3 February 2015 | sumankumarganguly-454-264875
The Film that Symbolized an Entire Decade
The decade of the 90's is considered the darkest phase of Bengali cinema where films were rolled off like assembly-line products, many of them emerged hits, but hardly any managed to leave an imprint on the public memory. But there were 2 films which passed this acid-test and have forever since been considered the emblem of how childish Bengali films had become in that decade. One was 'Beder Meye Josna' (1991), the pioneer of this genre; the other being the eponymous 'Baba Keno Chakar'.
BMJ was the film which had sparked off this craze for Bangladeshi remakes in this part of Bengal. Not only did it lead to a barrage of quicky copy-pastes, but it also resulted in many hero, heroines, directors, composers, scriptwriters, etc flocking to this part of the border. But no one made it as big as the 'maestro' Swapan Saha. The man entered his name in the record-books of Tollywood history by churning out half-a-dozen films a year, most of them Bangladeshi copy-pastes made at measly shoe-string budgets of 10-15 lakh, but generating exponential returns to the producers.
In the old times Bengali films catered to a wide-range of public; and hence needed to be accentuated with strong performances and direction. But these Bangladeshi remakes catered strictly to the lowest common denominators, who hitherto were loyal followers of the rustic-theaters known as 'Jatra-pala's. As a result, even though the upper & middle class public fast drifted away from such stuff, the lower class lapped it up with both hands; leaving the Jatra-industry gasping for breath.
'Baba Keno Chakor' is a classic example of the Bangladeshi stranglehold in Tollywood back then. The film is a frame-to-frame remake of a BD film of the same name, featuring the same man Razzak in the lead-role and having the same music director with most of the songs being exact replicas as well! The very name is a clear throwaway of the film's 'Jatra'-istic content and its target audience. And the over-the-top performances, shoddy camera-work and action, and laughable choreography and make-ups ensure that the paying-public isn't disappointed. Most other directors of the 90's were caught in the dilemma of whether to appease the classes or the masses; but Saha always knew his forte. With an unapologetic aim on the Jatra-public and aided by his superhuman work-management skills, where he simultaneously shot for multiple films round-the-clock (perhaps copy-pasting made the job slightly easier!), the man emerged a veritable money-spinning machine. And BKC remains his biggest-ever success saga, becoming the biggest blockbuster of the decade. Legend has it that the paying public would wipe-off their tears with the tickets they had purchased!
Yet credit must also be given to lead-man Razzak who was also the scriptwriter and director of the original BD version. It's not easy for an unknown (in Tollywood) old man to sideline stars like Prosenjit, Rituparna and Abhishek and still be able to pull the masses. Perhaps the success of the National Award winning 'Lathi' (1996) made on a similar subject, enthused the crowds; but fact is the script of this one is simply a no-match.
Yet it's Razzak who delivers the most convincing performance in the cast. In the one particular scene where he gets termed his son's servant, the change of his facial expression from pleading to dejection strikes a strong chord. Pijush Ganguly, a rarity in such films, puts in the only other admirable performance.
Saha never bothered about aesthetics and that showed. The chemistry between Prosenjit & Rituparna was easily the best thing of the 90's; but the director as always fails to extract much from them. Abhishek is wasted (wonder why he opted for so many side-roles like this), while Subhasish with an awful moustache as 'Chintahoron Kachukheti' is a total disaster. The music is surprisingly OK.
The film has achieved cult-status, mostly for its title rather than box-office prowess. The elite classes associate it with a smirk of if-this-is-your-best-then-what-about-the-rest kind. And so it shall remain, a symbol of the nadir which Tollywood had reached in the 90's.