Dhananjoy: Kitten wearing a lion wig!

Posted by Kaahon Desk On August 15, 2017

The main challenge regarding writing about a film like Arindam Sil’s Dhananjoy is that it is utterly forgettable. By the time one has walked out of the theatre and taking a ride home, it is almost impossible to recollect anything worthwhile about the film other than incessant onslaught of words and speech. The film is a classic bad combo of being overly verbose and painfully repetitive in its attempt to hammer hard and drive a point home. This is not meant as a criticism of a film’s singular focus point but rather the approach it takes or the technique it adopts to do so.

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The film deals with the much hyped ‘rape and murder’ case of a school girl from Calcutta in 1990 and following court case which lasted for fourteen years resulting in accused Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s hanging. Filled with apologia and disclaimers, the film which claims to be a work of fiction, is so self-righteous and serious in its quest for justice that the entire project becomes even more ridiculous and contradictory than the witness accounts in the original case. One of the basic problems is the way the film is structured. The entire first half plays out as a courtroom drama depicting the events from 1990 to 2004, thus recreating the details and progress and the verdict of the original case. The film then jumps four years in time and a pair of morally upright lawyers (no oxymoron there!) decide to reopen the case to highlight the apparent miscarriage of justice and due process that had happened earlier and also to clear up Dhanajay’s name. As a result in the second half, the same courtroom drama plays all over again with the same witnesses. This leads to two things. Firstly, it becomes tedious and repetitive in terms of images and overall cinematic experience. And it also fails to bring out the contradictions or irony between the two cases since a duration of more than an hour had passed in between. To mend the latter, there are some swift flashbacks and cutaways; but they only make matters worse.

Preceding the film’s release, much debate was going on owing to the film’s so-called controversial content. But everyone can sit and relax because the film does absolutely nothing in its attempt to remain careful and safe. This is actually the biggest problem with the film. Partly due to the lack of honest intent to seriously engage and partly due to the lack of cinematic craft, the film fails to leave any sort of impact one way or the other. It is neither offensive nor liberating. While it unearths one of the biggest blotches in the era of the previous government, it hardly problematizes anything, especially the judicial system and the way it functions in a democracy. In its failure to become discursive, the film resorts to banal sentimentality and almost puts the blame on an incompetent lawyer. Everything else becomes keywords in the film; a bit of Camus and Kafka, something about media, some police brutality here and some feudal tendencies there and so on and so forth. The only thing worth mentioning in this heap of banality is Anirban Bhattacharya’s performance in the titular role. He got the all the nuances right, in his voice (except few accent issue), expressions, gait and body language communicating a sense of defeat which is otherwise completely absent in the overall mise-en-scene.

Arup Ratan Samajdar

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