Last week i watched Kannan Iyer’s Ek Thi Daayan. It’s co-produced and co-written by Vishal Bhardwaj. And last night i watched Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho. And i could not stop myself from comparing the two. Apart from Konkona Sensharma’s spectacular acting, there are few more common factors between the two. Both the films are based on literary work. Ek Thi Daayan is based on a short story written by Konkona’s father Mukul Sharma. (You can read the story here) Goynar Baksho is based on Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story titled “Rashmonir Sonadana”. So in a way one is Mommy’s film and the other one is Daddy’s. Though both are in supernatural space, in terms of what they deliver, the difference is huge.
Ek Thi Daayan is a strange film. Because it’s two films in one. Though it plays around with all the common elements of horror films in first half, it sets up a great mood, is deliciously ambiguous, and keeps you totally hooked. Konkona and the kids keep you engaged in their mouse and cat game. The 2nd half is drastically different – almost a Vikram Bhatt film. Everything is on the face, new rules are set, it’s silly, becomes unintentionally hilarious and has a strange closure. What is Kalki’s character doing in the film? She is just to misguide us? Is it all about who is the witch out of the two? It all boils down to one spoiler? There have been many rumours floating around about the film’s climax being changed by its producer, and once you watch the film you realise that all those rumours must have been true. There can’t be no other reason for the second half to be so disappointing.
Now, about the end. A wise man once said that you must ask yourself 3 Questions – 1. what’s the film about? 2. What’s the film *really* about? 3. What’s the film *really, really* about? If you know the answers, you are on right track. And the answers to these three questions tells you the difference between these two films – Ek Thi Daayan and Goynar Baksho – why one works and why the other doesn’t. Let’s see.
Magician Bobo can hear voices. Because he has a back story. Because his sister was mysteriously killed by his step-mom/witch. Interval. Bobo has a GF/wife. He also has a kid. A new stranger who might be a witch. BOOM! She is not the witch. The GF/wife is the witch. But why is Konkona suddenly back, and from where? What’s the sudden funda of pisach? And all that choti-wali ladayee? Why kill all ambiguity? Was there a way out in the same set-up? i think so. It was all there, just needed to be perfectly tied up like Konkona’s hair braid.
For me, the answer would have been Bobo’s adopted kid, Zubin. Going by the trend of orphan kids who get superpowers, he perfectly fits the demography too. We don’t know about his real parents. Aha, that’s where the magic and mystic happens. If you see the second trailer here (at 01:05), you will know that there was more to Zubin for sure. See the screenshot – Zubin talking to a doll (or Misha?) when Bobo spots him. This scene was not there in the film.
The film just used him for the choti-kaato act. Given a choice, i would have gone with Zubin getting some of the supernatural powers to hear/see daayans, something that connect Bobo and Zubin, and then a closure for Bobo’s story with him coming to terms with Misha’s (his sister) death in some way. I believe it was also there in the script – if the lift is going down, it’s going to hell. Can Bobo take the lift up to heaven for Misha? As for Lisa (Kalki’s character), isn’t she going to be step-mother for Zubin? When it plays around on the funda of sauteli maa acchi ho toh sakti hai par hoti nahi, isn’t Zubin in same scenario as Bobo? Aha, the loop.
And if there’s something more funnier than Vikram Bhatt style kaat-choti-kaat act, it was the disclaimer in the beginning of the film. Easy to understand that neither the makers nor the Censor Board is guilty of that. It’s because of the times we live in, where the fringe groups are always looking for such occasions to raise their voice and get attention. This is where Aparna Sen’s Goynar Baksho hits the ball straight out of the boundary.
On the surface it’s a story about three generations of women and their relationship with Goynar baksho (jewellery box). But Aparna manages to pack in so much, that it’s unbelievable. And treated it in a humourous tone, this one should work for all. In a memorable and heart breaking sequence in the film, Pishima (aunt in bengali, father’s sister), a child widow who has died and become ghost, asks Konkona Sen (new daughter-in-law) what sex feels like? Does she enjoy cuddling? In today’s times of offending sensibilities, this might be counted as quite sacrilegious. But this is where the bravery and the brilliance of the film lies – it packs everything with humour.
Pishima got married at 12 and was widow at 13. Forget love, relationship, or any such pleasure, widows were not even allowed to have good food. All she got was boiled veggies, all she wore was white sarees. It reminded me of someone i know closely. Married at young age, she had a son just after marriage, and then her husband died soon. She returned back to her parents and brothers. Since then it was been a life of white sarees, religious stuff and only vegetarian food. It’s actually quite a common sight in bengali families, mostly in rural areas – the eldest daughter who is married at young age and if she becomes widow, she comes back to her parents and stays with them for the rest of her life.
Moushumi Chatterjee plays the role of Pishima, an authoritative voice in the house. Because she owns those expensive jewels, nobody wants to be in her bad books. But the fun begins once she dies and becomes a ghost. Interestingly, only Konkona’s character of Somlata (new daughter-in-law) can see her. She is new in the house, she is scared and to make things worse, she even stammers. With a hookah in her hand and more abuses that you can count, initially Pishima starts bullying Konkona to protect her jewellery box, and then slowly they develop a bond. Pishima is bitter, sarcastic and is always cursing everyone around, but all done with dollops of humour in her Faridpur accent. Her dead character is the life of the film.
In another sequence she gets emotional as she talks about how the men in the house always had all the pleasures, and all she got was this jewellary box. The (pishima) ghost played brilliantly by Moushmi Chatterjee, instigates Konkona’s character to go out, fight for her rights, to pursue her passion and enjoy everything that’s forbidden. Who talks about heaven and hell? As a ghost she knows it better than everyone. Enjoy till you can and then your body will perish one day.
Konkona’s character of Somlata represents the second generation. She is on the other extreme compared to her Ek Thi Daayan role. Set in a completely rural background, instead of scaring others, in this film she is always scared. And like in almost every other film of hers, she is so convincing that you would think she has a twin sister who acted in ETD. She is undoubtedly the best actress of our generation. The last 15mins of the film feels bit odd but you get what the filmmaker is trying to do – the third generation. You can also see the limitation of budget and resources, but this one is a must watch.
The film has released with subtitles in Mumbai and other cities. Though the subtitles might not be able to translate the fun of Faridpur accent but do watch it. Bollywood desperately needs some funny ghosts. And Vikram Bhatt needs to put his tacky ghosts in his closet for sometime.
So in two weeks we had two supernatural stories – one with mysterious witches and the other with loveable ghost. Both with three leading ladies. For whatever reason, one remains a half-baked affair, the other manages to pack a punch. One doesn’t say anything new, the other takes a strong stand on so many issues without making a big fuss about it. And it all comes from the same family. I guess in the end it’s all about the *choices* – we are the stories we tell.
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