When Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay wrote 'Chander Pahar' in 1937 – the author had never actually set foot outside the borders of his motherland. He effectively helped godfather an entire sub-genre of Bangla literary fiction that are essentially vicarious travelogues.
The Kakababu stories were wonderfully pulpy updates of the same template. 'Mishawr Rawhoshyo' (2013) was the first of the three films that Srijit Mukherjee planned to make on the popular Kakababu series of novels, envisioned and written by Sunil Gangopadhyaya, who is one of Bengal's most celebrated literary figures.
The film came out under extreme hype and interest given the pre-existing, cross-generational fan base of the adventure novels. 'Mishawr Rawhoshyo' (2013) was a follow up to some of the most celebrated Bangla films of the late 2000s, and came from a director who has broadened the artistic breadth of Bangalee cinema. His filmography includes 'Autograph', 'Baishe Srabon' and the critically acclaimed 'Hemlock Society'. The director has a consistent track record of making celebrated Bangalee films.
It pains me to say that 'Mishawr Rawhoshyo' will rank as one of the weakest entries into Mukherjee's body of work. The first instalment of the trilogy did well at the box office, but that can be attributed to the pre-existing fanbase and the recognisability of the IP.
The treatment of the adaptation comes off uneven. The Kakababu series is essentially a mix of Robert Langdon and Indiana Jones, as such, it has elements of detective noir and globe trotting discoveries. It seems like the vast majority of the production budget was spent stylising the screenplay. The visual and cinematographic choices seriously dampen the flow of the narrative and jarringly takes viewers out of the plot.
Indraneil's Hani Alkadi is engaging and relatable, the actor is supremely capable in being a companion character and provides a great foil to the protagonist. Prosenjit as Kakababu is superbly portrayed, as someone who hasn't read the books and knows very little about the character, I can wholeheartedly say that the presentation of Kakababu in the film stand very well on its own and I did not feel like I was missing out on something for not having read the books.
The director has modernised the character to a large degree in service of adapting the protagonist and making him relatable in today's times. He has also — deliberately or otherwise — added some superhuman qualities to this one-among-us sleuth, which might come in handy when the franchise develops. Prosenjit Chatterjee shines through his acting chops and difficult-to-adapt body language of a cripple. Mukherjee has successfully created a template for the quintessential Bangalee hero.
'Yeti Obhijaan' (2017) is adapted from Sunil Gangopadhyay's famous novel 'Pahar Churaye Atonko'.
It is always difficult to adapt a beloved novel onto the silver screen.But the director takes a novel path for the film, highlighting the visual appeal and blending the songs effortlessly alongside the narrative.
The movie was shot in snowy locations of Switzerland, in treacherous conditions to imbibe the plot with realism; the effect is convincing and believable throughout. Establishing shots via helicopters and long takes depicting the snowy mountains really bring the viewers into the exploratory mindset. The art direction is convincing and only falters during the scenes inside the caves, which was shot on location in the Borra caves near Araku.
Ultimately 'Yeti Obhijaan' is an experimental movie considering that a major portion of the principal photography was done in real locations among snowy mountains. Srijit Mukherjee deserves recognition for accomplishing what he has, considering the budget constraints of the regional film industry in the sub-continent.
'Kakababur Protyaborton' (2022) is the best instalment in the franchise as he incorporates all the best parts of the preceding two films and is totally free to tell a story without having to introduce characters or get bogged down with establishing an origin plotline.
The problem that plagues book adaptations is that audience members overwhelmingly are hard to please. Not every trope or nuance can be brought onto the screen and the novel series are most certainly books out of time; so much has to be changed and replaced for it to make sense in a modern setting.
Mukherjee is doing something most critics fail to recognise. He is once again trying to broaden the genres of cinema that are played in sub-continental theatres; you would be hard pressed to find a movie similar to the Kakababu trilogy.
The director has taken on the task to present an aspirational hero/ role model to Bangalee audiences, this has been achieved with flying colours. Jaded cinephiles and cynical viewers may not find these movies worthwhile. But the next generation shall surely appreciate the Kakababu trilogy. The characters are very relatable and the stories have that magical and aspirational quality that captures the imagination of young viewers.
Srijit Mukherjee proves that not all Bangalee cinema has to be about a love story, and that adventure-mystery films deserve more chances, funding, and its time in the sun.