I finally managed to lay my hands on Bhooter Bhabishyat, the Bengali film and watched it over the weekend. Bhooter Bhabishyat which literally means “the future of the ghosts” or the “future of the past” is a social satire revolving around old, heritage buildings being pulled down to build shopping malls, multiplexes and high rises and its related implications on the ‘ghosts’ who inhabited those buildings. The storyline builds around an ad- film director (played by Parambrata Chatterjee better known as Satyaki/Rana from Kahani) who is aspiring for his major breakthrough into films. He is looking for a catchy story line based on which he can make his debut and is narrated this story in one of the old mansions called the Chowdhury palace, where he is trying to shoot his ad film. The narrator of the story is obviously not happy with the rapid consumerism which ad films imply and definitely not happy with this old mansion being used to that end. In his story, the mansion is eyed by an infamous developer called Ganesh Bhutoria (played by Mir Afsar Ali) to build a 5 storied mall which is his definite cash cow.
This simple story line if given thrust with its comic, lyrical dialogues and funny characters who are ghosts from various eras. To give you an idea of the bizarre characterization, there is an assassinated Englishman, another one is a refugee from Bangladesh, then there is a cook from Siraj –ud- daula’s kitchen, an Army officer who died in the Kargil war, a heroine from the black and white days who had committed suicide, the daughter of a rich industrialist who also killed herself for love and a musician into ‘rockbaji’ who died of drug abuse. Add to this chaos a brilliant use of wordplay which again is comic because of its simplicity. For eg, the erstwhile actress who committed suicide is named ‘Kadalibala’. Now in Bengali ‘kadali’ means Banana. It sounds funnier in the script of the movie as the characters themselves question the validity of such a name. Speaking of Kadalibala reminds me of another scene where she is wooed by her lover. The dialogues in this scene and many others are so lyrical that I’m sure if I watch the movie 3 more times, I’l be able to say it by rote. Another character is this local goon who is trying to extract some money from Bhutoria if he wants things to go smoothly. His name is Pod Prodhan, which roughly translated means King of Butts! Said in a straight faced manner will definitely make anyone laugh. Of course the English subtitles help for someone like me who does not catch these innuendos quite fast.
This movie reminded me of another lesser known hindi movie called ‘Mirch’ which uses the same aspect of an aspiring film maker trying to make it big. He is then told by his producer “Sex nahi toh nahi bikega” and hence he resorts to our old tales with Sexual overtones and tweeks it to address modern relationships. Well, I just want to say- “Take that Mr- Whoever-Made-Mirch, Bhooter Bhabishyat definitely won without sex” The most amount of sex there is to this movie is a scene where the rich industrialist’s daughter tries to flirt with the rockstar ghost and an Item song in the end. However, the item song builds up to the climax which justifies it being there.
Bhoother Bhabishyat made me nostalgic because it’s made up of stuff similar to grandma’s stories- winning of good over evil, using wit to get what one wants etc. Every Bengali child is initiated to the concept of ‘ghost’ through Satyajit Ray’s Goopi Gain Bagha Bain and director Anik Dutta unabashedly uses aspects of that movie including the main character’s ringtone being “Bhooter Raja” from the Ray film.
Although, there were some aspects of the film which didn’t quite catch my fancy, like juxtaposing a skeleton face over the ghosts face to communicate that they were ghosts. The Item song, although required, was too lengthy especially when you are waiting for the climax.
Nonetheless, its credible that this is Anik Dutta’s directoral debut. This movie can be enjoyed by all age groups and the concept of commercialization and ghosts will both be timeless. I reckon Bhooter Bhabishyat is the Goopi Gain Bagha Bain for the newage kids !