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Movie Review: Antaheen (Bengali) 111

Romance and relationships has been the preferred theme for world cinema for years. While most mainstream commercial Bollywood flicks succumb to a song and dance routine, the alternate and regional cinema that has still been holding the fort for good stories. Antaheen from the East, the National Award Winner of last year is one of those.

Rahul Bose plays Abhik, a dutiful IPS officer and a fitness freak who seeks an emotional escapade in cyberspace as he chats with journalist Brinda (Radhika Apte), both using pseudonyms. Following an arms haul, Brinda seeks an interview with Abhik who denies it while blaming the media on sensationalizing issues. The cyber lovers don’t hit off well in real life initially but go on to discover each other’s better side.

Cyber lovers and acrimonious real life selves are not new to filmdom. The Tom Hanks – Meg Ryan starrer ‘You’ve Got Mail’ immortalized more than a decade ago, when people actually preferred pseudonyms vis-à-vis today’s relatively realistic interactions over Facebook or Skype. While the trendsetter had a romantic ending, the lesser known film makers of ‘Antaheen’ preferred to turn this tragic, and stayed true to its title.

Complementing the protagonists, the tale of endless search is told through its peripheral characters too. Sharmila Tagore plays a single woman who lives in her own world and has brought up her orphaned nephew Abhik. Kalyan Ray, Abhik’s wise and middle aged cousin and Aparna Sen play an estranged couple who still manage to keep their love alive. Meeta Vasisht plays the scorned wife of the rich antagonist Mehra.

One couldn’t have asked more from its cast chosen well and have played it to perfection. Be it the brainy and honest cop, a feisty but sweet Journo, a lone caretaker aunt, the sophisticated builder with a hint of an evil streak, the estranged urban middle aged couple whose love seems to grow when apart or the wife who hasn’t forgiven her husband for the accidental death of her daughter years ago!

A possible irritant though are rampant product placements. There is nothing subtle about advertisers yelling from the rooftops selling include a cellular network, wireless broadband, internet trading, portfolio management service, a soft drink and a shampoo! Can’t help but pity the small budgets that force filmmakers into such compromises.

Editing takes the centerpiece here. You can hardly find a scene that can be argued out of its place. The use of voice-over is clean and simply pulled out of conversations than spoken thoughts. Sound could have definitely been improved with sync-sound adding a realistic touch. Camera work though is keeps the locales mundane and has repeated shots of indoors and cityscapes. Blame it all on smaller budgets arty flicks.
To top it all, the climax has the desired effect of a sense of void; most recent parallel seen in ‘Bridge to Terabithia’. If you are in a mood for appreciating a well made movie, with some lovely songs, check this one out. With subtitled versions easily available, appreciating regional cinema just became easier! So, go ahead and pick up the DVD!

Rating 8/10: Poignant storytelling, apt casting, acting and great editing!
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