GUPTODHONER SANDHANE (2018)

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Guptodhoner Sandhane is directed by Dhrubo Banerjee and stars Abir Chatterjee as Shubarna Sen aka Shonada, a history professor at Oxford who returns to his country and his roots after a hiatus of 8 years. As he teams up with his nephew, Abir (Arjun Chakrabarty) and sets out to discover a huge cache of treasure hidden in Abir’s maternal uncle’s house or its near about, he encounters a series of threats and challenges that not only tests his physical prowess but also his mental abilities. Aiding them in their pursuit is Jhinuk (Isha Saha), a childhood friend of Abir who is passionate about the history associated with the ancient house and at the same time cherishes her years’ long friendship with Abir.

After Feluda, Byomkesh and Tenida, Guptodhoner Sandhane could very well mark the beginning of a new series of films with Shonada as the protagonist. The character takes its inspiration from Indiana Jones and also has an uncanny resemblance to the character of Ben Gates from the National Treasure films if one considers the puzzle-solving part of the film an influence. Then there is Arjun’s character that is very much a nod to Topshe from Feluda and the overall look and feel of the film is in serious sync with the content and mood of the Feluda films.

I am generally pumped for films like this. I loved every Bengali Sleuth or detective film of this nature till date. Even some of the weak ones had enough to keep me interested (Shajarur Kanta starring Dhritiman Bhattacharya). However, Guptodhoner Sandhane, in spite of getting a lot of things right, ends up being a mediocre film. The reason for that is the unnecessary time and effort that the film channels to the side stories. More than that, it devotes a lot of time to characters and situations that add nothing to the film and could have been done away with completely.

The film takes a lot of time to build up and that period is spent in family discussions, eating out and comic situations that not necessarily land well. Once the mystery is unmasked, the film should have devoted its attention to the tale but it more often than not diverts to concentrate on a cringe-worthy romance between Arjun and Isha with Abir playing the cupid. These are some of the most boring portions of the film and unfortunately, they make up a large chunk of it. Generally, in Feluda films, we have smart, charming and knowledgeable elderly characters like Paran Bandyopadhyay playing important cameos that are important to the mission. Here we have Kamaleshwar Mukherjee who is definitely not having a good time playing a boring to death uncle and Gautam Ghosh who is barely there.

The worst is reserved for the antagonist who is played by Rajatabh Dutta. Rajatabha and his over the top mannerisms work extremely well in commercial Bengali films but here his character sticks out like a sore thumb. Neither is he a proper and scary villain nor is he able to be a comedian. The result is a caricature of a character that starts getting on your nerves from the moment it comes on screen. All his charm and quirky comic timing is lost reducing him to a nothing character. Arjun as Abir is no better. He tries but he too ends up way short of hitting his mark. Isha as Jhinuk will give stiff competition to Rajatabha for being the most annoying and irritating character even though her role was not written with that in mind. The fact that she has practically no charm only makes her that much more irritating.
Abir is the only saving grace of the film in terms of performances. He does exceptionally well in the serious sequences. Even in the comic ones, which is not at all his forte, he does comparatively well. I liked the manner in which he approaches his character when he is going after the treasure. There are distinct hints of Feluda. That’s not a wonder since he himself played the sleuth in Badshahi Angti and it’s only natural that some of it must have bled onto this character. The only time I didn’t like him was when he was trying to play cupid between Arjun and Isha.

It has to be agreed that the puzzles in the film work big time. They are intricate, interestingly written and above all make a lot of sense. Also, the fact that they are deeply rooted in Hindu mythology was a point of interest for me. Suffice is to say that the puzzles work. The climax might have been good had the antagonist been even a little scary. Since that is not the case, this whole portion is liquidated. The process through which the protagonist arrives at the site of the treasure and the whole path of its discovery alone is the only interesting portion of the film. I wish this was all this film was about.

Guptodhoner Sandhane is a good concept and I believe with a lot of work on the writing of characters and situations this will easily turn out to be a good series. The material is there. All that needs to be done is for the director to get rid of all the unnecessary elements of the films to come and meat up the actual part that the story is about. It would also help to get rid of characters like the ones played by Arjun and Isha and replace them with better actors. This one was a major disappointment for me. I wish the others — if they are made — are not.

Rating : 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

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