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Upperstall Review


Neel Akasher Chandni


Bengali, Drama, 2009, Color

Cast And Crew

Akash (Jeet) and Neel (Jishu Sengupta) are childhood friends. Neel's father, industrialist Anirruddha Choudhury, loves Akash as he does his own son as he had promises Akash's dying father he would look after Akash. When they grow up, Neel returns from the US with a MBA under his arm. Akash dreams of becoming a famous singer one day. On the day Neel flew back from the US, he chanced upon the beautiful Chandni (Koel Mullick) and for him, it was love at first sight. His dreams begin to revolve around Chandni. Chandni's father, Dipankar Mukherjee, and Neel's father are friends and the two agree to get unite their children in marriage. But Chandni does not agree because she has decided to marry none else but Akash. When he comes to know about this, Neel backs away creating a fictious girlfriend so that Akash and Chandni could get married. However, on the day of the engagement Akash is killed in an accident. Chandni goes into shock but is later forced by her parents to marry Neel, triggered by a heart attack her father suddenly suffers from. She marries him on the condition that they will not live like man and wife. When Neel’s mother suspects that everything is not alright between her son and daughter-in-law, she packs the newly married pair off to Siliguri where the tea estate the family owns is facing labour trouble. It becomes a work-cum-honeymoon for the pair but Chandni remains as rigid as she was back in Kolkata. One day, she spots an guitar-strumming lookalike of Akash and pushes Neel to go look for him. But it turns out, the lookalike is Anthony Gomes and not Akash though both have a common love – music. With time however, Neel learns that it is Akash indeed who is substituting for his dead friend Antony Gomes who was the real victim of the accident because when he came to deliver the news of her son’s death to Antony’s mother, he discovered that she was blind and was afraid to tell her the truth. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history….

Once upon a time, there lived a handsome, young and dashing film producer in Kolkata. He wished to produce a new film. So he went scouting around for a story. Not able to locate a saleable story that would pull in the mass audience, he struck upon the bright idea of writing it himself. But then, he was not half as dashing a story writer as he was a producer. So, he took himself to the nearest music store and walked out with an armful of DVDs ad CDs of old and new Hindi films, both hits and misses, picked almost at random. For the next few weeks, he parked himself in front of his DVD player and went on watching one old film after another. But they were getting all rather mixed up in his head so he called in the rest of the family and asked them to put their heads together to help him create the story. He promised them that he would put the name of each and every family member in the film’s credits. The extended family comprised of a handsome number of men and women were only too happy to oblige. Lo and Behold! Their names came up the credits, as the producer had promised.

The final script was a collage of some parts of several films with a couple of scenes lifted from other films like Deewaar (1975), Dostana (1980), Deewana (1992) and what-have-you. When he began to hunt for an appropriate title for his film, he decided on a simple and predictable name – the names of the three main characters in the script – Neel, Akash and Chandni. Thus was born a gem of a film in Bengali called Neel Akasher Chandni. The final product, that is, the film that one gets to see in the theatre between munching noisy popcorn or potato chips is like a self-created and self-imposed quiz contest that constantly keeps charging your memory to find out – “now which film has this part/scene been lifted from?” Believe me, it is that entertaining!

Neel Akasher Chandni’s story is inspired by different parts of four different films. The first segment is from the earlier part of Yash Chopra’s big hit Chandni (1989). The film opens on a lush green park with lovers in different degrees of locked intimacy with a voice-over going on and on about love and its varied manifestations in all stages of life. The camera than zeroes in on Akash and Chandni, where Akash, with a positive audition result from AR Rahman under his arm, is busy dancing and singing with his lady-love in parks across Kolkata instead of rehearsing his music. After some very repetitive song-and-dance routine, with Jeet Ganguly’s brilliant music tracks complimented by the golden voices of Shaan, Ambrish and Mahalakshmi and very good fusion lyrics by Gautam Susmit and Priyo Chattopadhyay, one sits back to watch the second segment that is a straight ‘inspiration’ from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s blockbuster Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). If there was any confusion, the suitcase-zipper-getting-stuck scene from the ‘source’ film was the clincher.

Part three is generously borrowed from Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai (2000) and with a slight twist from Mohabbat (1997), where the look-alike is actually the original pretending to be someone else because he finds that his former girl-friend is now wedded to his best friend. The last twist where Anthony Gomes turns out to be the real Akash is different. The father having hacked a plan to do off with the boy he did not approve of for a son-in-law but the former lover dying in an attempt to keep the married couple united is from Imtihaan (1995) in which Sunny Deol who is Raveena Tandon’s first husband, dies to keep Saif Ali Khan and Raveena in wedded bliss. Amitabh Bahchcan’s temple scene in Deewaar where he has an angry monologue with God is copied frame-by-frame in this film with Jeet replacing Amitabh. So much for our young producer’s creative imagination.

In the acting department, the two sets of parents along with Akash’s widowed mother alternate between sugar syrup and bitter pills and are of no consequence because the three main actors try to give of their best to characters that throw up a hotchpotch of emotional elements. All the three characters are pretty boring in the first half but come off very well in the second half. Jishu as the controlled, mature husband is very good indeed. Koel, whose emotional maturity post-marriage is seen post-interval, portrays her warming up towards her understanding husband nicely. She deserves kudos for the excellent taste in colour and design in her costumes and make-up and has learnt to control shaking her hands all the time. But her dialogue delivery in the first half is very shrill and loud. Jeet as Akash is not half as good as Jeet as Anthony Gomes. One fails to understand however, how a blind mother can be tricked so easily by someone who pretends to be her son. Blind people, we have learnt, have other senses acutely sensitized to their antennae. For once, we are rooted in Kolkata and Siliguri and are not taken away to the Malaysian capital that is presented as London.

The most outstanding quality of the film lies in its music. The partly raga-based number, Kee Bhalo Laage Priya has two versions, one sung solo by Ambrish and the second where Mahalakshmi lends her voice to Ambrish’s trained voice. The remaining numbers have Shaan lending his versatility and his emotions to every single number from Saiyan Bhalobasha Swapno (with Mahalakshmi) through Raat Jaaye, a fast number with excellent rhythmic beats and Chandni Ei Mon. The Hindi refrain Saiyan in Saiyan Bhalobasha Swapno lends a broader cultural edge to the lyrics and the long-drawn-out melody. The best in the entire bouquet is Boro Asha Korey which uses a Tagore punch within a song that otherwise speaks of nature in all it splendour, sprinkled with moon, moonlight, sky, storm, birds and human emotions like loneliness, happiness and so on, written beautifully by Priyo Chattopadhyay.

Neel Akasher Chandni has very good production values and is a polished and well-mounted film. But the motivation from too many Hindi films makes the storyline redundant and that, in the final analysis, is its biggest failure.

Upperstall review by: Shoma A Chatterji

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