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Dostojee Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : / 5

Dostojee Movie Review : A portrait of loss painted with powerful vignettes

Prasun Chatterjee’s Dostojee is set in the early nineties — against the backdrop of the Babri Mosque demolition. However, some of the parlances could very well have been lifted from a recent news panel debate. This could mean many things — maybe Chatterjee wanted to highlight how little progress we’ve made over the previous two decades. Or maybe he just wanted to make a slice-of-life film set in a tumultuous period. Or perhaps the subject is close to the director’s heart and something that affected his own boyhood.
It’s an intimate film no doubt — a narrativised but earnest documentation that breaks down how religious polarisation festers even with little ground. The commentary can appear to be too on the nose at times but it’s in touch with a simple, urgent reality. What Dostojee lacks in nuance, it makes up for with its world-building. The often imbibes the monochrome palettes of some familiar masters (particularly Buddhadeb Dasgupta) but it owns its visual language.
The film unfolds in a remote village in West Bengal, close to the India-Bangladesh border where eight-year-olds Palash and Safikul are neighbours and childhood friends. While Palash’s father is the Hindu village priest, Safi’s father is a Muslim weaver. Soon after the demolition of the mosque, the seething tensions between Muslims and Hindus threaten to disrupt the friendship between the two boys. The portrait of their friendship is at its most sparkling amidst nature, away from the classroom or concrete walls filled with religious flyers or even from their homes, which have a makeshift wall between them. It could be a clever attempt on the director’s part to depict how unnatural this divide really is.
The film relies quite heavily on natural lighting. In some sequences, cinematographer Tuhin Biswas uses colour temperatures to amp up the starkness of the rural scenery which makes for striking visuals. There’s no sense of crescendo as such and the film handles tragedy like you’d expect it to. The last 40 minutes, however, are brilliant and filled with pathos. Dostojee doesn’t buy too much into the arthouse genre which helps it find its dramatic voice.
Child actors Asik and Arif are excellent, and Jayati Chakrabarty shines in a couple of pivotal scenes. The scene where she breaks down over a photograph of her son, which was taken unbeknownst to her, is shot to perfection. Dostojee reportedly took eight years to see the light of day as a theatrical release which is just as well considering the OTT success that no doubt awaits it. As social dramas go, the film is a balancing act — though it lacks good screenwriting, it ticks several other boxes.
— Ujjainee Roy

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