The Dutta Duel

Experts proclaimed “This is the best work of Anjan”, websites heaped honours, viewers rejoiced, clamoured and amongst many others leaving the cinema hall, I too was dazed. Unabashed, prolific, poignant, pompous, self gratifying, intense. Anjan Dutta had done it! Dutta vs Dutta deserves applause!

The film portrays the life of a rich, proud, immoral lawyer who leads a reckless life. Set in the tempest era of 1970’s Bengal, the North Calcutta backdrop yet again reinforces the feeling that one is watching Anjan Dutta’s creation. Vanity ridden, the lawyer Dutta had an air of supremacy and preferred living in his imaginary world where he thought he could summon the Chief Minister of Bengal through a phone call and a poetic phrase where he intended to showcase his “perfect family”. But sadly, none of them were true in reality. The Chief Minister, who Dutta calls “Manu” was once a school friend of his, but that was decades ago. “Manu” might not even recognize this lawyer friend amidst hundred others in a court, forget summoning him to Dutta’s abode. The “perfect family” comprises of a ever-quarrelling brother and his detestable wife who wishes to drag Dutta to court for property settlement at any time; a neglected wife who has chosen alcohol as her companion to solace her agony, a love-lorn  daughter having a torrid affair with her own uncle, and the liberal thinking young Dutta, who protests and retorts to his father’s ambition of making him a barrister.

The duel continues day in and day out. Dutta, oblivious of the reality, continues living in his own air of superiority and transgressions with his distant sister-in-law. Dutta’s wife tries in every possible way to stops Dutta’s steps towards her distant sister, but all in vain. Helplessness, frustration, anger forces her to become a chronic alcoholic and occasionally sleep with her brother-in-law, who also secretly has a love affair with her daughter.

I won’t reveal the entire story as it would not do justice with Dutta’s creation. Dutta portrays each and every character with distinctive edge, lucidity as well as ambiguity. The characters might seem noble, but at the very next moment one will be forced to think how ghastly the deeds are. An uncanny balance, a sense of despair, hopelessness coupled with absolute serenity grips every now and then. Dutta appeals to our thoughts: Does the lawyer Dutta deserves our sympathy when he is beaten by the police for no offence and at the end he becomes paralyzed, not even having a proper sense to relish his son’s success which he so fondly dreamt of? Should the ever-neglected, trophy wife be forgiven for her misconduct? Should the love lorn daughter be reprimanded for eloping with a Naxalite, who has now mended his ways? Was the juvenile Dutta right in disrespecting his father and follow his heart?

Questions galore and crowd my mind as I leave the cinema hall along with my fellow viewers. Expressions might have been different, but I bet the same questions would have choked their minds too. Amazing Dutta. Incredible life. Magnificent portrayal.Image

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