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Upperstall Review





Bengali, Drama, 2011, Color

Icche is the story of a mother's love for her only son that evolves into a pathological obsession that transcends the border of a normal mother-son relationship into something dangerous and life-threatening for both in a metaphorical and also, in a very real way. The simple and good-natured father's sincere attempts to counsel his wife against the pressure she tries to place on their son fail. The boy is brilliant but the mother is never satisfied. The boy Soumik, slowly discovers that her mother's constant interference in his emotional life, his relationship with girls is spoiling his life completely. How does Soumik react to his mother's attempts to destroy his relationship with his second girlfriend? Do they bridge the chasm? Or does the final confrontation culminate into a more tragic situation?

Icche is based on a Suchitra Bhattacharya story called Iccher Gaach (The Tree of Desire). The theme of the mother-son relationship is universal. Even Hollywood films have tackled the issue of a son’s life being destroyed by the mother’s manic obsession for the son. The film opens with the credits flashing against visuals of Mamata (Sohini Sengupta) packing a tiffin box, polishing little shoes, and preparing for her little son Rana’s school. She gets into the mosquito net before the crack of dawn, disturbing her sleeping husband, to make Rana memorise lines from his text when he is still half-asleep. As he grows up, we find him deprived of friends, or, being beaten up when he takes part in football or cricket. All this happens though he is a brilliant student. Mamata’s simple husband persuades her to let him form his own likes and live by them but she refuses to listen.

The smooth gravitation of Rana (Samadarshi) growing up to be a loving son to an obsessed mother comes across beautifully till the son begins to express his dislike of her poking into his trouser pockets, rifling through his cupboard and in sum, refusing him a space of his own – physical, mental and emotional. It is brought across not only through fluid directorial touches but also through the extremely effective performances of the three major characters – the intolerant mother, the peace-loving father and the disturbed son.

Mamata’s case is the absolute reverse of what is known as Munschausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), a relatively uncommon condition in which the mother creates fictional illnesses in her child and convinces others that the child is really sick by lying and reporting fictitious episodes through exaggeration, fabrication and even inducing symptoms that could lead to the hospitalization of the child. Mamata is more of an essentially Bengali version of the ‘narcissistic mother’. Ichhe treats this relationship with delicate artistry that creates a tension and heightens the suspense of what will happen next. When Mamata realizes that her relationship with her son is falling apart, without acknowledging that it is her own doing, her darkest side comes out – volcanic rage, chronic lying and deception, psychological coercion, wounding criticism and public humiliation that fans out slowly over the entire film beginning with a party scene in a family situation. Her desire (Icche) begins with trying to realize her personal unfulfilled dreams vicariously through her son but over time, it zeroes in on evoking his complete submission to her wishes, desires, dreams which means denying himself a normal life filled with love, romance, his personal space and his own dreams.

Debjani (Ruplekha) is Rana’s first love. The girl, portraying a teenager, is very realistic with her hesitancy in getting caught, her shock when Mamata comes home to insult her mother, and her confusion when the same woman comes back to befriend the family. It is an incredible debut performance. Jayanati (Bidita Bag) who he falls in love with next is the polar opposite of Debjani – aggressive to the point of being loud, bold, straightforward and sincere. She is a bit too shrill to begin with but her performance mellows as her relationship with Rana gets deeper.

Bratya Basu as Rana’s father plays against his stereotypical screen image of the villain and is outstanding as ever. Sohini is marvelous as Mamata, sweet and cuddly this moment, absolutely indifferent to her husband and spouting venom and vengeance on the son the next moment. The moments she fakes her emotions are brought out very well. Her visit to her mother’s home as an expression of anger against her son carries suggestion of something more than maternal love. When Rana’s sudden visit to the village takes her by surprise, she hides behind the door with a coy smile on her face as he calls out to her from across the pond. Why should a mother behave like this? Psychiatrists might term this a borderline personality disorder calling for medical attention. But who listens? Glimpses into her slightly deranged mind are suggested through her sitting with a trunk filled with memorabilia of Rana’s childhood things – a cup he won, a certificate he was awarded, his clothes she smells again and again, wanting to freeze her grown-up son within his boyhood. “Those are lies, mother,” says Rana, “this is for real,” grasping her hands to touch his face, his cheeks, trying to drill some sense into her, in vain.

Samadarshi is very good as Rana but that single scene showing him in his underpants screams out the desperate need to tone up his body. Soumik Halder’s cinematography takes your breath away never mind if it is the staircase of the Chatterjee’s home, or the luxurious living room of Debjani’s spacious home, or, the shadowy figure of Rana as he comes to his mother’s maternal home unannounced, grasping the half-light of the evening across the pond, or, the brightness of the restaurant, and the earthy roads framed by trees where Rana meets Debjani, or the beautifully lit and composed kissing scenes between Rana and Jayati born more out of Rana’s anxiety and Jayati’s comfort than out of physical desire. The film could easily be a model lesson for aspiring cinematographers across the country.

The editing is smooth as it moves through time, space and within the mindsets of the mother and son. There is a delightful humorous touch in the coaching class where the teacher teaches them photosynthesis but finds a different kind of chemistry taking place in the class. But the music, never mind the lyrics or the rendering by lead singers of different Bangla Bands, the composition really do not jell with the story, its cinematic treatment and its presentation. Rupam Islam’s number presented visually sticks out like a sore thumb though this is no reflection on his rendering. The only song that is positioned beautifully, timed ideally and orchestrated smoothly is the last number sung by Anu Sheikh the female band lead singer from Bangladesh. Music either does not belong to a film of this kind or has not been placed properly. The other jarring note in the film is Rana’s friends visiting his home on his mother’s beckoning though they know that Rana does not know of the invitation. No friend will come without the friend knowing.

Icche is a bold and powerful film that needed to be made. But it is also very scary and should ring a warning bell in the minds of many such mothers in our country.

Upperstall review by: Shoma A Chatterji





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