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Jhora Palok

Jhora Palok Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : 2.5 / 5

Jhora Palok Movie Review : An attempt to explore a poet’s mind

The essence of nature is in its fertility and abundance, which is why poet Jibananda Das would take pleasure in equating its glory and beauty to the lushness that a woman represents, often creating confusion among his critics. A considerable part of his life was spent between Kolkata and Barishal – the praise he heaped on Bengal’s incredible abundance is what is often reflected in his works, simultaneously feeling stifled in the closed city that would impede on his creative juices.
Perhaps director Sayantan Banerjee aimed to take this theme and create a film that would highlight elements from the poet’s life – as a young man (portrayed by Rahul Banerjee) to the middle-aged man who feels lost in the prison the city offers. Using different shades of sepia and noir, he paints different scenes from the poet’s life in flashback, as in the present, a famous actor tries to unearth his life’s story.
Suranjana, played by Jaya Ahsan, appears briefly, a reference to Das’s Akashlina (Suranjana, do not go there, Do not talk to that young man), but the very brief appearance fails to establish a strong base to create a story and establish different timelines. Since different shades of sepia are used to indicate different stages of his life, it often confuses the narrative, since shades of sepia aren’t known to be too distinct to be differentiated too easily.
Different stages of Das’s life, his relationship with his wife Labanyaprabha, his perennial love for nature as well as his inability to create what is perhaps age-apropos, is continually showcased through various images as well as stories, where his genius is almost Van Gogh-like, discovered mostly after his demise, a painful realisation. Bratya Basu as an older Jibanananda Das is a dark presence, constantly in turmoil about his own failures, as a breadwinner as well as a good husband. He often comes close to losing control of his temper and mind – whispers in his head, loud arguments, mad laughter accompanies his character quite often. Rahul Banerjee as the young Das is quite artfully natural. Jaya Ahsan moves between the ages effortlessly, her grace making up for the many of the flaws in the screenplay that keeps on introducing characters without much reference.
The script and screenplay, however, leaves a lot to be desired. As mentioned earlier, Das’s life is seen in different stages of flashbacks, but the connecting dots seem to be missing. This pushes the narrative beyond the given and into the absurd, from time to time, which may be what the director intended. But it’s quite difficult to comprehend for the audience. Overlap of the real and the absurd, laced with critical comments from Das’s then peers – most notably a rather scathing Sajanikanta Das (Debshankar Halder), and a more mellow Buddhadeb Basu (Kaushik Sen). The lack of introduction of such characters that are really important for the plot is perhaps another issue that pushes this film more towards confusion than clarity. Das’s life, in retrospect, is scrutinized by Suranjana, also played by Ahsan, but its aim to tie the pieces together lacks that ultimate hold, without which, the narrative scatters and scrambles in the course of the movie, much like the scattered pieces of paper on the road. There are many unexplained images, as well as certain characters that were mostly unnecessary.
The music is often overshadowed by whispered verses of Das’s poetry, which attempts to create a tie between the real and the awkward. Dialogues should have been better synced with the narrative to explain more to the audience, making this a far more impactful watch. As the name suggests, Jhora Palok aims to put more focus on one of Bengal’s greatest poets in the last century, and it does focus on Das’s life with a narrative that tries to establish him as a failed genius recognized only after his death. History does contradict slightly, but it is undeniable that Jibanananda Das was not appreciated as much as he could have been during his lifetime, and a homage to his work and an attempt to create a narrative around him is appreciated.

Poorna Banerjee

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