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CHOKHER BALI - A PASSION PLAY: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
After the death of her husband, Binodini (Aishwarya Rai), a young, intelligent Bengali woman, is forbidden to marry again. Nonetheless, she finds herself attracted to a pair of aspiring doctors who have themselves been close friends from childhood: the sensual Mahendra (Prosenjit Chatterjee) and the more scholarly and politically commited Behani (Tota Raychaudhuri). Living as a companion to Mahendra's mother Rajlaksjmi (Lily Chakrabati) Binodini forms a friendship with Mahendra's new wife Asha (Raimi Sen) which further complicates her relations between the two men.

Review by Jake Wilson:
Far from Bollywood, the "quality" side of the Indian film industry is represented by this slow yet interesting period melodrama, based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore. I've no idea about the length or style of the source material, but the theme is one that recurs time and again in the history of the Western novel: the adventures of a privileged and intelligent young woman in search of both love and self-discovery.

Not surprisingly, the dilemmas faced by Binodini (played by the remarkably beautiful Aishwayra Rai) are posed largely in terms of her choice between men - though her friendship with the naive Ashalata, whom she both loves and betrays, is also crucial. Beneath the personal drama are hints of political allegory, with the heroine's quest for some undefined form of independence set against the impending partition of Bengal.

This is a lot of baggage for the film to carry, and the strain sometimes shows: the four main characters take so long to make up their minds about each other that the decisive twists feel slightly anticlimatic. Their relationships are dramatised in a long series of dialogue scenes that typically take place in shadowy rooms and switch between the high-flown and the crude in sometimes disconcerting ways (the main comic relief character is Rajlakshmi, an old woman who has attacks of guilt about drinking tea and at one point offers to vomit it all back up).

On the whole this is a good, but not great, film - the use of music is fairly conventional, as are the occasional camera flourishes. But it did make me keen to read Tagore's original, where I suspect the emotional complexities of the central situation might be presented with more clarity and depth.

Published October 6, 2005

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CRITICAL COUNT
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Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

CHOKHER BALI - A PASSION PLAY: DVD (PG)
(India, 2003)

CAST: Aishwarya Rai, Prasenjit Chatterjee, Raima Sen, Lily Chakravarty, Tota Roy Chowdhury

PRODUCER: Shrikant Moht, Mahendra Soni

DIRECTOR: Rituparno Ghosh

SCRIPT: Rituparno Ghosh (novel by Rabindranath Tagore)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Aveek Mukhopadhyay

EDITOR: Arghakamal Mitra

MUSIC: Debajyoti Mishra

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Indranil Ghosh

RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: MG Distribution

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 16, 2005

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Two language tracks; 5.1 audio

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

DVD RELEASE: September 21, 2005







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