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Upperstall Review


A Political Murder


Bengali, Drama, Thriller, 2013, Color

Professor Indrani Mukherjee (Rituparna Sengupta) an upright, bold and hard-working professor in a Kolkata college, suddenly finds herself trapped in a vortex of death-threats when she is assigned by the State Education Minister (Shankar Chakraborty) to investigate into funds released for schools in West Bengal not reaching the said schools at all. It is a Rs1000-crore scam and she earnestly sets about solving the riddles. When she places her results in front of the education committee, there are direct and indirect threats to her life and the threatened rape of her sister-in-law Aditi (Priyanka) that ends in her getting shot during an election victory rumpus in the college campus. The parallel storyline is about a student leader Indu (Rahul) who is slapped by Indrani and his huge followers force her to apologise to him in public. Her colleagues also appeal to her humane instincts when the principal and the teaching staff are held captive in the principal's office by the followers of Indu. Aditi falls crazily in love with Indu who tries to dissuade her because his life is uncertain but surrenders in the end. What happens in the end makes for an exciting climax.

The thriller creates in the protagonist and the audience, a strong sense of being carried away, of surrendering oneself. The thriller arouses in us the derived pleasure of watching characters suffer, get trapped into conflict and their failure to come out of it. If and when they do come out, they leave behind a trail of gory deaths and murder. At the same time, the audience tends to participate in the suffering the characters go through when they begin to identify with their pain. The thriller puts both protagonist and audience through the wringer. A Political Murder does not arouse nail-biting suspense but is still able to hold the audience in thrall.

Indrani is married to Bubai (Koushik Sen), a government servant and lives with his parents (Kalyani Mandal and Biplab Chatterjee) and sister-in-law Aditi. The sole support she has in her family is from her father-in-law, who is a retired professor and backs her in every endeavour. Bubai is timid and feels every step his wife or sister takes is a threat to his secure job. Somehow, he hates the guts of his wife. As problems escalate in Indrani's life, the story blends into the love story of Aditi and Indu slowing down the tension and the excitement. The potshots taken at the extremely timid South Indian Principal (Biswajeet Chakraborty) and the effeminate professor (Sujan Mukherjee) are fleshed out well but bring out the kind of cheap and crude humour a film like this could have done without.

A protest demonstration against the Delhi gang rape is the flash point, but the real confrontation is between political organizations scrambling to dominate the student union. When the event spirals out of control, teachers come forward to broker peace, but when Indrani Mukherjee slaps Indu during a war of words she puts the potentially explosive situation on fire. Things go berserk, an orgy of violence breaks out in the campus, teachers are locked in a gherao, and despite her unwillingnes,s Indrani is forced to apologize to Rahul.

A Political Murder is an effective enough film that explores the possible scams that take place within government-backed boards under the table, slyly not necessarily with the support of the minister in charge. But the two parallel narratives - Indrani, who is unfolding the story, and Indu, who is being interrogated and tortured by a CID officer on board a big boat, begin to confuse after a point. There are two voice-overs in the film where one would have done the job. Indu's credentials as a student political leader are not logical because we almost always see him reclining on his bed in his attic in Howrah facing the river reading books on Communism. He is captured because Aditi is missing and he is suspected of the crime.

There is a visceral, sensational dimension that sometimes comes out with the sharpness of a killing knife diluted a bit by the song sequences and the very slow place of the pre-interval segment. The characterisations are fleshed out well except the negative slant to Indrani's husband which was not necessary. Biplab Chatterjee is very good as the father-in-law supported by an able casting of Subhashish Mukherjee as a good-hearted professor, Priyanka as Aditi could have gone a bit low on the make-up bit. Rituparna is given a completely different look and matches this with her controlled body language, dialogue-delivery, dress sense and demeanour. Her performance is outstanding in its multi-layered manifestation spanning fear, terror, determination, focus, confidence and everything that goes along with these. Sudipta Mukherjee comes across with a subtle performance as Indrani's colleague. Anindo Banerjee's CID officer, Rahul is good but is becoming too predictable with every film.

Some memorable moments are (a) at the board meeting, members are more interested in the snacks generously dotting the table, (b) Indrani being molested by someone in the gents toilet though what she was doing there is a big question, (c) Indrani's mother-in-law rebuking Indrani for using her husband's first name at night(!), and (d) the closing top shot of Indu's body being wheeled on a stretcher as his voice-over laments his death at 25 in a deadpan voice minus pitch or mood. Cutting down on the romantic scenes between Indu and Aditi might be a good idea if the producer wishes to scout international festivals for the film.

Bappi Lahiri's music is soft, soothing and adds a level of comfort to the sensational intrigue. However, the last song where Indu and Aditi are rushing to save Indrani is absolutely superfluous. Agnidev's cinematography is mood-centric and as director, he has picked his locations well panning different pockets of the city. Santanu Mukherjee's editing needed to be a lot tighter than it is because despite its political undercurrent, the film is basically a suspense thriller. The riddle in the end that Indu solves to find out the whereabouts of Aditi is too complex. The end is a bit too jet-paced to follow which contrasts with the grindingly slow pace in the beginning.

The boundaries of a thriller are amorphous and ambivalent. This a difficult subject to tackle when there is no detective, no police force - in that sense, to solve riddles and murders and sudden 'accidents' and the solution of the riddles. The murders unfold themselves within the narrative and cinematographic space of the film. A Political Murder is a political thriller with two parallel storylines that meet everywhere to add that air of romance a thriller does not necessarily demand. The suspense thriller, if conceived of, designed and executed well, invests the final product, the film, with a certain stature and dignity within cinema. A Political Murder more or less reaches that target. What it does not achieve, could be ascribed to the slow pace, the double voice-over and the overdone romance bit.

Upperstall review by: Shoma A Chatterji

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