Nod to Nostalgia
by Aritra Dey
TLR Rating: 8 Reels.
Growing up often seems more like a bane than a boon at times. The daily struggles, frustration and the fight to earn a living are just a few of the responsibilities one has to shoulder while aging in this wonderful world. The days when smoking secretly or passing love letters were the biggest challenges almost seem like a myth. Often one reminisces about the by-gone days and yearn to take a walk down the memory lane. Past is a powerful thing and the moments are cherished throughout life. Something similar happened to Anindya, lead singer of a popular Bengali band Chandrabindoo. Unlike others, he chose to create something which would be a testament not only to his childhood, but also for the others who had spent a considerable portion of their lives in the dusty lanes of North Calcutta and its suburbs. ‘Open Tee Bioscope’ is a nostalgia act, sweet and powerful, sending the audience into peals of laughter and tears of melancholia.
Friendship born in a locality isn’t subject to age; common mentality draws children together into an unbreakable bond which remains intact for ages. Anindya utilized this concept to the fullest while depicting the lives of recently hostel expelled Fowara and his gang of friends. They had met under quite strange circumstances at the roadside, during a prank setup, and their friendship had started on a wonderful note. Fowara, the protagonist of this story, had lost his father before he was even born. His mother, Baisakhi, had toiled to bring him up. Short-tempered, passionate and haunted by his father’s memories, Fowara’s childhood was far from normal. After getting expelled, he returned to his home in the narrow alley North Calcutta, where his life took an unexpected sweet turn. Anindya scripted his adolescence perfectly, showing his loyalty towards his friends, thirst to explore his new surroundings and cherish the sweet moments of love with his sweetheart. A gifted football player, a trait inherited from his father, who incidentally was the finest left-footed forward of his generation before his untimely death, Fowara had a deep pain maturing inside his young soul. Despite all the fun and adventures, including a hilarious trip to a brothel, Fowara wanted to challenge his father’s ghost, whom he considered an unknown devil. And he settled it in the true Bengali fashion, with an exciting football match against his locality’s club.
The characters Anindya used in ‘Open Tee Bioscope’ never felt scripted. Every locality in Calcutta and its suburbs houses them. You can find a football enthusiast like Gopeshwar, a concerned citizen like Irawati, a docile Herombo, a quick-witted older gentleman like Noton and even an egoistic political leader like Mahim who employed local goons like Pulish. You will find a couple of older men sitting in a tea-stall and gossiping about the current affairs of the city and an upper middle class family disgusted with the mentality of the place. ‘Open Tee Bioscope’ is a chronicle of North Calcutta, the sentimental part of the City of Joy. The film also explored the complex relationship between a working mother and her child. Misunderstanding his mother’s job led to a brief estrangement between them, and Baisakhi’s over-protective nature was understandable given that football had taken away the person she had loved the most. Fowara’s brief foray in happiness was short-lived though, as a political wickedness led to a bomb-blast during a sports meet, killing Charan, his closest friend. An ensuing argument between Mahim and the good section of the society was settled by a football match on Christmas, and with support from his ladylove Titir and his mother, there was no chance Fowara would lose. He departed soon after, carrying with him a bagful of memories and love for his hometown.
Adolescence was an integral part of the film and Anindya paid attention to detail. Be it the catcalling of ‘Bulldog’ or the hesitant flirtation of Fowara in front of Titir, the tiniest moments were captured immaculately. Kochua’s one-liners ensured a laugh riot and Charan’s hostility towards Fowara late on when he discovered that the two, Titir being the other, had been meeting together on the pretext of delivering his letters, and was quite understandable. Friendship, however was stronger, and Fowara was severely affected after Charan’s death. His life took a turn for the moribund and only Gopeshwar’s counselling encouraged him to play in the all important match. Anindya ended the film in a full circle. Fowara’s journey had started with a glimpse of Titir blowing soap bubbles happily and when the grown up man returned, he saw another girl, possibly his childhood crush engaged in the same gay activity.
It wouldn’t be right to comment on the technicality of the film, given that the experience was like reading a diary of memories. But Goopi Bhagat proved to be an astute cinematographer and captured the very essence of North Calcutta perfectly. From the rooftop moments of seclusion during the solar eclipse to the maze of electric and telephone wires, Calcutta was revisited perfectly through the images. The shot of a bahurupi in the guise of Kali squinting at the latest edition of Ganashakti through his glasses is one fine example of the detailing which Anindya and Goopi had gone into.
Anindya’s bandmate Upal Chatterjee was the man behind the wonderful score in ‘Open Tee Bioscope’. The melodies were just perfect and the variant lyrics connected the dots in the script. Anupam’s track, ‘Bondhu Chol’ is a testament to any age old friendship and is sufficient to transport one into the boulevard of memories.
‘Open Tee Bioscope’ is an open letter to nostalgia, taking the audience into the haven where they crave to visit. Stellar performances from the lead cast, Riddhi, Kaushik and Rajatavo were an added bonus in this wonderfully unique film. It is one film which will lift up your mood, no matter how depressed you are. And if you have spent a part of your life in one of those narrow alleys, the experience will engulf you with joy. That I promise.
The author is a software engineer at Infosys and a passionate film and football buff, with a special interest in deciphering the literature behind the movies.