Review: ‘Chatrak’

Sri Lankan scribe-helmer Vimukthi Jayasundara takes his pretty-pictures-meet-inscrutable-narrative approach to eastern India in "Chatrak," the director's first foray into Bengali-language cinema.

Sri Lankan scribe-helmer Vimukthi Jayasundara takes his pretty-pictures-meet-inscrutable-narrative approach to eastern India in “Chatrak,” the director’s first foray into Bengali-language cinema. Viewers familiar with Jayasundara’s m.o. will be able to piece together a coherent if extremely slow-burning story that involves an architect looking for his lost sibling, and some vague commentary on the Kolkata building boom. But the uninitiated looking for depth beyond the pretty (rather than mesmerizing) pictures will probably want to peep behind the screen at the select few fests where this’ll be playing.

Pic opens with a local man (Sumeet Thakur) and a foreign soldier (Tomas Lemarquis) wordlessly checking each other out in the forest, “Tropical Malady”-style. Introduced much later, an introspective master builder (Sudip Mukherjee) has returned to Kolkata from Dubai. Whereas “Malady” helmer Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s narrative style is reinforced by concealed undercurrents of religious symbolism, magic and subconscious associations, the main element uniting Jayasundara’s plot strands is a sense of torpor, as it slowly — very slowly — emerges that the two locals might be related. Craft contributions are fine but not exceptional; title was translated in press materials as “Mushrooms.”

Chatrak

India

Production

A Vandana Trading Co. production, in association with Les Films de l'Etranger, Bear Called Dog, Wallpaper Prods. (International sales: Eastwest Filmdistribution, Vienna.) Produced by Vinod Lahoti. Co-producers, Philippe Avril, Francisco Villa-Lobos, Michel Klein, Stephane Lehembre, Yov Moor. Directed, written by Vimukthi Jayasundara.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Channa Deshapriya; editor, Julie Beziau; music, Roman Dymny; production designer, Aloke Roy; art director, Arup Ghosh; costume designers, Minesh Shah, Sumana Dasgupta. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 19, 2011. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Paoli Dam, Sudip Mukherjee, Sumeet Thakur, Tomas Lemarquis. (Bengali, Icelandic dialogue)

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