Shukno Lanka: my experience of a Bengali film with no sub-titles

Posted: July 5, 2010 in Uncategorized
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When I read the review of this Mithun starrer, I decided that the Bengali film, Shukno Lanka was worth seeing. In recent times, I have seen a Marathi film and another Bengali film, and have enjoyed them both. So I was quite looking forward to seeing Shukno Lanka. And assuming subtitles to be present in this day and age, I did not even ask when I booked the tickets for Monday night show.

Still in the evening of Monday, I got jittery. What is there are no subtitles? I enquired over Twitter, and while no one could say for sure, at least a couple of them conveyed to me, with reasonable confidence that subtitles will be there.

With that comfort, we walked in to the theatre. Imagine my shock then, when the film started and I realized that there were no subtitles in English. I tweeted out my frustration from the theatre, and wondered how long I will be able to last inside, with a language that I did not understand.

But I gave it a shot. Unlike Marathi, which is kind of close to Gujarati and Hindi, and which hence, I have no problem in understanding, Bengali is not in that league. Most of the spoken language I did not understand. I understood some of it though. But as it turned out, the review that I had read (and hence known the broad concept of the story) and the little Bengali that I could follow, was enough for me to get a good idea of the film.

And I quite enjoyed it.

Though I am sure that most of my friends will not like it. It is a different kind of film.

Shows the modern day Kolkata. Well, as modern as Kolkata can get. The rickety trams are still there, and so are the Ambassador cars. But there are other better cars too. It is not exactly 2010, but perhaps early 2000 or so.

The tongas of Kolkata, Howrah, the people, the trams, all of these are depicted well.

Shown equally well, is the satisfied Bengali middle class couple. Enjoying their 1BHK home, decent meals, the TV soap operas, and the rides in the tonga, to keep the romance alive. The emotions that they display on getting a warm cup of tea in the middle of the night, or when the husband gets to sit in a car, or when he finally makes it to the posters of the new film as a hero, are so real. Here is when you know how a middle class person will get overwhelmed on receiving pleasures beyond his expectations.

The junior artiste who gets a break as a hero, is the character of Mithun, and is sketched out really well. His typical clothes, the demand by neighbourhood kids to have him mouth an Uttam Kumar dialog whenever he passes, his haggling with the tram conductor when he does not have money, and his very servile attitude to the stars and the director, make him a very believable character. Of course, Mithun does an absolutely brilliant job, in the role.

The parallel stories and snippets about the famous director and his strained relationship with his wife, the foreigner lady who comes to rescue the filmmaker and becomes his producer, the current idol of Bengali cinema and his insecurities and greed, are all shown and developed well, as the sub-plots.

The music is also interesting, even though I did not understand the words at all. There was, in most songs, a feeling that will make you dance.

All in all, for anyone interested in a decent story, this simple film will be well worth going for.

And you can especially go to see the middle class life, but where the couple are satisfied and happy.

And you can see it for Mithun. This is a stellar performance for sure. The time that he spent in his early days, with his disco dancing and gunmaster g-9 and all that, seem like such a waste now.

– Sanjay

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sanjay Mehta and Sanjay Mehta, Sanjay Mehta. Sanjay Mehta said: My views on the Bengali filk,.. […]

  2. Urmi says:

    Bravo for the effort! As a Bengali, it makes me proud that my jaat-bhais have managed to enthrall a non-Bengali by communicating art in its purest form. Keep watching…but ask if there are subtitles the next time… 🙂

  3. Vidooshak says:

    Have been wanting to see the film ever since I read the review years ago. Finally ordered the DVD and got it today. Found your post while hunting for English subtitles for the film, because even I was horrified to see that even an award-winning film carried no subtitles in this day and age. How uninterested can producers of regional cinema get? Imagine the kind of market they could reach if they just spent a bit more on subtitles! Comforted after I read your experience though. Looking forward to watching it. Else, need to invite a bong friend over for dinner and a show 🙂

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