It is rare to discover Indian films tackling platonic relationships between men and women. Bas Ek Pal tried it but with disastrous results. Thus, Anuranan comes like a whiff of fresh air within the relationship genre of films.
Nandita (Rituparna Sengupta) and Rahul (Rahul Bose) meet Amit (Rajat Kapoor) in London and the friendship travels to Kolkata when Rahul is transferred to the city. Amit's wife Preeti (Raima Sen) strikes a bond with Nandita. But she also finds common interests with Rahul and they become friends without transcending the borders of physicality. The question is – are the two couples happy? Is happiness a surface quality? While Nandita suffers from bouts of depression for her failure to bear a child, Preeti is a victim of an emotionally abusive and sexless marriage to a man whose world revolves around the rise and fall of the Sensex. Rahul and Amit, in their separate ways, get involved in building a holiday resort in Sikkim, overlooking the Kanchenjungha. What happens then makes for the riveting climax of the film.
Aniruddha Roy Choudhury, who honed his cinematic skills with advertising films, steps into feature films with Anuranan, based on his story and script. What constitutes a man-woman relationship beyond the regimentation that marriage entails, or beyond blood ties? Must it always be tinged with repressed or expressed sex? The argument placed by the narrative suggests a platonic friendship between Preeti and Rahul as they both love books and hate dancing and partying. The insightful Nandita discovers that Preeti's married life is tinged with sadness but does not probe into it. Then, one fine day, when Rahul has to go to Sikkim when Amit flies to London, Preeti impulsively lands up in Sikkim sharing with him in silent symphony, the beauty of the Kanchenjungha against the backdrop of the full moon.
The film moves at a languid, slow and steady pace, fluidly changing tracks from London to Kolkata to Sikkim and back. There is no hurry to reach anywhere, yet it does not drift to boredom. It is as much a character-centric film as it is a location-centric one. It partially captures the spirit of homesick Indians in London and the spiritual beauty of Sikkim but fails to touch the spirit and the essence of Kolkata with its mush and dust and dirty smells and barking dogs, things that made NRI Rahul nostalgic about the city he knows little about.
What really holds the film together are the subtle nuances of facial expression and body language of the four main actors who add flesh and blood to an otherwise sketchy script – few characters, nothing much happening by way of action, somewhat philosophical and way-out monologues by Rahul into his dictaphone, dotted with glimpses into Nandita's flashbacks both happy and sad. The tiny clips of Nandita's nightmares stand out for the cinematography and the brisk editing. Rahul Bose shines as the NRI with a penchant for speaking out his thoughts into a dictaphone instead of writing them in a diary. Rajat Kapoor as the billionaire investor is elegance personified while Rituparna shows once again that she can do justice to a role that is challenging. But the cake goes to Raima Sen who as Preeti, is an epitome of control, subtlety and grace, handling every situation, including her husband's lack of interest in her, with restraint. The brief cameos – Mithu Chakrabarty as Nandita's elder sister, Haradhan Banerjee as her father, complement the acting. The characters of Victoria and Preeti's unfeeling up market mother (Dolly Basu) stand out like ugly moles on a lovely face. It is not that their acting is flawed. The characters just do not belong and look like impositions the film could have well done without.
The other pillar of support is Sunil Patel's brilliant cinematography that captures the lush greenery of the English countryside and the dark lanes of London as fluidly as it does the mountainscape of Sikkim, turning them into distinct characters with roles to play within the script. The sound design and music are detailed, with Nandita breaking into a song amidst the greenery of England, or the sounds of ajaan from a nearby mosque filtering into Rahul and Nandita's spacious apartment in a posh neighbourhood of Kolkata, to the precise use of the single Tagore song in the background, investing depth into a film which could have collapsed with the slightest slip into melodrama or exaggeration. There is this scene where Nandita smells Rahul's sweater when Victoria brings his suitcase home that you carry with you outside the theatre.
The main drawback lies in Rahul's uneven characterization within the script that is flawed mainly because it lacks consistency. He is born, bred and educated in England and his encounter with Kolkata has not been much. How then does he feel so nostalgic about the city and recall places that should have been distanced from his elite experience? How does he recite such beautiful Bengali poetry so fluently and so often? In Sikkim, his Hindi is fluent too. Yet, one gets to like him for all that he is, thanks to a wonderful interpretation by Rahul Bose who could perhaps work harder on his Bengali diction.
These little flaws notwithstanding, Anuranan, which means resonance, lives up to its name.