Seldom has so much depended on the theatrical performance of a Bengali movie. Soham, after a promising debut in ‘Amanush’ (2010), was gradually fading in the competition – with unwatchable flicks like ‘Loveria’ and ‘Phande Poriya Boga Kaande Re’. Mimi Chakrabarty’s transition from the hugely successful TV show ‘Ganer Opare’ to the big-screen has not been very smooth – courtesy duds like ‘Bapi Bari Jaa’ (2012). Finally, ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’ was an acid test for Birsa Dasgupta, who was fast making a reputation for himself as a director whose movies make all the right noises prior to release, and then fizzle out at the theaters. Can the man with his all-new ‘Obhishopto Bhai-ti’ tag deliver this time? Thankfully, he can!
‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’ (an official remake of the Vijay-Remya starrer 2012 Tamil blockbuster ‘Pizza’) takes us to the happy world of live-in couple ‘Rudra’ (Soham) and ‘Anuradha’ (Mimi). The two are in deep love, but characterwise, they are poles apart. ‘Rudra’ is your average, slightly coward, struggling Bong young man – content with a small time job at Just Pizza, while ‘Anuradha’ is an ambitious writer, hoping to land the Booker’s Award someday. As she watches supernatural videos on YouTube or tries to get in the character of haunted spirits (yep, she writes, and literally loves, horror stories!), ‘Rudra’ almost cowers with fear. That, however, does not come in the way of their mutual affection for each other – and things look all the more rosy (after a brief hitch though), when they discover that parenthood is on the way.
Okay, enough with the lovey-dovey part – time for the chills to set in. One night, ‘Rudra’ is sent to deliver pizza to a building at a slightly remote location. He is welcomed in by ‘Riya’ (Sayani Ghosh), who apparently lives alone. The TV blares ‘Tui Amar Hero’ from ‘Rangbazz’ (2013) as ‘Riya’ goes upstairs to get the change. Suddenly all lights go off – and hearing nothing from ‘Riya’ for a long time, ‘Rudra’ gets curious and goes up, only to find her pinned to the wall with knives (in true Exorcist-style, one might add). Shaking with fear, ‘Rudra’ tries to flee the scene. But the house is apparently locked from the outside, forcing him to stay cooped up over there. Calls start coming to the land phone in the house, even though its wires are not plugged in. Can ‘Rudra’ make it out of this haunted house alive? Is there an outside chance that he might be imagining the entire episode? Why is it that no one else has seen ‘Anuradha’ even once, and only heard about her from ‘Rudra’? What connects the two lovebirds to Singapore? Get your tickets, buy some popcorn and cola, and get the answers at your nearest theater. It will be two hours well-spent!
Birsa Dasgupta plays it safe this time by closely following the original script (by Karthik Subbaraj). However, there are little touches – like the point when ‘Rudra’ and ‘Anuradha’ perform their very own in-home wedding (with pizza slices in place of betel leaves!) – which highlight the filmmaker’s knack of capturing endearing moments. The screenplay is taut and fairly racy. A lot of the film is shot in the haunted house, and Birsa’s shooting style makes viewers feel the palpable tension in the air. It still remains to be seen whether the man can deliver original movies that are better than ‘Jani Dekha Hawbey’ and ‘Obhishopto Nighty’ – but over here, he is right on the top of his directorial game.
I have been saying since the time of ‘Janeman’ (2012) that Soham needs to lose his baby fat, to be accepted as a leading man in mainstream cinema. He has one shirtless scene in ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’, and it seems he has gained even more weight over the last few months. Thankfully, his is a performance-driven role, and Soham delivers a winning act as the part-terrified, part-mysterious ‘Rudra’. You would pray for him as he gets trapped in that house of spirits in the movie – such is the level of conviction level of his performance.
Spontaneity has always been a hallmark of Mimi’s performance – and as ‘Anuradha’ (the lady only ‘Rudra’ has ever seen), she delivers the goods yet again. The slightly dominating nature of her character might remind you of her presence in ‘Bojhena Se Bojhena’ (where too she had a timid Soham in tow). Mimi looks equally at ease in Indian casual and Western attire and certainly has the makings to hit the big league. Soham and Mimi had last paired up for the disastrous ‘Bengali Babu Desi Mem’ – and that’s precisely the type of garbage both of them need to avoid.
Rajatava Dutta, as the god-fearing boss of ‘Rudra’, is reliable as ever. He has a daughter (‘Brishti’) who is apparently possessed by spirits, and keeps shouting ‘Mrinalini!’ Without going into who ‘Mrinalini’ is (that would be a spoiler!), let’s just say that Rajatava’s ‘Ratulbabu’ is entirely believable as a distressed father. What slightly appears out of sync is that a person desperately looking for divine help is still in the business of smuggling stolen diamonds. It’s pivotal to the story, but the director could have introduced that angle in some other way.
Sayani Ghosh brings a degree of oomph and a delicious brand of mystique in her ‘Riya’ act. Sujan ‘Neel’ Mukherjee, as ‘Rudra’s colleague at Just Pizza is just about passable. Ananya Chatterjee has a blink-and-you-miss guest appearance. The little girl – whose face is zoomed in just before the screen goes blank – will remain with you for some time.
Indradeep Dasgupta does a stellar job of musically enrichening ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’. There are only two songs in the movie (excluding the promotional video – ‘Maya’), and both are first-rate. ‘Ei bhalo ei kharap’ in particular, has a snug romantic feel to it and is beautifully picturized. Arijit Singh proves, yet again, that he is equally at ease while crooning melodious Hindi and Bengali numbers. It’s a pity that the movie has only a couple of strands of ‘Piya bina jiya lage na’.
A lot of credit for keeping the pace and narration of ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’ steady and uniformly interesting would go to Bodhaditya Banerjee – whose editing leaves no scope for complaints. There is hardly any sequence in the movie which seems unnecessary or out-of-the-place. Cinematographer Subhankar Bhar does not have too much to play around with – but still manages to show off some real nifty (read:spooky) camerawork in that cursed house. Background music is fitting – with the ‘Ei shon shon’ ringtone of ‘Riya’s mobile being a very nice touch.
With ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’, Birsa Dasgupta has showed that – given the right script, he can make films which can pull viewers in after the first couple of days. Soham-Mimi’s pairing over here is more ‘Bojhena Se Bojhena’-styled than ‘Bengali Babu Desi Mem’ – which is, of course, a great thing. Finally, Tollywood is starved of decent supernatural flicks (remember the laughably bad ‘Mantra’? Or the equally horrible ‘Raat Baarota Paanch’?). ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’ has laid down a benchmark in this genre, and hopefully more new-age filmmakers will be excited to make spookfests in future.
There is just a little bit to worry about, regarding the fate of ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’. In a week’s time – the hindi remake (that one is titled ‘Pizza’) would be zooming into the theaters. Last month we saw what the release of ‘Holiday’ did to ‘Game’ – will Birsa’s movie fare any better? It should, for ‘Golpo Holeo Sotti’ deserves a long-ish theatrical run.