Cast: Danny Denzogpa, Geetanjali Thapa, Tisca Chopra, Brijendra Kala, Miraya Suri
Director: Deb Medhekar
Rating: * * * 1/2
Inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s short story Kabuliwala which much later, was made into a Hindi film with Balraj Sahni essaying the lead character, Deb Medhekar’s Bioscopewala, with story and screenplay by Sunil Doshi, is an ambitious attempt to convert a much adored 126-year-old tale into a contemporary one.
The original tale about a migrant Afghan (Pashtun) dry fruit seller who forms a bond with a young Bengali girl because she reminds him of his daughter, gives way to a new refreshing merge. While the central Father-daughter theme is paramount, there’s a more complex comparative study at play here.
Rehmat Khan (Danny Denzongpa), the bio scope operator has a fondness for 5-year-old Minnie (Miraya Suri), because she is the same age as the daughter he left behind in his home town, now run over by the Taliban. As he belongs to the persecuted Hazara community, they burnt down his cinema and he has no alternative, but to flee the country and seek refuge in Kolkata.
Several years later, a grown-up Minnie (Geetanjali Thapa), now a film student in Paris, is ready to seek out Rehmat and investigate his family’s whereabouts. The film focuses largely on Minnie’s attempts to unravel the Rehmat mystery – as a result, his life story doesn’t get much prominence.
Rehmat’s struggle to stay alive and his struggles in Kolkata are largely glossed over. The Afghan presence in Kolkata and how they managed to adapt themselves to the alien (for them) Bengali culture is never brought out with any specificity. This film is more about Minnie and her troubled past with her fashion photographer father, Robi (Adil Hussain) and her nostalgic memories of Rehmat.
Minnie has to resurrect those buried memories as well as aid Rehmat in regaining his own. Bereavement, loss and redemption are also significant others in this play on paternal love. The film is a strongly emotive experience aided by a fine cast and wonderful ameliorating cinematography by Rafey Mahmood whose lighting and framing choices make the experience much more inveigling. Danny Denzongpa, coming out of retirement, is a joy to behold. This is an imposing, lifelike performance – one that connects without resorting to artifice or overplays.