Film: Bow Barracks Forever
Director: Anjan Dutt
Producer: Pritish Nandy and Rangita Pritish Nandy
Music Director: Neel Dutt
Cast: Lilette Dubey, Neha Dubey, Victor Banerjee, Moon Moon Sen, Claton Rogers, Sohini Pal, Sabyasachi Chakravaty, Rupa Ganguly
A few years back, Bow Barracks Forever was screened at the MAMI Film Festival in Mumbai, where this writer saw the film. Initially a filled auditorium, emptied quick, leaving but a few people left watching the film. Today, in a bid to get a new perspective of the film, one can’t but help recollect the same feeling.
Based on the true story, different lives and people are trapped in Bow Barracks. Besides confronting their own problems they are constantly pressurised to give up their home. Emily Lobo (Little Dubey) lives in her small room, filled with determination that one day she will be off to London where her son is. Her other son, Bradley (Clayton Rogers), shuffles between meager jobs, trying hard to keep his complaining mother happy and
managing enough time to give his abused and married love Anne (Neha Dubey) security.
There’s Peter the Cheater (Victor Banerjee) who cons for a living and goes all out in saving what he loves the most, his home. A few doors away from him, lives Rosa (Moon Moon Sen), whose mistake costs her mounds of guilt and a journey back home to Bow Barracks. With tons of issues, eventually they all realize home is where heart is.
To begin with the film is extremely theatrical in nature. It’s like watching a play in progress. Instead of being involved in the various problems faced by each character, you are left being only a mere spectator watching it from your seat. In a way that is novel, but then the whole idea of being able to connect is lost in the uniqueness.
Furthermore, the idea of being a true story is exciting and topping that is actors performing the role of real life characters. Great! But then being a film, one hopes for some excitement or even a direction to where the film is heading. Everything is linear and once the characters tone is set, the same thing is driven from start to finish, with no additions or alterations to it. It is as though each one is riding on the same emotion throughout the film, thus in a sense the film really does not go anywhere.
We are led to believe it is Calcutta, by only a mention of it and a few characters abusing, yelling and conversing in Bengali for a long portion of the film. The heritage structure is neither placed around the contrasting modern structures around it nor do you get a glimpse of the hustling city, this might have provided an established environment. Even the editing does not help in this, the few frames that do manage to show some of the city life are kept short.
This aside, on a positive note, the cinematography is good, the textures and colors are rich and vibrant. Each shot is balanced and constructed. The most crucial thing, which is the dialogues have been written well, however they fail to create a lasting impression.
Both Lilette and Neha Dubey spark life into the characters. It is only when their scenes appear that your attention turns devoted. Chakravatry and Banerjee are their usual best. This is perhaps Banerjee’s best performance, this will have you remembering it till the memory of the movie lasts in you head. Sen is amusing, everything from her accent to her gestures are incomprehensible. The two debutants, Rogers and Pal are good in parts; they end up overacting in most parts. The others including Rupa Ganguly, Avijit Dutt and Usha Uthup are mere fillers, who honestly don’t manage to do much in telling a better story.
Bow Barracks Forever is a good story that falls short of being a great film, simply due to its theatrical and choreographed nature. Its imagery does not manage to overshadow its linear nature. This one is not recommended.