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Shankhachil (The Raven in Bengali) Review

The Partition of India into Pakistan and Bangladesh still hold a very sensitive place in the hearts of many. Shankhachil is one such film which deals with the forced division of Undivided Bengal and the various issues faced by citizens of either countries. The first half deals with the innocent adventures of a 10 year old Bangladesh Muslim Girl born into a progressive family where human values are prioritized over nationality and religion. She is a special child and with her unique way of looking at the world through a magnifying glass and ethereal innocence scores her a friend in the Indian Border Security Force. Prasenjit Chatterjee plays the role of a deglamorized school teacher who holds no judgement and considers himself a Bengali and not a Bangladeshi. When diagnosed with a heart disease, the entire family decides to cross the river and illegally immigrate to Kolkata in India for treatment. This is where the second half commences and the film goes downhill from here. The disjointed imagery, though initially though provoking and bears evidence of Avant Garde cinema fails to hold its place till the end due to lack of content and relevance. The story seems to lose its grip when the gap is not bridged between the sentiments of the first half of the film set in the banks of River Ichhamati in Bangladesh and the harsh reality of Cruel Kolkata. The film ends with a religiously induced anti-climax and makes one wonder what was the content that went missing? And the bigger question WHY?

There are scenes that will make you teary-eyed even if the partition had nothing to do with you or your family. There are images that haunt you like a burning question. What are boundaries? Who is eligible to define them? Man is born free but is everywhere in his own created chains. The River paths taken by the respective Water Police of India and Bangladesh even travel perpendicular to each other in their directions, and we all know that 2 perpendicular lines do converge and divulge from one angular point. There are traces of cinematic excellence that Gautam Ghosh has been awarded for. But why does the screenplay seem so divided? What went missing? Is it censorship or just plain lack of content? These questions remain unanswered, but undoubtedly Prasenjit pulls off one of the best characters of his lifetime. And Kusum Shikdar portrays the angst of a Muslim lady faced with the dilemma of her very existence to perfection. The score of the film portrays the melancholia of the subject and magnifies the theatrical element. A must watch for everyone who bothers to care.

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