Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

May 25, 2018

Love letter to cinema

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 8:21 pm

Ask any purist and he or she will tell you that classics ought not to be fooled around with; they’re best left as they are. But that’s not what you’ll come away thinking when you watch Bioscopewala, a smart, moving adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s Kabuliwala. The film is a tribute to the beloved short story about Rehmat Khan, an Afghani pathan, who forms a tender bond with a five-year-old in Kolkata who reminds him of his own daughter back home.

Director Deb Medhekar uses that through-line to pole vault into this contemporary version, turning the Kabuliwala into a Bioscopewala (played by Danny Dezongpa), who befriends the young Mini, even while introducing her to the magic of cinema through his bioscope.

There are layers within this film that we peel one by one as the story unfolds. It begins as a grown-up Mini (Geetanjali Thapa) is grappling with a sudden tragedy. Her father, famous photographer Robi Basu (Adil Hussain), has died in a plane crash, on his way to Kabul. Mini, now a filmmaker in France, is struggling to get his last remains and do the last rites, even as she works her own demons over the estranged relationship she shared with him. In the midst of all this, she finds that she now has custody of Rehmat Khan, released from prison and suffering memory loss. Mini is determined to get to the bottom of Khan’s story – where he came from, how he landed in jail, and the family he left behind.

Medhekar, who has co-written the film with Sunil Doshi and Radhika Anand, encourages us to piece together the story like a jigsaw puzzle, much like Mini does. Like in the classic, the overarching theme in Bioscopewala is a father’s love for his daughter, and it’s one that tugs at your heart.

But the film is also a love letter to cinema and a powerful statement against fundamentalism, as revealed in flashbacks to Rehmat Khan’s run-ins with the Taliban back home in Aghanistan. There is a hat-tip to feminism too in a plot-point involving Tisca Chopra’s character Waheeda, and her brush with ‘burkha boxing’. It might seem like a lot to pack into a film that runs only a little over 90 minutes, but Bioscopewala is tight and nicely holds these elements together.

Then there are the extraordinary performances from Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Hussain, and especially Danny Denzongpa who returns to the screen, playing Rehmat Khan with both heart and heft. After all these years, he still commands your attention with those intense, piercing eyes, even when he isn’t saying a word.

Make time for Bioscopewala, it’s a deeply affecting film, imbued with a lingering love for cinema.



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