Shah Jahan Regency movie cast: Abir Chatterjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, Anjan Dutt, Rituparna Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee
Shah Jahan Regency movie director: Srijit Mukherji
Shah Jahan Regency movie rating: One star
Most of the characters in Srijit Mukherji’s newest work of art, Shah Jahan Regency, speak in what I call puns and rhymes of the Bournvita Quiz. Schoolchildren, in their need to impress, these literary devices have very little relation to history or its development. They exist simply because they can. In the fallow swamp that is the Bengali cinema, the characters and their convictions are secondary to the vanity of the filmmaker. The characters are urban and in emotional crisis. The scenes go through a flurry of Fabindia curtains, designer stoles and woven saris. Men and women speak with affected accents, empty conversations are allowed and they look nostalgically at the beautiful windows.
In Shah Jahan Regency, these impulses flow like the moldy, old smell of Park Street restaurants. “Are you, by any chance, flirting with me?” Asks a character. “Are you, by chance, intimidated by me?”, Is the incredulous answer to the question. The jokes, like the movie, forced, meaningless and ridiculously redundant.
Located in what is supposed to be the most luxurious hotel in Kolkata, the film is told from the perspective of the intern (Parambrata Chatterjee) of the hotel’s most popular employee, Samiran Bose (Abir Chatterjee). This would be a good time to point out that the film is an adaptation of a popular 1965 Bengali novel, Chowringhee, by the famous author Shankar. It became a movie starring iconic Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar in 1968. That adaptation, fortunately, had none of the effects of this, but it certainly did not age well.
In Shah Jahan Regency, Mukherji presents a large number of characters who populate the corridors of the hotel with all the sincerity (and dramatic impetus) of an expository sequence by Madhur Bhandarkar. Like Bhandarkar, the self-described director of this unfortunate country, Mukherji attacks the world of high society with the diligence of a myopic bulldog. Roes and gnaws until we are certain that each stereotype in this “microcosm” will find its proper release. The “fallen woman” will fall, not so poetically, to his death. The clumsy intern will become a world-class administrator. The tragic monarch will vanish into oblivion.
Even the subconscious of this film is strangely in conflict over its liberal pretensions. On the one hand, we have a strange character pontificating on homophobia in a so-called civilized society, on the other hand, we are sure that Indian women misuse Article 498 A of the IPC for their benefit.
The film’s timeline is a loop like the Maa flyover that runs through the heart of Calcutta. You do not know if the subplots run parallel to each other or if it is a linear sequence of events.
All these questions have no answer really. Simply because the film itself is so conceited in its vagueness that it will mock you for not “capturing” it. The question that must be asked is why Bengali films can not find a new language? In its evocation of certain ineffective nostalgia or exotic, the films seem to be made for a hearing twice eliminated, perhaps, the technicians in Bangalore or the diaspora in the United States.
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