BIRD OF DUSK (2019)

  • Release Date: 1/2/2019
  • Director: Sangeeta Datta
  • Cast: Rituparno Ghosh, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen, Mir, Kaushik Ganguly, Konkana Sen Sharma, Aishwarya Rai, Arjun Rampal.

Bird of Dusk is a documentary on the acclaimed and colorful Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. The documentary tries to draw a picture of the man as he grows from a passionate young filmmaker into the style icon that he ended up as. The documentary takes us through his humble beginnings to him dealing with some cagey subjects in his films and then coming into his own in roles that for so long he had been bringing to the screen albeit through actresses. The film through interviews with his colleagues and friends tries to decipher the man behind the elaborate make-up and multiple layers of flashy clothing.

Bird of Dusk should have been an exciting and intriguing affair but ends up being just another documentary that sets out to achieve a lot but ends up being neither a treatise of a film maker’s body of work nor a character examination of the man that he was. The first half of the film dwells mostly on how Rituparno Ghosh became a filmmaker. The film gives us glimpses of the journey that he took from his first unreleased film, Hirer Angti to Chokher Bali, the seminal masterpiece that not only made people turn back and look at Bengali cinema with renewed enthusiasm but also put Rituparno in the big league as it starred Aishwarya Rai, the queen who ruled tinsel town at that point in time.

The second half of the film dwells more on the identity and sexual overtones of the man as we see how a character offered to him by Kaushik Ganguly cut precariously close to his real traits and how the character in so many ways defined him as the man that he was. This bit of the film felt the most real and intriguing as Sangeeta Datta, the director is able to invoke real emotions and draw an honest character picture of the man through a set of interviews, stills and video clips from the film in question. This is the portion where the documentary is at its finest.

Bird of Dusk tries to cram in too much in too little times. Ghosh’s life deserved two films to be laid out properly and in an effective manner. One that would document his cinematic journey and another that would give us a sneak peek into the nuances of his life and his journey as a soul. In trying to cramp in both the portions in the same film, the director is unable to invoke intrigue and draw a complete picture of the man. This not only liquidates the tale at certain important juncture but also doesn’t give enough time to either of the portions to build up and make an impact.

Speaking in terms of technicality, the film shows a lot of unnecessary shots that in the end neither makes a dramatic impact nor adds anything to the film. The film shows a person ruminate through Rituparno’s memoirs as he is shown traveling through Kolkata and visiting places and situations that are brought up by the characters of the film. I tried to find meaning in this line of execution but I just couldn’t put my fingers on why it was done in that way. To me, it felt unnecessary and awkward.

One thing that the film does well is it never holds back any punches. For example, Sharmila Tagore says certain things about Rituparno that are not flattering but the director chose to keep it anyways. Similarly, the episode of Rituparno with a certain producer who was supposed to make Chokher Bali with him in the first place but ended up being ditched by him for bigger money and a bigger star is also brought up without any silver coating. These little nuggets add to the credibility of the film but don’t make it any better than what it is.

Bird of Dusk should have been a revelation as the man it sets out to decipher is one of the most outrageous, over the top and colorful men ever to have held a camera in his hands. Sadly enough, the film just sticks to ticking the boxes on the sheet that reads “essentials of making a biographical documentary” and brings nothing new to the table. A serious deficiency of material on the man and half baked take on both aspects of his life is evident as the maker, in the end, has no one else but herself to speak out about the man. I really wanted to like this film but just couldn’t get behind its inept execution.

Rating: 2.5/5 (2.5 out of 5 Stars) 

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