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Thursday, June 18, 2009

THE VOYEURS

By D.E.Levine

A MOMA selection of the New India film movement. Check www.moma.org for schedule.

Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Producer: Anurradha Prasad
Executive Producer: Sanjeev Shankar Prasad
Screenplay: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Music: Biswadeb Dasgupta
Cast: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Sameera Reddy, Amitav Bhattacharya
Country of Origin: India
Language: Bengali with English subtitles
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Tragedy
Running Time: 107 Minutes

An unusual film, "The Voyeurs" goes from comedy to irony to tragedy so seamlessly that the viewer doesn't realize it's happening until it's done.

It's both comedic and sad when the opening scenes show a crowded Kolkata hospital where an influx of rats bite the patients at night.

Pressured by the resulting media scandal, the hospital hires computer techie Dilip to install a security system with six cameras. Thus introduced to Dilip's work, we see his workspace and equipment in his modest apartment.

After Yasin, a friend from his home village of Baharampur arrives and becomes his roommate and co-worker, both men fall romantically for Dilip's new neighbor Rekha, a pretty dancer with theater experience trying to break into the movie business as an actress.

Dilip, a very shy young man, becomes a voyeur by planting a spycam in Rekha's apartment an d connecting it to his computer monitor next door. Watching her and falling increasingly in love, but too shy to speak to her about his feelings, Dilip is a voyeur up to a point, careful to turn the computer off when Rekha starts to undress.

We see first hand the good and evil of our society in this film, as many people become voyeurs. While the hospital does a good thing by installing the system to watch negligent staff and track the rat population, the police exemplify the evil side by laughing and making crude jokes as they watch a young couple kissing in a public station.

Dilip, a fundamentally decent and good young man who is too shy to make romantic advances, dreamily worships the film goddess Madhubala until he meets and falls for the real, live Rekha.

Inexperienced in the romance department, Dilip becomes a voyeur because of his emotional feelings for Rekha. Although he has the best of intentions, Dilip winds up doing something evil.

While this film isn't a musical in the Bollywood sense, there are songs cleverly inserted so that the film comments on the effect that movie musicals have on ordinary people.

There's also some really funny comedy as Rekha auditions for a very short director, who makes up for his stature with authentic, if humorous, fighting ability.

But her audition experiences, plus crude remarks in the street, sour Rekha on life in the big city and we hear her complain over the phone to her mother about it.

When Rekha discovers the hidden spycam in her room she is devastated and frightened, and it's at this point that the film takes a dramatic turn.

Following a visit by the police, who trace the wires back to Dilip's room, the police confiscate his equipment and lay a trap to arrest him and Yasin.

Warned by the food delivery boy, Dilip and Yasin run away without a carefully thought out plan. On the run, they suffer mistaken identity and are linked to Islamic terrorism.

Because of their likability and innocence, the audience is cheering Dilip and Yasin on so it is doubly shocking when they experience police brutality that results in the death of an innocent man.

The unexpected and ironic twists in the plot and the convincing portrayals by the small but excellent cast who represent a microcosm within the teaming masses of Kolkata make this film disturbing and unforgettable.

Director/writer Dasgupta manages to make significant political statements interwoven into the fabric of an entertaining film. Dasgupta's ability to shift from lighthearted reflection and romantic comedy to a serious statement about life and society leaves the audience profoundly shaken with a memory of a story not easily forgotten.