Review: Nirbaak (2015) – Bengali – Srijit Mukherji

Nirbaak

Amidst constant hindrances, I was finally able to watch Nirbaak at the Mitra Cinema Hall, here in Kolkata. Nirbaak is a one of its kind Bengali film, by Srijit Mukherji. I was overflowed with the amount of interest I had for watching this movie. Partly because, I watched all the previous movies by Srijit before and found each of them kind of different and belonging to a different class of its own within the Bengali film space. Otherwise because, Nirbaak, particularly, at least from the trailer, seemed to be the most weird and different movie by Srijit so far. So there was that overpowering intention to watch it as soon as possible — and it made me inexplicably glad in the end.

First of all, take a look at the trailer:

Now that you have a basic idea of what the film might be like, let’s proceed.

Nirbaak (literally: Speechless) deals with love and emotions between people and living or non-living beings who can’t speak in a traditional way. The film is made up of  four underlying sub-plots that are linked together by a single character of a woman (Sushmita Sen).

We saw emotions towards a non-living object by a human depicted in Ritwik Ghatak’s legendary Ajantrik. Nirbaak, however, is entirely in a different league. It’s not just an accumulation of ordinary everyday emotions that we’re used to seeing between people, but the true, core essence of love.

The concept is pretty abstract. The script too solid. So, the actors were needed to match the script with their respective performances. To say that the cast justified the script would be an understatement. I got a feeling that no one else apart from the actors who were actually cast (including the female dog, not calling it a ‘bitch’ being intentional) could portray the characters that well.

Anjan Dutt, Sushmita Sen, the female dog, Ritwick Chakraborty – all of them were exceptional. Especially, I’m a bit curious as to how the director pulled such great, natural, touching acting out of the female dog! As always, Ritwick Chakraborty looked effortless in his acting. I mean, with him, it doesn’t look like he’s acting, it feels like he just naturally behaves in different ways depending on the film.

Kudos to the cinematography as well. It was world class and gave an entirely new dimension to the film whenever the tree’s and the dog’s perspectives were shown. Same with the background score by Neel Dutt.

I was also amazed by the amount of details Srijit Mukherji probably obsessed over. Especially the dog’s vision being shown as monochromatic. It’s a pleasure to watch and brings tears in the eyes of a genuine movies lover. 🙂

Srijit’s movies, generally speaking, give your intellect some roaming space. But still, there usually are quite a few crowd-pleasing elements that somewhat negatively impact the feel of the otherwise good movies, at least for me. Not any more. Nirbaak isn’t for everyone, nor will everyone understand it (let alone enjoy), but for my part, it left me speechless, and I’m sure there are many more people like me.

Rating: 4.5/5 (I wouldn’t wanna rate this in the first place, hence this tiny section at the bottom. This movie is an outcome of sheer brilliance. Definitely Oscar-grade stuff.)

  • lavi

    The symbols used throughout the movie actually left me speechless. They were spot on. The Samson character could have been shown a bit more.
    Definitely the movie isn’t for the regular audience.

  • Arup Choudhury

    Do you know what kind of movies go into Oscar? I do not think you have any idea. Also, I do not think you have any idea about movie or script. There are many ways to show love, love towards nature and nature acceptance of human being and protection it gives to human being. Please check some movies of Tarkovosky. Srijit Mukherji just works on hype just like Paglu. He tries to show his pseudo intellectual self and who is obessed with self love and death (actually I think he fears death). This time he got trapped in his own net and no hyped worked. Song of DDLJ playing in background after watching corpse is a perverse thinking and whole hall was laughing on this perverted thinking.

    • As a movie buff, I do very well know what kind of movies go into Oscar.

      “He tries to show his pseudo intellectual self” – that’s just your personal opinion. I didn’t wanna comment on that, but I’d just say you’re being a bit hypocritical here by bashing him just because he’s tried something new. Had this movie been made by a foreign director, I don’t think you’d have as many problems.

      “Song of DDLJ playing in background after watching corpse is a perverse thinking” – again, it’s nothing but your personal opinion and the entire hall laughing means very less. Because, in the end, if those people were capable of making a better movie, they WOULD make a better movie. Laughing is easy.

