Bandhon is superlative in a role that would be the envy of every actress in Indian cinema
“Rabindranath Ekhane Kokhono Khete Ashenni” is a chilling web-series based on a popular thriller of the same name by Mohammad Nazim Uddin, a noted writer of Bangladesh. It is currently streaming as a web series on a Bengali channel directed by Srijit Mukherji who seems to have specialized in the thriller genre and in this film, he extends himself to swim into deeper waters.
It is really not easy to find powerful suspense stories on celluloid for the big screen or through OTT. But Mukherji’s REKKA strikes a note of difference and how!
The film opens in a remote town-village called Sundarpur some distance away from Kolkata. The scene is set in an exotic environment with a restaurant with the intriguing name – “Rabindranath Ekhane Kokhono Khete Ashenni” stands, promising magical and exotic recipes drawing people from far and wide into its portals. The place is clearly removed from the realm of mundane, modern-day existence. The series is infused with elements of enchantment centred mainly on the mysterious owner of the restaurant, the young and beautiful Muskaan Zuberi (Azmeri Haque Bandhon) married into a zamindar family who cooks all the exotic dishes herself.
She is also a melodious singer of Rabindra Sangeet and Srijit Mukherji, with his rich imagination, uses Tagore songs fitting into the mood of every episode, belted out by the beautiful Muskaan. Into this “parlour”, a stranger named Nirupam Chanda (Rahul Bose) walks in, apparently to partake of the exotic dinner but really to investigate the mystery behind the missing of a MLA’s nephew who was last seen stepping into the restaurant and was never seen again.
On his way to this mysterious restaurant with a more mysterious name, Nirupam befriends the local police informer Atar Ali (Anirban Bhattacharya) who becomes his constant companion – well, almost. Chanda is actually a high-ranking CBI Officer who has come to solve the mystery of the missing young man and discovers, to his horror, that there were three or four more young men who did not come back from the restaurant.
“Who or what is Muskaan?” is the constant question that keeps the suspense growing minute by passing minute, punctuated with her exotically cinematographed presence as she belts out a Tagore song and sips red liquid from a wide bowl.
Every episode opens with the title Tagore number “Kaar Milono Chao Birohi” in the golden honey voice of Ustad Rashid Khan as the camera captures the elusive figure of Muskaan gliding up the wide staircase to stand in a sensuous posture as the song ends with her back to the camera.
Each of the nine episodes is named after a beautiful Tagore song but a different Tagore number is sung by Muskaan in the same episode. She is deliberately shaped as an enigma, now you catch her and now you don’t, enriched by the camera that mostly captures her in semi-shaded visuals and semi silhouetted imagery. The songs are voiced by one of the most outstanding Tagore singers in the country today and the music on the sound track by Joy Sarkar adds a beautiful sense of poetry and rhythm to this very scary tale that begins at one point and ends on an incredibly bizarre note.
Nirupam is constantly blocked in his investigation by Muskaan’s strong “friendship” with the powers-that-be in the small town such as the local politician, the police commissioner and so on who appear completely captive in her charms.
To reveal more would be akin to giving the story away which would completely spoil the suspense for the future viewer. Every episode ends with such a twist and a clincher that you are forced to stick on even if you are half-way to sleep. The characters are fleshed out distinctively that makes each one stand out as an enigma unto itself. Atar Ali for instance, speaks in a Bangladeshi dialect and introduces Nirupam to the characters in the story such as Phalu the grave digger who claims he often digs graves in advance as he knows someone is going to die soon.
The police commissioner cows nervously in the presence of Nirupam who shifts to the former’s place to get better net connectivity. There is also a sex worker who keeps feeding ideas to Phalu to make money on the side through dubious means to get rich. The doctor in whose hospital Muskaan worked former to her aged and very rich husband’s death of cancer is portrayed by Rajat Ganguly while Anjan Dutta as retired criminal psychologist Khasnobis is brilliant in his cool investigation into the mystery of the ever-elusive Muskaan.
Anirban Bhattacharya as Atar Ali is outstanding in a completely out-of-the-box performance while Rahul Bose as Nirupam, is more expressive than he generally is in this film and offers a sharp contrast to the extremely feminine, teasing, taunting and tantalising Muskaan. Bandhon is superlative in a role that would be the envy of every actress in Indian cinema as her character spans a very wide time and space range and covers every emotion possible without sounding a single false note. She is the only Bangladeshi actor to grace the film. Mukherjee has changed the communal identity and names of most of the characters probably because of the targeted Bengali Hindu audience in India.
There is no romance in the film but it spills over with sensuality and suggestive sexuality all oozing out of the enigmatic Muskaan who knows exactly how to play her cards, when, where and with who fleshed out beautifully by Bandhon in her debut in Indian cinema.
REKKA opens out more on the thriller side of the spectrum escalating every passing minute towards horror, undisguised, brazen and bizarre. REKKA begins with a minor mystery that sets off a search for a missing young man but soon moves into a world charged with a sense of deep horror. Take a bow Srijit and your entire team of actors and technical staff.
Shoma A Chatterji is a national award winning film critic from India