Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 1 Average: 2/5]
Directed By: Deb Medhekar
Cast: Danny Denzongpa, Geetanjali Thapa, Adil Hussain, Brijendra Kala, Tisca Chopra, Maya Sarao, Miraya Suri
Bioscopewala is a coeval take on Rabindranath Tagore’s timeless tale of the famous Pathan from Kabul. Set in Kolkata, it is a story of a girl Minnie trying to cope with her father’s untimely death. Bioscopewala is about parental love, bereavement and taking care of parents when they get old.
Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa) is an Afghan refugee in Kolkata who loves cinema. Everyday he traverses the streets of Kolkata showing kids movies through his bioscope. Everyday hoards of children surround him as he entertains them, showing them love which they reciprocate. He strikes a bond with Minnie (Miraya Suri) as she reminds him of his own daughter back in Kabul. Due to some unfortunate incident Rehmat gets convicted for murder and is sentenced to life imprisonment.
Time moves Minnie (Geetanjali Thapa) apart, she forgets Rehmat completely and has a fractious relationship with her father Robi Basu (Adil Hussain). She is now working in France as a documentary film maker and a tragic event brings her back to Kolkata. The plane carrying her father to Afghanistan crashes which intrigues Minnie. She sets out to find the reason for the sudden journey which opens up past memories and unearths some bitter truths.
I grew up with the television rendition of Kabuliwala, aired on Doordarshan in the 90’s. I was excited when I heard about the contemporary remake of the famous Pathan. The original story explores the father daughter love through three angles: Robi and Minnie, Rehmat and his daughter Rabiya and Rehmat and Minnie. The story is famous for the intricacies of these relationships. Director Deb Medhekar has constructed Bioscopewala as a chase sequence with Minnie in the center searching for answers. It just mentions these connections, doesn’t dive deeper to show us the beauty.
The relationship between Robi and Minnie is central to the movie. Robi often neglects motherless Minnie due to his work commitments. And it is this yearning for fatherly love which brings Rehmat closer to her. He gives her his time and ears and she in turn brings to life his daughter’s memories. I was waiting to watch this love triangle (pun unintended) unfold only to be left disappointed with just a scene of it. There are only one or two scenes of Minnie’s childhood with Rehmat.
It is a story of refugees but their life in Kolkata is not detailed. How Wahida (Tisca Chopra) ends up in a prostitution racket while Ghazala (Maya Sarao) ends up well is not detailed. And not just that, though Rehmat’s affection for Minnie is because he misses Rabiya, very few scenes have Rehmat and Rabiya together. Ye,s he was her father but the depth of the relationship is left to imagination. Rehmat’s past, his refuge in Kolkata and his love for cinema take up a few scenes but lack depth. It felt that the director was in a hurry to complete the film and probably didn’t understand fully the essence of the original tale.
It is wonderful to see Danny back in action, he has rolled back years and shown what a brilliant actor he is. He has completely immersed himself into the character. Geetanjali Thapa is the soul of Bioscopewala and executes the role brilliantly. You can see why she has a national award to her name. But it is an overdose, I felt she has hogged too much screen time. The supporting cast is good with a special mention to Brijendra Kala as Bhola. He has some warm moments with Minnie.
Bioscopewala promised a lot but delivered very little. It is a crime to waste actors like Danny and Geetanjali in one of the most iconic stories from India. Rabindranath Tagore would have turned in his grave with disappointment. Or maybe he won’t…however this movie was, it brought Tagore back in people’s lives and mind- the older generation reminiscing about Kabuliwalah and the younger ones hopefully interested to explore more about our literary great. Watch it and share your rating above.