By Papri Sri Raman
It is a cold winter day, even a rainy day. What do I watch to get over the depression of just being there and not being able to get out of this ‘two years of lockdown’ phase?
I know, your answer will be crime, of course. The OTT space is full of a genre called ‘crime’, from new versions of Poirot and Sherlock to the Last Kingdom, but that is not what I want. I want Indian, modern and not mindless violence like Wasipur or Pataal Lok or even Delhi Crime. I want the genre, not clearly classified in cinema from India, ‘Murder Mystery’.
Music adds to my viewer experience. And I know how, with the 2020 web series Bandish Bandits, where Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy experimented with music for their first web series. That much music for a film (even one that is serialised) is clearly a first as Indian filmmakers are not known to craft films like Sound of Music, what in the west is called a ‘musical’.Films like Baiju Bawara (1952), Jhanak Jhanak Payel Baje (1955), Umrao Jaan (Muzaffar Ali, 1981) are a rarity. In Bandish, Amritpal Singh Bindra, Anand Tiwari and Lara Chandni did an excellent job of writing and newcomer then, Ritwik played Radhe very well. Actually, Konkona Sen, Rajkumar Rao, Tapsee Pannu, Fahadh Faasil have given me a taste for uncommon faces, away from the sugercandy looks. Newcomers like Ritwik, therefore, are a welcome to the Indian screen, slowly filling up with young actors.
My search, therefore, has to get more specific, I want crime, but I don’t want scams. Not even the Whistleblower, where Ritwik again has given an excellent performance in the character role, is really satisfying. (This one is about the Vyapam scam, theorganised exam cheating by the Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal, or the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, where a hundred involved are said to have been killed by a mafia. It was exposed in 2013.)
I want good acting by young actors, and music too. Naturally, Hoi Choi, the Bengali streaming service is my choice. Yes, among its bouquet of 500, it has another version of Byomkesh, but it does host a lot of murder mysteries, just what makes my day perfect. Tansener Tanpura and its Season 2, Rudrabeenar Obhishaap has a mix and match of all three. This is not a kids’ genre, not innocent like Feluda films or like Sandip Ray’s Badshahi Aangthi, with Aabir Chaterjee in the lead.
In Tansener Tanpura, Vikram Chatterjee plays a musician detective. What amazed me was the syncretic content that Jayati Bhatia and her team worked with, providing Indian classical and fusion on the same stage. When asked about working experience with her co-stars, Bhatia told the media, ‘I was absolutely new to this industry, and they welcomed me warmly… A lot of people on set knew my name and face but they had never met me and they weren’t aware that I can speak Bengali and am interested in putting my step into this industry. The Director Soumik Chatterjee, DOP Prosenjit Chaudhury, Writer Sougata Basu, Joy, who did the music for the project are a talented bunch of people. They have made the series look rich in content visually. I will give credit to these people for creating such a wonderful show. My co-stars Vikram Chatterjee, Rupsha are amazing people. I would have not been comfortable if Vikram was not there. He gave me a lot of support and was always there with me. My daughter Rupsha was always there to correct me and help me. I am extremely fortunate to unlearn what I had learnt here in the Hindi film industry and begin to learn again in the Bengali film industry.’
Soumik Chattopadhya and Abhiroop Ghosh have taken on the direction. The original soundtrack is composed by Joy Sarkar with lyrics by Srijato. ‘Tomake Bhalobeshe’ is sung by Piu Mukherjee, ‘Chhonnochhara Mon’ by Somlata Acharyya Chowdhury, other songs by Jimut Roy, Soham Chakrabarty and several others, providing the grand listening experience.
There is Kawali, there are bhakti songs, there are ingenious translations of Beethoven’s music, musically, Tansener Tanpurahas it all. And there is, no doubt, lots of mystery, all based on folklore of Indian classical music. The clues are in music scores, ragaas, taal, genre, talim, tradition, you name it. Season Two, Rudrabeenar Obhishaap is, however, darker; it delves into caste and slaving. Nevertheless, the music here is more potent; the crimes are more heinous; the murderscrueller and the conflict more intense. There is excellent acting by Sourav Das and Rupanjana Mitra. I would want everyone who loves music and crime to watch these seasons, all with English dubbing and season three has been promised in April.
The two other series to watch have been Aranyak and Kurup. Of course, Raveena Tandon, Bollywood’s smart girl of two decades ago has been much talked about in her comeback serial as a desi cop on the OTT platform. One did not expect less from a fine actor like her. Here again, it’s the myth and the mystery and the exotic location that draws the viewer, a case of superb storytelling blended well with the landscape, as in Tansener Tanpura. There is no music here, but a lot of apprehension, and that is what keeps it going, beside the good acting. Parambrata Chatterjee had worked in one of Ray’s Feluda films, and in Kahaani, however his evolution in Hindi films need watching. As a cop, he needs to do something more, he is yet to acquire an aura; but on the whole, this film carries through because of the storyline.
Mammootty’s son, Dulquer Salmaan does very well as the lead in Kurup, the Malayalam film to watch, if you liked Whistleblower and Scam ’92.Kurup is an insurance scamster, who fakes his own death. It is interesting in that it is the true story of an IAF scam, and a man who dares the system, making money out of weapons for Bangladesh’s liberation war, and from crude oil from countries with trade embargo by the USA. That an innocuous and ordinary Malayali can be and was involved in international crimes, is itself revealing. Notorious for being India’s longest wanted fugitive, the real Sukumara Kurup is still missing and untraced since 1984.
The two Hindi serials, Aranyak and Whistleblower, the Malayalam Kurup and the Bengali Tansener Tanpura and Rudrabeenar Abhishaap can keep you warm till the end of winter hopefully and wishing everyone a sizzling viewer year ahead, now that dubbing has facilitated regional film viewing greatly. And, Murder and Music have no language, after all. (IPA Service)