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Movie Review: Konttho

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Producers: Nandita Roy, Shiboprosad Mukherjee

Director: Nandita Roy, Shiboprosad Mukherjee

Cast: Shiboprosad Mukherjee, Paoli Dam, Jaya Ahsan, Koneenica Banerjee, Paran Bandopadhyay

Writers: Nandita Roy (Story & Screenplay), Shiboprosad Mukherjee (Dialogue)

Music: Anindya Chatterjee, Anupam Roy, Prasen

BelaSeshe, Prakton, Posto, Haami. At a time when Bangla cinema was going through a transitional period, these films were like a breath of fresh air on a sultry afternoon. They helped us understand complex human relationships and celebrate the simplicity of life. We may not have auteurs such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak churning out realistic cinema today but we do have Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy and their slice-of-life dramas.

Konttho, their latest offering, celebrates hope and the fragility of life. It is not every day that we get to watch our lives playing out on the silver screen. Mukherjee and Roy create a poignant tale, one that upsets you, angers you and aso tugs at your heartstrings.

Arjun Mullick is a popular radio jockey, who runs a show called Mon Amar for 91.9 Friends FM in Kolkata. His wife, Pritha, is a news reader. Through flashbacks, we are shown that the couple met while performing in street theatre and at elocution sessions. Their happy family life takes a toss when one day, when Arjun loses his voice, the most precious asset that he has. Then the axe falls – Arjun is diagnosed with Stage IV laryngeal cancer.

After he undergoes a laryngectomy, his life turns upside down. He becomes bitter towards his wife, who is now the only earning member of the family. That is when Romila Chowdhury, a speech therapist, enters the scene. How she helps him get back on his feet and learn to speak again through an oesophageal voice and an electro-larynx form the rest of the film.

Konttho is so much more than what it looks like on the surface. The makers coax us to step into the dejected and conflicted mind of a cancer survivor, a rare theme for an Indian film. It deals with the depression that a vocal artiste who loses his voice goes through; the way a cancer patient thinks of himself as a burden on his family; and the relationship between a patient and a doctor that often transcends professional boundaries.

The writers sensitively weave a narrative that makes us emphathise with the character, yet he is so human that at times, you are infuriated with him. The direction and writing make sure this film is not a soppy affair. Konttho will be remembered as a tale of hope, unflinching endurance and courage. The film is also sprinkled with a bunch of one-liners that will crack you up.

Konttho is a treat for music lovers. Some of the finest songs of our times, such as Bariye dao tomar haat from Chalo Paltai and Jodi akasher gaye kan na paati from Nirbaak are beautifully woven into the film. The original songs, such as the love ballad Shobai chup, and the peppy track Obak jole stay with you long after you have left the theatre.

While events unfold quickly in the first half, the film starts dragging in the second half. There are times when you even feel a little restless. But there are ample memorable moments that will keep you hooked to the film.

What really lifts the film are the performances. Mukherjeee as Arjun plays his part with sheer brilliance. In most scenes, he lets his body language and expressions do most of the talking. His vulnerability breaks your heart. He internalises the character and enters into his headspace with brilliance. Paoli Dam as Pritha is earnest. She delivers an extraordinary performance. She portrays the grit, grace, strength and insecurities of a wife beautifully. She silently powers the narrative and provides ample support to Mukherjee. Jaya Ahsan as Romila proves her mettle yet again. She lights up the screen with her scintillating presence and gives much-needed respite to the otherwise melancholic mood. She is effortless and endearing. Chitra Sen is delightful. Koneenica Banerjee and Paran Bandopadhyay are impressive.

Verdict: A Must-Watch!

Rating: ***

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