Along with the disclaimer for smoking, Chander Pahar (The Mountain of the Moon) should have a disclaimer at its beginning which says “Tolerating Dev for 3 hours on screen is injurious to health. It causes angst, nausea and mental retardation.”
Doctor turned director Kamaleswar Mukherjee had impressed the cinephiles with his previous venture Meghe Dhaka Tara based on Ritwik Ghatak‘s life. That, in addition to this being the biggest budget that a Bengali movie has ever had (16 crores), made this a movie which had considerable hype surrounding its release. The film is based on Bibhutibhushan Bandapodhyay’s immensely popular Bengali novel of the same name.
Chander Pahar is the story of a small town Bengali boy in the early 1900s who leaves the country and travels to Africa in search of a more adventurous life. He is posted as a station master to a nondescript village where habitation is sparse, his house is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by man-eating lions and deadly snakes which slither over him while he sleeps.
The movie has spent copious amounts of money on creating original replicas of time pieces and weapons but since they were busy getting funds, they must have forgotten that a film is defined by the actor’s performance and the script, not the amount being invested. Dev as the lead role was horrible to say the least. Every time he is chased by a man-eating tiger or slips while climbing a cliff or even (almost) bitten by a black mamba, the audience feels a sense of relief as they feel he’s going to die and the movie is going to come to an end. However, he survives; and the movie drags on; forever. Without changing a single facial expression, as Dev trudges along towards the Mountain of the Moon, the audience is subjected to a 3 hour montage of South Africa with dull narration, only to be interrupted intermittently by terrible acting.
The film is visually appealing, but not visually exciting. Throughout the movie a ridiculously large number of aerial shots have been used to portray the landscape of South Africa, which started to bore the eyes 20 minutes into the movie. The acting of the supporting actors isn’t up to the mark either. In fact, by the end of the film, none of the actors manage to make a lasting impression.
What made the movie unbearable was its slow pace. The fact that it was stretched out over 3 excruciatingly long and painful hours seemed pointless. The script is absurd and illogical at points. For example when the protagonist is running in an open space with a man-eating lion chasing him at a distance of a few feet, he manages to outrun the lion, reach his house and lock himself in. Or when in an attempt to grab the lion’s attention and kill him, he bathes himself in a bucket full of blood, after already grabbing the lion’s attention by throwing pieces of raw meat around. This was further unnecessary drama that could have been consciously avoided.
The number of continuity errors in the film is appalling. Considering the budget of the film, one can’t help but wonder what it was used up on. Oh wait, false blood! The producers, Shree Venkatesh Films, had stated that this would be the first Bengali movie with animation which would match up to “Hollywood standards”. I don’t know much about these standards they keep referring to, but I’m pretty sure Hollywood does not animate using Microsoft Paint, or anything an 8 year old can do on his PC.
What is disheartening is that despite all the brilliant Bengali movies we have seen in the recent past, this film made almost 1. 5 crore on the first day, the biggest opening for a Bengali movie. With this movie, director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee successfully joins the likes of Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra in the list of directors making expensive feces for the masses to digest. He also manages to desecrate one of my favourite childhood novels. One can only hope that Dr. Mukherjee was a worse doctor than he is a film maker; otherwise his career move is completely unjustified.