I'll just say this: I've had no luck with Bengali films. My first, the artsy Antarmahal starring Soha Ali Khan Jackie Scroff and Abhishek Bachchan against some more regional actors, was quite a fine film but nothing that enticed me to watch more. Then I thought I'd picked a winner for my multi-lingual DVD purchase: a rock musical film featuring some of Bengali rock's oldest names, plus it had won a National Award for the best Bengali feature-length film just last year.
And yet, this one turned out one of my most groan-worthy film experiences from the past year or so.
Ranjana Ami Ar Ashbona (Ranjana, I'm not coming back) is the tale of an aged rock legend (played by the director Anjan Dutt himself) beginning to mentor the new hopeful talent Ranjana (Parno Mittra). The cast also includes a bunch of Bengali rock's biggest names (Amyt Datta, Kabir Suman among others), all of whom I'm largely ignorant of, but to fans of the genre will surely mean a lot to have in the same frames, jamming. The music is melodic, classic rock, punctuated by what I can only assume are poetic Bengali lyrics.
So why did this film annoy me so much? I'll begin with the positives. Parno Mittra delivers an effective performance considering this is her first film, and the older rock stars in the side cast are all likable, if clearly not trained actors. The music is also very good, even if the type of genre of rock played here is not my most favourite sort.
Where the film fails is the simple realisation that its main character doesn't have to do despicable things in order to be understood as a wreck of a human being. Anjan's character is a drunkard on the highway to a lethal heart attack, for sure - but where he crosses the line into having no favourable feats in my eyes is when upon bringing Ranjana back into his house for promises of recording a song with her, he drugs her and later sexually advances on her despite repeated no's from her. It's about as close to attempted rape as a depiction can get without plain attempted rape, and it's just sickening. We didn't need to be shown this in order to understand the character brought Ranjana to his home under false pretenses; a simple flirtation and a clear no was all that would have established that. It just makes the character out to be, not just a wreck of a human being, but also a potential rapist and it's just appalling.
This coloured by viewing of the film, but I think even without it, the film would've been lukewarm in my eyes. It's not exactly a fresh spin on an old story and seems to offer up little of interest: the mentorship between the two lead characters is not particularly fascinating, especially considering his creepiness and her inability to just walk away from the mess that he is, and while the side characters are interesting, we don't spend half as much time when than as we could. The ideas about music, lyrics and poetry are also all rather stale, and any characters that emerge as villains are blankly just that, with no discernible shades of grey.
The Eagle DVD I got also nearly disintegrated before getting to the finale, freezing in some scenes - so even if I wanted to rewatch it, I doubt I could. So I wouldn't recommend this film, unless you happen to be a huge Bengali rock aficionado. I don't hold this against the film maker; he seems to be a big deal, and I'm sure he's done films better than this. Even so, I won't lie - this film annoyed the hell out of me.