Director: Pradipta Bhattacharyya

Cast: Ritwick Chakraborty, Jyotika Jyoti, Rahul Banerjee, Aparajita Ghosh Das, Sayan Ghosh

In an interview, filmmaker Pradipta Bhattacharyya had said that he had read Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta multiple times in school, but never revisited it, because he wanted to retain the effect it had had on his mind back then. He didn’t want to base the film on how the text actually is, but rather how he remembers it. Rajlokhi O Srikanto seems suffused by the flights of fancy as well as the grown up stuff of a young adult mind, fan-fiction, if you may, that might be rooted in adolescence.

Bhattacharyya makes playful departures from the source material. His modern day Srikanto (Ritwick Chakraborty) leaves his corporate job and sets off for Ayodhya hills in Purulia, where his rich friend Hukum Chand (Rahul Banerjee) are camping with his hunting party.

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He hooks up Indra da (an effective Sayan Ghosh), and Annada Di (perfectly cast Aparajita Ghosh Das), two of Srikanto’s favourite people when he was a boy growing up in Nischindipur, a place which has its own mysteries. In the original text, the two are not romantically linked.

Bhattacharyya, who is also a film editor, masterfully cuts back and forth between Srikanto’s past and present. Small things trigger Srikanto’s memories — not all of them are good.

Chakraborty plays a bohemian who has a problem with corporate culture and authority, but at the same time needs Hukum’s hospitality. He will soon find out that Hukum’s girlfriend, the courtesan from Bangladesh, Pyari bai (Jyotika Jyoti), is in fact his schoolmate and old love, Rajlokhi.

Bhattacharyya’s films are so free from genre or design that it’s difficult to put them under a label — although he has a name for it: Aschorjo Bastob (Wonder Real)

It’s at this point that Bhattacharyya completely takes off on his own. Rajlokhi O Srikanto becomes a story of star-crossed lovers, and there is the eternal question that hangs over their fate: Will they live happily ever after? It’s a theme that has been tackled by the director in his feature length telefilm Pinky I Love you. But what he does here with a mind bender of a third act goes beyond the wide blue yonder. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s an ending that will add up in its own eerie way.

Bhattacharyya’s films are so free from genre or design that it’s difficult to put them under a label — although he has a name for it: Aschorjo Bastob (Wonder Real). There are songs. There are the less explored landscapes of West Bengal. There is the hero, and his friend. The sudden, out-of-the-blue bad trips. The stories are always fascinating, strange, sometimes bordering on the supernatural, but not quite. There is humour as well as a deep romanticism.

Considering that Rajlokhi O Srikanto is adapted from a classic text, it’s laudable that Bhattacharyya has made a film that is very much his own.

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