Film: Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore
Principal cast: Abir Chatterjee, Arpita Chatterjee, Tnusree Chakraborty, Rudranil Ghosh, Aritra Dutta Banik, Pushan Dasgupta
Director: Srimanta Sengupta
Running time: 2 hrs 20 mins
Where to watch: In theatres
If you had a time machine, what would you do? Some of you might want to travel to ancient Rome or Mesopotamia, but I would want to relive the best moments of my life i.e. my school days. Those days were filled with unadulterated fun, spontaneity and warmth.
I remember the photograph we had taken on the very last day of our high school. We were all emotional and gathered in front of the school building. During the almost two-year Covid-19 lockdown, like many of you, I also tapped into the old photographs, slam books to remember the good old days. These are cherished keepsakes where precious friends and memories dwell.
Dust has gathered on them and at times, when we flip through them, we realize how far we have reached. But we also realize how much has changed and how much we have changed from those sepia-tinted days and hand-written dairies.
And that is when you start to miss the fun you had with your school friends. As I watched Srimanta Sengupta’s debut Bengali film Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore, I recalled how we secretly watched ‘porn’ at our friend’s place when her parents were not at home, the bonding while sharing the lunch box, the first ‘drinking session’ or the fights during the excursions.
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Nostalgia is a powerful feeling and director-writer Srimanta has cleverly used this trick to weave a reunion tale. So, meet school friends — Bonnie (Arpita), Arun (Abir), Dutta (Rudranil), Nila (Tnusree) and Jayanta (Mir in a guest appearance). Steeped in nostalgia all through, Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore will make anyone revisit those school days and everything that friendship identifies with. Though the nostalgia works, however, it does become tedious when stretched to 160 minutes. Some sharper editing was needed here.
On paper, the story is simple. A frustrated yet successful Arun plans a reunion with his school friends. He lives in Bengaluru alone. Once married to childhood sweetheart Bonnie, they are separated. Dutta is the ‘glue’ in the group. He is that one friend who posts anything and everything on Facebook. But will social media help in finding their missing friend Jayanta? Yes, there’s a ‘3 Idiots’ punch in the story too.
Nila, once a rebel, who drank like a champion, is a housewife today. Her life is restricted to taking her two daughters to school, making rotis and operating the vacuum cleaner. A Delhiite, she doesn’t even have a bank account and neither has time to check WhatsApp.
If you grew up in the 90s, this film will fill your heart with joy. You would see the favourite cassette covers, WWF Trump cards and Kodak Portra 400 color negative film. You can witness to what extent friends can go to make you happy.
What strikes the most about Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore is the ‘near perfect casting’. Given the title, all the actors have a younger self and the director has deftly selected a young bunch of actors – Arya Dasgupta, Aritra Dutta Banik, Dibyasha Das, Pushan Dasgupta, Tanika Basu and Rajarshi Nag. Kudos to both Srimanta and cinematographer Pratip Mukherjee, the scenes with both versions of the characters gel seamlessly with the narrative and songs.
But then, a few questions remain unanswered. Bonnie and Arun were fast friends, who knew of their differences in status since childhood. So, the reason for their separation is unconvincing. Also, the friends meet at Takdah in the second half and we keep hearing how this reunion was a much-needed one. The conversation is oft-repeated. It’s about a reunion of school friends who are trapped in the boredom of their adult life. Which is why we expected more revelations from them, especially with the entry of Jayanta, around whom a sense of suspense builds up. Also, the cinematographer could have explored the beautiful locations of Takdah instead of placing the characters near a bonfire.
The cast largely does well, with Tnusree taking the trophy with her subtle performance. Apart from a few ‘theatrical’ scenes, Rudranil comes up with a performance that will be talked about. We all would yearn for a friend like Dutta. Abir as Arun is believable and Arpita comes up with a balanced act. However, it is the younger lot which impresses the most. We laugh with them in a non-filmi way.
Ranajoy Bhattacharjee is the soul of Abar Bochhor Kuri Pore. His melodious compositions like ‘Ador’, ‘Alor Shohor’ and ‘Bondhu’ stitch the scenes together in a way that will make you plan a reunion with your friends the moment you leave the theatre. At least, the sepia-tinted flashbacks made me call mine.