Dir: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Cast: Sudipto Chatterjee, Kajal Kumari, Ananya Chatterjee, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Paoli Dam
88min | Fantasy Drama | India | Bengal
Putting the art into arthouse, Bengali director Buddhadeb Dasgupta takes Bandyopadhyay’s short story and creates a gorgeously vivid and surreal melodrama shot through with touches of magic realism and whimsy and set in the lush and languid landscapes of rural Bengal. This often poetic literary adaptation is evocatively steeped in sensuous imagery and cultural references, conjuring up its ancient folklore with dreamlike sultriness and gentle comedy.
Lost in the past, Sudipto Chaterjee plays a fierce and arrogant Raja living in faded splendour in a palace deep in the jungle, whilst his plumb lover Rekha (Ananya Chatterjee) feasts on bananas and dreams of escaping; clearly a dissillusioned romantic. Meanwhile the Raja has pretensions to greatness and spends his days dancing fiestily around the exotic palace and its extensive grounds, chanting and generally trying to impress anyone with his wild ambition to kill the local tiger. His nose is rather put out of joint when a Kolkata film crew arrives to make a documentary about the tiger. This seems to upset his feudal sensibilities and he reacts with pompous hostility to the well-intentioned filmmakers. Meanwhile there are two other strands to the storyline: a colourfully clad low caste girl dances on a tightrope through the fish-filled river beds, and a mad former postman Goja (Chandan Roy Sanyal) chants jibberish from the branches of a tree, strewn with his postbags full of mail.
The denouement is sudden, startling, and open to interpretation as the narrative plotlines come elegantly together. THE BAIT is a beguiling and bewitching film full of rich colours, seductive warmth and exotic mysticism. MT
SCREENING DURING BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 5-16 OCTOBER 2016