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Chaalchitra (The Kaleidoscope)

Posted by martinteller on June 4, 2013

Dipu (Anjan Dutt) is an aspiring writer.  He meets with a newspaper editor (Utpal Dutt), who tells Dipu to bring him a story about the “middle-class milieu” within two days.  Dipu starts scrounging around for a story worth telling, but encounters one problem after another in finding something to write about.  He tries to prod his mother (Gita Sen), but she’s not taking the bait.

This is a pretty amusing little film by Mrinal Sen.  Anjan Dutt (who would later appear in Sen’s Antareen) makes his debut appearance here.  He’s very enjoyable as he tries to uncover drama in his community, but finds mostly just a lot of petty squabbling and passive-aggressive snubbing.  At one point he literally fans the flames, to predictably disappointing results.  Gita Sen makes a terrific foil for him as well, obstinate and sassy.

There’s some political/social commentary at play too, of course.  One lengthy scene shows Dipu having a devil of a time trying to catch a taxi in the insane bustle of rush hour (by the time he finally gets one, the moment he needed it for has already passed, just like one of his stories).  When he returns to the editor, they have a discussion about Calcutta’s pollution problem — coal stoves are a running motif throughout the film — and when Dipu protests that the citizenry can’t afford the solution, the editor calls him a communist.

Unfortunately, the transfer I saw was godawful but I could tell there was some fine camerawork going on, particularly during the odd dream sequence.  There are a number of New Wave-style flourishes, and I was reminded of Ray’s “Calcutta Trilogy”.  In fact, as in Pratidwandi, there’s a scene that pokes fun at clueless visiting hippies trying to absorb some of the region’s spirituality.

Not entirely sure what to make of the ending, but it’ll give me something to chew on.  Rating: Good (74)


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