So, first things first. The human mind is not a two storey building with two floors called the conscious and subconscious which can be conveniently rented out to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde respectively. In fact, the term ‘subconscious’ is not accepted in psychoanalysis, academic or clinical practices. A film trying desperately to be a serious crime film dealing with psychology can’t really be taken seriously when a professional psychiatrist attempts to explain the functions of the mind in such ‘pop-psychoanalysis’ terms, in the very first scene after the opening credits. And to be honest, the image of June Maliah in a pair of horn rimmed spectacles does little to help the cause.
In fact the aforementioned scene between the doctor and patient carries the markers of almost all the things which are wrong about Arindam Sil’s Eagoler Chokh. It comprises of glossy and balanced shots which are hardly indicative of the mental situation Shabar is going through. It is overwhelmingly verbose as already mentioned. And most importantly, the entire exposition is completely done away with within the first fifteen minutes or so. Throughout the rest of the film, Shabar is keen, alert and extremely sharp as he leads the murder investigation. The narrative became totally oblivious about the protagonist and his demons. It once again glaringly reveals the lack of focus and any sense of economy in contemporary screen writing in Bengali Cinema.
The plot revolves around the posh Ray household which consists of Bishan and his wife Shivangi. The two other members are Nandini who is Shivangi’s old friend and business partner and Jahnavi, a girl in her late teens who is the personal aide to Shivangi. The film opens with a pair of intruders breaking into the house, killing Nandini and critically hurting Shivangi who goes into a comatose. Few inconsistencies with the witness accounts and conjectures following the preliminary investigation, bring Shabar Dasgupta into the scenario who ends up opening a can of worms in the course of tracking down the actual perpetrators of the crime.
Eagoler Chokh keeps steady on Bengali cinema’s misogynist track as the central male character Bishan is surrounded by women, all of whom are perceived as threat of some kind or other. Not a suspect list but serious threats to the moral fabric. However the narrative sympathy is quite heavily invested in the character of Shivangi, the legally wedded wife and also the mother figure to Bishan, “protecting” him from going over the edge. While the film frowns upon the ‘bad mother’ archetype, one who had a daughter with a younger man out of wedlock and gave her up, the film is even going to the extent of almost pardoning Shivangi despite her acts of murdering (the typical ‘other’ woman who was having an affair with the husband) and stalking her husband (via hidden camera installed in Bishan’s bedroom) in the name of “protecting the holy matrimony”. It hardly comes as a surprise that Bishan who is an alcoholic, irresponsible and weak man guilty of adultery is posited as some kind of a martyr in a cruel all-female universe, utterly misunderstood and vulnerable, mumbling lines from Julius Caesar as he stumbles through his door every night, riding on Dutch courage!
The film is equally insufferable in formal terms as well. Both the cinematography and the editing are even less than functional, adding nothing to the overall mise-en-scene. As a detective film, the script relies heavily on reconstructing past events and thus going back in time and looking at the same events from a different perspective and so on. The images completely fails in communicating this idea and instead goes for unimaginative composition often shot with a wide angle lens which is completely counterproductive to the idea of giving attention to subtle nuances and minute details. Furthermore there are superficial attempts in stylizing by jumping between actions or manipulating the speed of the shot, also for reasons unknown. But if there is an award for ‘most annoying factor’, it will certainly go to the sound design. In the absence of a suitable visual/aural design to deal with the grittiness of a murder mystery, the film goes all guns blazing in its use of background score attempting to sustain an atmospheric feel. The music ranges from sombre string section to techno grooves but with its almost constant presence, it soon ends up becoming a jarring disturbance as well as a distraction from the very content.
Finally, the director has continued with his signature style of justifying the film’s title, just like his last outing with Byomkesh Bakshi at Varanasi. This time, there’s a shadow of a pair of giant wings passing over the city throughout the opening credits as the cops chase criminals across the city. The myth goes that the last time this shadow was encountered was during the fifth voyage of Sinbad the sailor…
Arup Ratan Samajdar