      Lastly, I don’t claim to be an expert movie reviewer. I’m just an enthusiast at best and this is my personal blog where I publish just what I feel. You’re free to dislike. 🙂

      • Arup Choudhury

        As a reviewer you need to be honest. You know very well that your review is not honest :). Just incoherent scene does not make a movie. Meaningful movie making is a great art and time consuming and need honest effort.
        I am extremely proud of Indian cinema and currently rediscovering Mrinal Sen and old hindi meaningful movies of Basu Bhattecharjee, MS sathyu etc. Srijit Mukherji just wants to create a hype around him without substance. Just watch Sabuj Diweper Raja and Mishar Rahasys simultaneously. I did the experiment with a big Srijit fan and he told me to stop Mishar Rahasya after 40 minutes.

        You need to study and watch lots of different kind of movies to be a reviewer otherwise it becomes psycho fancy.

        • SHAMIK

          I think like movies, even reviews need to be seen objectively. The same movie can be liked and hated by many but bashing anybody who has an opinion different to ones own is not fair. We understand that some see movies as a source of only entertainment (whatever way it maybe). But we need to give space to those who see movies as a source of art…. Experiments, whether successful or failed always add to evolution of movies

          • Arup Choudhury

            Yes I agree the review needs to be seen objectively and review also have to follow certain objective and honesty. In this review it is simply not followed. I watch lots of experimental film made by everybody (some amateur creating a traffic shot from overhead footbridge) and generally like them if the intention is honest. I watch movie as a source of art for last 35 years. I do not see any art in this movie. Tree oozing juice watching a sleeping lady is not art and it is sheer perversion and insult to nature which is more powerful than any human being. This is not natural and perversion. Just like drawing a naked woman is not perversion but putting a shoe on a naked woman is perversion. So, please do not try to justify art in Nirbaak where showing the character performing masturbation does not add anything to the character or to artistic expression of movie. I am not bashing the writer. I am simply telling the review is not written with the intent of writing an honest review and there is my objection. The reviewer is young and should learn how to study and comment on a film. This movie, according to me, is worser than Paglu (if I am not wrong Paglu director is the post production head of this movie. So you can expect this :))

          • Arup Choudhury

            Also, we need to understand for the sake of Bengali movie Bengali film is going through an exceptionally gloomy period. The last movie that entered in any of the three biggest film festival (Cannes, Berlin, Venice) was in 1990s. Most probably Uttara was the last movie which got accepted on Venice in 2000. I do not think Srijit Mukherji can achieve anything close to what Bhuddadev Dasgupta had achieved (I am not bringing in the 3 stalwarts + Tapan Sinha). Why do not you discuss art of Dasgupta’s cinema? Why there is no hype around him? Just because he does not appear in TV and claims how great he is. I saw an interview of Srijit in 24 ghanta. There he said somebody came and told him he can only get Oscar after Satyajit Ray on the context of Jatiswar getting considered in going to Oscar. This is not acceptable. Making 3 films in a year is getting 3 research paper getting accepted in a top tier international conference (I do a bit of high tech research so I can bring the analogy) and that is humanly impossible. So, do not getting hyped but look for real art.

      • Jhankar Malakar

        Going through the comments, I feel you are so right in the assessment that this movie is not for everyone. 🙂

  • Shubhendu Bandyopadhyay

    Arupbabu hats off for your comments,,, like you I do feel that cohesion of images after images without exploring the dramatic possibilities does not make a film worth to watch..it is a useless movie and a film goer like me who belong to ordinary audience and does not have IQ to understand and appreciate this film finds that all his much hard earned money is totally wasted in the name of watching cinematic excellence…

  • pratibad

    I wish Srijit makes a movie which deals with life outside the film world, excludes death in any form, and is a single story. not a chatuskone or trikone. Hope it is not a tall order.

