Siddhartha Laik reviews Ram Kamal Mukherjee's Season's Greetings

Review of ZEE5’s Season’s Greetings: Poetry on Web

Director: Ram Kamal Mukherjee

Producer: Aritra Das and Shailendra Kumar

Cast: Lillette Dubey, Celina Jaitly Haag, Azhar Khan and Shree Ghatak

Duration: 47 minutes

Rating: 4 stars

Cinema is surreal, just like magic. That’s what Satyajit Ray had mentioned in one of his interviews to Time magazine when quizzed about Pather Panchali. When director Ram Kamal Mukherjee opened his film Season’s Greetings with a poetic letter recited by Lillette Dubey, establishing the loneliness of a woman, it reminded me of Rituparno’s Bariwali. Banalata was also waiting for her love. So was Aparna Sen in Titli, or Soha in Antar Mahal or maybe Rituparna Sengupta in Utsab. The mature conversation between Celina Jaitly Haag (surprisingly poignant) and debutant actor Azhar Khan travels from socio-political issues to simple floating clouds, we know that the tone of the film has been set.

Season’s Greetings, a homage to legendary filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, stays with you. It gently tugs at your heartstrings, reminding you of the fragile yet ever-important bond of human relationships.

At a time when web entertainment majorly caters to the darker sides of human emotions, Season’s Greetings comes as a refreshing change. The plot, like a bird’s morning coo, gently settles into your senses, bringing back memories and moments dear to your life.

The main theme and the subplot are weaved beautifully, meandering through well-sketched screenplay and cinematography, adding a touch of nostalgia via its soul tugging songs and background score.

It’s poetry on web and thank god for a differential treatment that cuts through the usual clutter.

The banter between Celina and Azhar reminds me of Aishwarya Rai and Tota Roy Choudhury’s in Chokher Bali.

Now, a bit about the story. The 45 minute Hindi film is about Romita (Celina Jaitly Haag) who decides to introduce her live-in partner Usmaan (Azhar Khan) to her mother Suchitra (Lillette Dubey) who stays in a bungalow with her maid Chapala (Shree Ghatak). On 5th September noon, they visit Suchitra, a lady who lives alone after being separated from her husband. Ironically, she lives in a house ‘Utsab’ (meaning Festival) but she is lonely, often lost in her thoughts. Music and dance are her only companion since her daughter travels due to work assignments and stays in a different city.

Daughter’s homecoming is always celebrated in Bengal, just like Durga Puja. So after years, Suchitra leaves no stone unturned to welcome her daughter and her fiancée Usmaan. Over a five-course Bengali meal and a few glasses of wine, they discover each other. While Romita thought that she was the one waiting to surprise her mother with Usmaan’s presence in her life, she didn’t know that her mother had bigger surprises in store for her. With every passing moment, Romita and Suchitra unfold their mysteries and eventually come to a juncture where lines get blurred.

The film jolts you with the shocking yet overwhelming climax. It seems that director Ram Kamal has worked meticulously on each and every shot, giving his own interpretation to create a collage of moments inspired by various Ghosh movies. For a non-Ghosh aficionado, the movie still appeals as a simple narrative. Shot exquisitely by Pravatendu Mondal (Cakewalk fame) in Kolkata, the music (by Shailendra Sayanti) scores in creating the cinematic crescendo.

Mukherjee, like Ghosh, keeps it slow and verbose. The dichotomy between Suchitra and Romita is rightly established through various scenes, specially the confronting scenes. Lillette Dubey takes the film on her shoulder and delivers an award-winning performance. Given a chance, any actor would slip into theatrical performance with a character like Suchitra. But she kept it subtle. She seems like someone who actually lived in that house forever. But the surprise element is Celina Jaitly Haag. She is an example of the fact that marriage and motherhood could transform a human being. Her eyes created magical moments, while she would completely underplay her character to set a rhythmic balance with her mother. The symphony works like a classical opera, which hits the octave, and merges with the chorus in the climax. Celina will be remembered as Romita in the annals of digital entertainment, and this is by far her best performance as an actor.

Debutant Azhar Khan with his chiseled body and suave look, scores moderate marks as a supporting cast. While transgender actor Shree Ghatak as Chapala seems to be an interesting character, slightly under utilized by the director. Costume by Shabarni Das succeeds in creating the Ghoshque feel, while Art Director Gautam deserves special mention in recreating the ‘seasoned’ space.

I feel that when the world is celebrating lockdown, this film premiered by Zee5, talks about family, human rights and love. This film talks about Hindu lady falling in love with a Muslim man, freedom of sexual choice, abolishment of section 377 and acceptance without being judgemental. Like earlier mentioned, while most content on web is about blood bath, sexual violence, horror and coming of age facade, Season’s Greetings comes as a bunch of fresh lilies in the middle of marigolds.

A must watch.

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