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Film: Season's Greetings
Director: Ram Kamal Mukherjee
Cast: Lillette Dubey, Celina Jaitly Haag, Azhar Khan and Shree Ghatak
Streaming on: Zee5
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Any ‘tribute’ on celluloid is a dicey business. It depends entirely on the director’s point of view about what kind of ‘tribute’ his film will be to remember and celebrate an internationally renowned filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh. Sometimes, a tribute is limited to using just one line before the graphic titles begin to appear on screen. Then, there may be a quote from the said filmmaker who is being given a tribute to, maybe using a famous line he may have said somewhere about cinema, about life, about his personal choices, anything. The fourth and the final tribute is when a filmmaker uses his entire film, including the title, to pay a tribute to his favourite filmmaker.
Ram Kamal Mukherjee, the journalist-turned-award-winning filmmaker and author in his second short film - A Tribute To Rituparno Ghosh: Season's Greetings with Nation Next as the online media partner - after Cakewalk takes on a part of the director’s first name Rituparno as ‘Ritu’ stands for ‘seasons’ in Bengali. But the film is not in Bengali. The dialogues in the film are a mixture of Hindi and English and very little Bangla though the songs – beautifully sung and placed within the cinematic space of the film – are in Bangla.
The narrative is focused on a meeting between a mother (Lillette Dubey) with her daughter Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) after a long interval. The daughter is plagued by questions around why their parents separated but never divorced. She seems to have cultivated a bias against her mother and for her father who lives in another city and keeps in touch with his daughter only through telephone calls. The mother invites her daughter Romita along with her live-in boyfriend Usman (Azhar Khan) to a formal Bengali lunch. Though Suchitra, the mother, tries to keep up a cheerful atmosphere, Romita rakes up her anger and attacks her mother verbally with accusations her mother firmly refutes. There is a twist in the tale, which Ram Kamal keeps as subtle and as clouded as he could, within the circumstances he has trapped himself in.
The direct references to Rituparno Ghosh and his films: The reference to the daughter hating the perfume her mother used when she was a child is also a throwback from a similar slice of nostalgia from Unishe April. The subtle reference to the transgender identity through the character of Chapala is also from a Ghosh film Aarekti Premer Galpo. Romita’s absent father’s name is Ritu and the name of the house in which Suchitra lives is called “Utsab" the title of a Ghosh film.
The uniqueness of Ram Kamal’s direction comes across when Chapala is a child and dances with bells on his feet and also when “she” is an adult. But the director does not take this character forward and leaves it with feather light strokes that if probed deeper, could have impacted on the texture of the film and changed its direction towards a more powerful narrative.
The three main characters, Suchitra, Romita and Usman are fleshed out to fit into an elite, very rich and post-modern, posh background realised through the sophisticated apartment, in which the young lovers live, talk, argue and make love and Suchitra’s heritage home with priceless antiques dotting the scenario as she sings and dances gracefully to a Tagore number while waiting for the “guests” to arrive.
Since this has been made exclusively for the streaming film audience, the film will be liked for the intimate scenes in the opening frames between Romita and Usman but making the very sober, rational and secular Usman a sexy stud. His characterisation points out that there are no rules that state that a sober, secular young man cannot also be a sexy stud!
Lilette Dubey and Celina Jaitly justify their respective roles more through their fragile, elegant and beautiful looks than through their performances because when the mother and daughter are together, they are too self-conscious and slightly 'formal'. Maybe, this was precisely the director’s intention and defines his directorial signature. Azhar Khan as debutante throws up a good performance as the nice man caught between a mother and her daughter that demands him to look awkward, embarrassed and confused and he does this very well. Transgender actor Shree Ghatak as Chapala puts in a very good cameo performance.
Ram Kamal's Season’s Greetings is a glorious tribute to a great filmmaker!
Shoma A Chatterji is a national award winning writer and has written 26 books including a book on Rituparno Ghosh.