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Dostojee review: Prasun Chatterjee’s film on friendship is full of unperturbed love

With Palash (Asik Shaikh) and Safi (Arif Shaikh) – Dostojee for each other – we take a ride on a beautiful journey of friendship, empathy, and love

4/5rating
Dostojee review: Prasun Chatterjee’s film on friendship is full of unperturbed love
A scene from the film
  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 01.43 PM, Nov 11, 2022

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Story: The film focuses on the journey of Palash (Asik Shaikh) and Safi (Arif Shaikh) – two friends for life – in a village with communal tension.

Review: Dostojee is full of love. Palash – son of local priest Madhav, and Safikul – son of a weaver, are inseparable. They live in a sleepy village on the Bengal-Bangladesh border. Their modest mudhouses stand side-by-side, divided by a flimsy bamboo wall. There is no wall between these two children. There are Hindu and Muslim families – all poor and hardworking. Their mutual insecurities are stoked by the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid when the film is set. Three months after the demolition, both the communities’ leaders flex their muscles but the village largely remains sleepy and peaceful. And the two friends run around from one corner to another through the lush green paddy fields.

Amid the looming bigotry in the corners of India, Palash and Safi are unperturbed. They go to school, play football, nurture a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly, fly kites and generally live together. Their parents – who are neighbours – fail to separate them. Palash takes Safi to Ramleela Maidan to watch Ravan Vadh play. During Eid, Safi spends his gift money to click a photo with Palash and wraps sewai – a dessert – in a tender banana leaf for his little sister. Through their friendship, Prasun paints a dreamy picture of harmony that he cherishes and dreams for. When a Hindu leader wants Madhav to conduct the daily Puja of Ram in a local temple, poor Madhav gets slightly confused as worshipping Ram is culturally less relevant in Bengal than in North India. He promises to learn and practice. Meanwhile, Safi steals sand that is kept to build a local mosque to decorate Jhulan with Palash and his sister. While the film is set in 1993, such tender tunes of communal discomfort and harmony make the film extremely relevant today.

However, the film is much more than the community dynamics in India. Dostojee is finally a story of the two inseparable friends’ journey and then the despair. They go to the same tutor, played by Anujoy Chattopadhyay. Palash is diligent and does all his homework and Safi doesn’t. Palash is a rank holder and Safi barely passes from one class to another. Safi steals to buy a blue kite and Palash walks for miles to save money. And their love fills up the heart. The two child actors are outstanding in the twinkle in their eyes. They have become less of actors and more characters throughout the film. Together with Palash’s mother, Jayati Chakraborty, and Safikul’s sister, Swatilekha Kundu, Dostojee pays a tribute to Apu Durga’s Nischindipur of Ray’s Pather Panchali.

Verdict: Prasun also captures a very serene mood of the border hamlet that has more Muslim population than Hindus. The lush paddy field, rain and thunderstorm, and despair are captured perfectly by the cinematographer Tuhin Biswas. Dostojee is a carefully crafted cinematic experience that can be cherished. For its content and presentation – it is a film that must not be missed.

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