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Comedy of horrors done right

Comedy of horrors done right Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : / 5

Comedy of horrors done right Movie Review

Anirban Bhattacharya’s directorial feature engages almost each of your senses and it’s almost impossible to look away from the screen — for the first hour at least. The visual artistry, the screenwriting, the score, the cinematography, and the humour (snappy enough to draw out not just collective laughter but also cheers from a weekday matinee audience), everything seems to be in sync. But it’s hardly a matter of chance. Ballabhpurer Roopkotha is cleverly planned — the slow-burning narrative holds its shape for the entire two-and-a-half-hour runtime and the film has enough substance for viewers who like their content faster and crisper.

Based on a Badal Sircar play of the same name the film follows the last descendant of an erstwhile Bengal dynasty — Bhupati Roy is buried under a mountain of debt and wants to sell off his ancestral home. The eccentric entrepreneur Halder is keen on acquiring the crumbling 400-year-old rajbari and is ready to offer a lump sum. However, Bhupati and his Man Friday Manohar must hide the fact that the house is plagued by an old spirit — that of Bhupati’s ancestor Raghu, who roams the halls of the rajbari every night. What ensues is a classic comedy of errors which unravels at its own pace but doesn’t lose its audience.

The opening title (Badal Sircar er Gaan, written by Anirban) itself is telling — it homages Sircar for his contribution to Bengali theatre (theaterer guru/Badal tomakei dorkar), sneakily alludes to the need for newer stories and formulas in Bengali cinema and how the stage and its stories have been overlooked for far too long. Ballabhpur… was written by Sircar as a play and Anirban’s adaptation remains faithful to certain key performative aspects. It comes easily with a cast full of thespians who may be entirely unfamiliar to movie-goers but are seasoned enough to deliver big moments that are theatrical and yet celluloid-friendly.
Shyamal Chakraborty’s Manohar and Satyam Bhattacharya’s Bhupati share an easy camaraderie that engages from the very start. Sandip Bhattacharya’s B P Halder relies on an old-school character design but delivers big on the humour front. The setting is quite key and so is the ambient score — both have been deftly designed to keep the mood of disquiet going, despite the many gags. Unless you have an exceptionally chaotic week ahead, don’t wait for Ballabhpurer… to land on OTT, the big-screen experience offers big spooks and helps the movie’s underdog message shine.

— Ujjainee Roy

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