“Cinema’s characteristic forte is its ability to capture & communicate the intimacies of the human mind.”
~ Satyajit Ray
It is one thing to adapt classic tales into cinema, however, it is an altogether different ball game to adapt classic tales of a writer who is also a filmmaker, and not just any filmmaker, but Satyajit Ray; a maestro, an auteur, a legend in every right. Ray, like most adaptions, disappoints in comparison to the glory of the original pieces, especially because inevitably comparisons are drawn to Satyajit Ray’s cinema and storytelling where it’s hard to stand on your ground no matter who you are. Even if it is a tribute to him, Ray can not be redeemed of the fact that the maestro deserves better filmmaking. Especially, when the star cast and filmmakers look promising with the likes of acclaimed actors such as Manoj Bajpayee, Ali Fazal, Kay Kay Menon, Gajraj Rao and phenomenal directors like Srijit Mukherji and Abhishek Chaubey. However, if you pull these shorts out of Ray’s shadow, which one must if they are to enjoy this series, then you’ll find that out of the four stories; some are pretty nice, while others are pretty sloppy.
To begin with, we have Srijit Mukherji’s ‘Forget-Me-Not’ starring Ali Fazal and Shweta Basu Prasad. On a story level it is intriguing and gripping. However, the modern storytelling and filmmaking falters in translating a similar riveting effect to the screenplay and execution, not to mention the original story. A slow burn, this film just does not work like a well made suspense should, instead it is too disturbing & dark. Ray’s stories do have a dark edge but they are nuanced and the ending will always bring a sigh of satisfaction out of its audience. Forget-Me-Not completely misses that satisfaction & instead has the audience gaping at the hasty end. However one must applaud Ali Fazal for getting into the skin of his character, Ispit – an obnoxious businessman with the memory of a computer who has begun to forget things.
Next, we have ‘Bahrupiya’, again directed by Srijit Mukherji, starring Kay Kay Menon in the titular role. This twisted version of Ray’s classic is quite gut-wrenching, saved only by Kay Kay Menon’s beautiful acting prowess. Bahrupiya lacks the main component of a Ray story which is the beauty of women, as Mukherji’s version not only takes women out of the equation but almost makes it degrading to women with the whole Debashree angle. However, the episode saves grace by the maniacal, repressed Indrashish (Menon) who makes you bite your lip with the revolting atmosphere he creates as he sets out for vengeance. With a lack of depth and magnitude, Bahrupiya is stale and bland in its storytelling despite the heavy prosthetics and actual ‘layers’ which one wishes could have been used to add some layers to the storytelling as well.
Following ‘Bahrupiya’, we have ‘Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa’ which redeems this series because this one is marvellous, if not perfect. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey and starring Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao, this episode is truly beautiful in terms of filmmaking, performance and most importantly the aesthetics which include the set, costumes and props. With references to Ghulam Ali, much like the title suggests too, Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa is the closest Ray comes to giving the auteur filmmaker a well-deserved tribute. Manoj Bajpayee is a treat to watch in his role of Musafir Ali, an Urdu connoisseur, singer, poet who charms the room wherever he goes. But there’s the catch; he suffers from kleptomania. Gajraj Rao as Aslam Baig is, as usual, nuanced, subtle and magnificent. A wholesome watch with comedy, suspense, and poetry, Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa gives you all the feels.
Alas, we have ‘Spotlight’ directed by Vasan Bala starring Harshvarrdhan Kapoor, Radhika Madan, Akansha Ranjan Kapoor, and Chandan Roy Sanyal. Before we dwell into the semantics of Spotlight, let me just put it out there that Harshvardhan Kapoor truly has the ‘divine look’ and that is honestly speaking quite enough for the episode as he charms the audience with his ‘looks’ Coming to the storytelling, one must realise that it is quite different from the original classic, and fails to live up to it miserably. It takes away from Ray’s magic and becomes fully filmy with everything bad in ‘Bollywood’ radiating from every frame. Perhaps, the least efficient out of the four stories, Spotlight is far away from Ray, therefore leaving them with nothing to hold onto except Harshvarrdhan Kapoor’s phenomenal looks, and to a certain extent Chandan Roy Sanyal’s talent.
To conclude, Ray can be watched by Satyajit Ray enthusiasts but as films on their own, except Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa, they just do not work. Satyajit Ray deserves much better.