SHAH JAHAN REGENCY (2019)

  • Director: Srijit Mukherjee
  • Cast: Parambrata Chatterjee, Abir Chatterjee, Swastika Mukherjee, Anjan Dutt, Anirban Bhattacharya, Mamata Shankar, Rittika Sen, Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, Rudranil Ghosh.
  • Release Date: 18/01/2019

Shah Jahan Regency is a remake of Chowringhee (Uttam Kumar, 1968) which was based on acclaimed writer Shankar’s novel of the same name. As I was about to walk into the theater, I met a learned Bengali gentleman who started off a small talk with me on the film and was quick to point out that the film was an unnecessary remake as it had nothing new to add to the iconic story. He was also of the opinion that its treatment didn’t give us anything better than what we got from the 1968 film and that the crass dialogues used here were uncalled for. When I told him that I hadn’t seen the 1968 classic he comforted me by saying that then there was every chance that I would enjoy this film as I had no preset expectations or parameters to compare it with.

Shah Jahan Regency chronicles the journey of Rudra (Parambrata) a down on luck Bengali who has just lost his job and is in the lookout for a means to provide for himself. He meets Borun (Rudranil Ghosh), a private eye who introduces him to Makaranda Pal (Anjan Dutt) the owner of Shah Jahan Regency. Borun manages an internship for Rudra who is welcomed with open arms by Samiran Bose (Abir) the facilitator of the hotel and Makaranda’s man Friday. As Rudra tries to learn the ways of the sprawling hotel, he crosses paths with a number of colorful characters who add to the story and teach Rudra the inner workings of a society that is as out of control as it is desperate to quench its thirst for love, passion, money, power, and triumph.

Shah Jahan Regency starts off with a bang. The first meeting between Rudra and Borun is as quirky as it is entertaining. Rudranil Ghosh may have a smallish role in the film but he is so enterprising and absorbing that I missed him all throughout the film. As Rudra is introduced to the characters and settings by Samiran, we walk through lanes that have been traded before and have hardly any novelty to it. However, the manner in which Abir and Parambrata act out this part, it never gets on your nerves and is rather enjoyable. In the midst of all these, we have a sequence or two of uncanny brilliance and timing. The portion involving Mamata Shankar’s character Mrs. Sarkar who is a rich socialite but spends many a night at Shah Jahan Regency enjoying guys one-third of her age was interesting. The build-up to this sequence is exceptionally well envisioned.

Anjan Dutt is a fabulous actor but the portion that he features in hams a lot. I just couldn’t get behind his character and what happened between him and the girl that he had to pretend to be in love with. I felt that this portion could have been handled better. If it was not for an expositionary dialogue towards the end, it would have been impossible to know what happened of them. Also, this portion brought the rather breezy storytelling of the first half to a screeching halt numerous times.

Swastika Mukherjee as Miss Kamalini Guha, the hostess of a clubbed suit owned by a certain Mr. Agarwala at the hotel is electric. She always stands out because of her performance and her attraction quotient but here in certain scenes, she plays the vulnerability card with such finesse that it is hard not to fall in love with her character. There is a scene between her and Anirban Bhattacharya who plays a business magnate and son of Mrs. Sarkar (mentioned earlier) in which Anirban is handing over two clients to her to please and get them to do his bidding. Just before he leaves them to her, they share a tender moment with each other that is so warm and undeniably tragic that it kept lingering in my head long after the film was over. After this, there is a whole portion dedicated to the two which does make side characters out of Abir Chatterjee and Parambrata but this portion does tug at your heartstrings.

I was intrigued by the story and the characters of Shah Jahan Regency and that I believe was one of the most important and desirable traits that this film could have. But I still had my share of issues with it. The film is looked at from the perspective of Rudra but time and again it shifts to a way of storytelling that doesn’t confer with the manner in which it should have unfolded had it been from the perspective of Rudra. Major characters whom we assume to be important vanish halfway through only to come back in the very end. There are many questions that either remains unanswered or are packed off haphazardly and conveniently. There are some unnecessary songs that really get on your nerves. The film also seems confused about whom to make the primary protagonist, Abir or Parambrata? Abir rolls through his character with the kind of charm and charisma that is reminiscent of him and does something different only towards the end. Parambrata is Parambrata and I don’t have any complaints about him being himself.

I haven’t seen Chowringhee but I will soon and maybe then I will agree with the thoughts of the learned gentleman whom I met before my show. For now, I can only be objective about it and say that this is an overall engaging and entertaining film with some tender moments, good performances and refreshing cinematography that is in strong keeping with Srijit Mukherjee’s style of cinema and body of work. However, I would have loved it to be a bit more thought out and better executed. There were spates of boredom here and there and that was a problem for me and the film did take some convenient ways out of certain issues that should have been handled better. Considering the setting of the film, the language was pitch perfect. Shah Jahan Regency could have been a great film but it falls short of its mark by a whisker.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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