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Charachar; Shelter of the Wings

This Bengali-track feature is the sort of gentle, deceptively simple film whose qualities can easily be overlooked during film fests. Though it has little chance of commercial release outside India, it deserves exposure on the fest route for its refreshingly different vision.

Cast:
Lakhinder ... Rajit Kapoor Sari ... Laboni Sarkar

This Bengali-track feature is the sort of gentle, deceptively simple film whose qualities can easily be overlooked during film fests. Though it has little chance of commercial release outside India, it deserves exposure on the fest route for its refreshingly different vision.

Writer/director Buddhadeb Dasgupta has made interesting films before, including “Distance” (1978) and “The Tiger Man” (1989). This time he tells an apparently allegorical story about a man hopelessly ill-equipped for the work he performs in society. It could be seen as a parable for any number of things, but works well enough on its face value.

Lakhinder catches exotic birds in the woods of Bengal for sale in the markets of Calcutta. The trouble is, he loves the birds so much he can’t bear to see them in cages; so he lets most of them go, and earns very little money as a result. Indeed, he’s in debt because he owes the man who employs him money from an advance. Understandably, his wife, Sari, becomes increasingly frustrated with her husband, and, to his distress, she embarks on an affairwith the man who comes to collect the birds to take them to market.

Though Lakhinder gets some sympathy from the daughter of his partner, who understands him better than his wife, it’s really his beloved birds that console him. In scenes reminiscent of a benign variation on Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” Lakhinder awakens to discover his bird friends have visited him in his hut.

This is hardly more than an anecdote, really, but with exceptionally beautiful photography by Soumendu Roy and sensitive performances and direction, plus a commendably brief running time, the film succeeds in taking us into the world of an eccentric of great charm and determination.

Charachar; Shelter of the Wings

Production: A Gope Movies production. Produced by Shankar Gope, Gita Gope. Directed, written by Buddhadeb Dasgupta.

Crew: Camera (color), Soumendu Roy; editor, Ujjal Nundy; music, Biswadeb Dasgupta; production design, Shatadal Mitra; assistant director, Biswadeb Dasgupta. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 18, 1994. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: Lakhinder ... Rajit Kapoor Sari ... Laboni SarkarWith: Sadhu Meher, Shankar Chakraborty, Monoj Mitra, Indrani Halder.

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