mr Halder loves every corner of the mansion. But there is one problem: there is a ghost in the palace.
Review: After the dark and realistic Mandaar, Anirban Bhattacharya picks a light-hearted romantic comedy with ample horror sprinkled about. And he does an especially good job. Halloween and Bhoot Chaturdashi mark the right time to welcome some spooks in our reel live and this film serves us a tale of an elocutionist and flirty ghost trapped by a royal curse.
Ballabhpurer Roopkotha is a simple, entertaining, and engaging fairy tale that features a bunch of hitherto lesser-known actors and actresses from the theatre and film industry. Their effort works in favour of this tale magically. With the powerhouse performance from each of them, it shows that larger-than-life films don’t necessarily need larger-than-life stars to present a hearty tale.
Satyam and Shyamal dominate the film. Bhupati is determined and kind. Manohar knows what needs to be done and together they give one of the most harmonious and hilarious performances. And then enters Bhupati’s friend Sanjit Basu (Debraj Bhattacharya). Their well-coordinated dialogues, gestures, plots, and ploy to impress Mr Halder, and managing inadvertent bloopers are moments to cherish.
Surangana looks lovely in the film. Her character walks straight out of a fairy tale. Like a princess, she waits for her prince charming and then she takes control of the situation and casts a love spell on her prince. Surangana presents the dreamy Chhanda’s character delightfully. A broad range of actors work together in a well-coordinated manner and the film shows solid teamwork.
The film which is based on playwright Badal Sircar’s eponymous work has a distinct style. Right from the title track, we know something extraordinary is on its way. The director and co-writer Pratik Dutta don’t disappoint with their script. From the sarcastic opening track to the end scroll that pays tribute to tribute to Farah Khan, the duo has added the right amount of humour, romance, and other-worldly charm to make it an engaging watch.
The film lives in the enormous dilapidated palace and its courtroom, staircase, banisters, outhouse, attic, and other corners are used well either to bring the flavour of ghosts or to show the helplessness of Bhupati. The sparsely used outdoor shots also give a feel of an unreal fairy tale and sync well with the flavour of the film. Soumik Halder captures both the palace and the elaborate Purulia beautifully. Though a little non-experimental, the background score fits well with the storyline.
However, the film sometimes goes overboard and gets excessively theatrical, especially in terms of costumes and props. At times, it appears loud but given the over-the-top nature of the film, it does not stick out. However, the three shopkeepers – Saha, Srinath, and Paban – are the weakest link in terms of presentation. In fact, they are used more like extras without adding any layer of dimension.
Verdict: Ballabhpurer Roopkotha is a must-watch for its intrinsic Bengaliness, humour, and horror. Evidently, Anirban and his team have put in an enormous effort to make the film that we all asked for. Deepavali brings in the season of ghost stories and this is our very own friendly, family ghost.