  • Diabolus

    An audacious film, no doubt about it. But also very divisive because it falls short of what it sets out to achieve, and because it tries to do it with the crassest of metaphors. Srijit can never seem to balance his artistic side with his audience-pandering side, resulting in some gallant misfires (e.g. Baishe Srabon, which was basically a rip-off of Se7en) and sometimes sublime art. While he does give in to his more surreal influences this time around, it doesn’t quite seem to gel together, leaving a very beautiful corpse of a film (no pun intended). Maybe that is the way he intended it, but out of prudence, let’s not jump on the hype train yet.
    Also, the Oscars are not the end-all and be-all of most films, just a subsection of commercial cinema which are crowd-pleasing to the white people and the Jews that comprise most of Hollywood. It’s always best to not call a film Oscar-worthy because that means it’s not good enough to please the rest of the world.

  • Anirban Samanta

    Although am a tad bit late to the party, I think I still have chance to fuel the discussion…Okay…so first of all, I went through all the discussions that you & Arup Babu went on about & it was pretty entertaining to see (& kinda also brought a smile on my face..:)..) how we bengalis get charged up in a cultural discussion..jokes apart …I just now saw completed the movie & am trying to recollect as much as I can…Rather than going into what I watch in details, let’s just simply put it this way …That I watch a variety of movies in different genres…Now, after enough murmuring, Am just gonna jot down the points below:
    1) The starting of the movie invoked in me two things, one is how wonderful the whole composition was and two, how Srijit did a wonderful thing by promoting this art of shadows which would help the contemporaries to prosper more into the commercial arena.
    2) Samson: A perfect representation of a narcissist gone overboard. All of the scenes in this part of the story, I find, very legitimate. Well, actually, nobody could have portrayed the role better than Anjan Dutta. The story is based on his life only & how he is perceived to the outer world. A wonderful story, truly wonderful.
    3) Sen/Tree: Am sorry to draw a reference over here but I couldn’t help but being reminded of a movie that I had seen when I was a little kid…It was based on a South Indian Folklore where a village girl had the power of becoming a tree & a guy falls in love & then a branch breaks off & the girl becomes half woman half tree & then the movie ends with the guy ransacking the jungle for the lost branch….So over there, I first saw direct depiction of the presence of a soul in Mother Nature. Basically, the same thing is being shown over here. But with no margin. Why? because however ‘It was symbolic’ Srijit fans might hue & cry, a whitish liquid (similar to human secretion) falling down the branch & then when seeing the the girl is getting away, tantalizing the guy & then the whole natural wrath coming down. Why? Because the tree has a broken heart & is has become a deadly concoction of Devdas + Hulk. I mean seriously?! See, the nature’s way of expressing love to us is very gentle & it is devoid of any expectation of any sort of any reciprocation. Definitely, Jagadish Bose was right when he said that trees have heart (pardon me for this bad analogy..:P). But that does not necessarily mean that they would have the same reaction pattern as the human beings. The perception of the human brain is like that. But if some one would argue saying that that the incidents were symbolic, I would say, it was a tad bit more symbolic when it was shown that the branches had actually broken!
    4) Sen/Jisshu/ Female Dog: Ok, being an avid dog lover & having a female dog at home, all I can say is after an initial hostility towards a newcomer at home, they tend to mix & gel well with the person, especially the labradors. They are actually famous for being very very human friendly & very rarely do they attack like Sen was attacked. I mean, that actually never happens. & opening of the door & getting out of the car..I mean seriously?! In an advanced car with central locking, is it actually possible?!?! Not only that, if the dog is being taken out ot play in the field, it just doesn’t matter who accompanies her master as long her master is going. & the dog crying in the verandah…lets just not go into that…
    5) Sen/Ritwick: Ok…no complaints about Ritwick…but the corpse smiling when he’s protecting her body from being violated??!! or Ritwick actually lying down in a similar fashion for marriage?… let’s just put that there are similar pictures like Like Minds but it did not have to be this much explicit…

    So in total, It was definitely a good attempt but I feel a bit of subtlety by avoiding the unnecessary bold explicit scenes would have added class to the film. Open to comments from everyone! & hope I haven’t hurt unknowingly anyone’s feelings or sentiments…

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