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Bhuvan Shome

Posted by martinteller on April 8, 2013

Mr. Shome (Utpal Dutt) is a high-level official with the railroad.  Everyone is afraid of him, he’s a strict bureaucrat and doesn’t know life outside of the office.  He even fired his own son!  He takes up an interest in bird hunting and heads out for the Gujarat region to put his skills to the test.  His driver’s cart is scared off by a buffalo.  The buffalo’s owner is a carefree young woman named Gauri (Suhasini Mulay).  Gauri takes him into her home and offers to help him hunt.  Shome’s cold facade starts to melt away.

This was the first real success for Mrinal Sen, after eight films, most of which flopped.  It won National Film Awards for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Dutt).  There are a number of avant-garde touches.  A montage of images introduces Shome’s Bengali background, including pictures of Satyajit Ray and Ravi Shankar.  There are animated portions.  The frame narrows in on Dutt’s eyes when we hear his interior monologue.  There are plenty of freeze-frames and startling jump cuts.  There’s a lot of toying with sound and music.  In one scene, Gauri is describing being on a swing… she sits on a ledge and holds her hands where the ropes would be, and the camera zooms in and out on her, miming the swing action.  It’s a shot perhaps meant to pay homage to Charulata.

Despite this possible homage, and even having his picture in the film, Ray was harsh in his criticism, summing it up as: “Big Bad Bureaucrat Reformed By Rustic Belle”.  Unfortunately, he’s not wrong.  Although the unusual flourishes made the experience more lively, the narrative and message are simplistic in the extreme.  The film is intended to be satire, but it has no bite to it and the comedy is often weak.  Also, although it never feels slow, it does feel very uneventful.  At one point I realized I was 70 minutes into the movie and wondered where all the time went.  I think a lot of it was that buffalo scene.

The movie’s heart is in the right place, and Dutt does give a nice performance (as does Mulay, even if it’s basically a Manic Pixie Dream Girl).  It’s interesting to see Sen play so much with the media, which I haven’t seen much from him.  And there are some lovely shots.  But the film doesn’t give you much to chew on and the character development is quite predictable.  Rating: Fair (63)


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