Sunday, 20 September 2009

Movie Review: The Bong Connection

The word "Bong" maybe politically incorrect slang for all things Bengali, in "The Bong Connection", the writer and director Anjan Dutta brews self-irony into a watchable, good-humoured satire. In two alternating stories, a young Indian musician from New York Andy Sen (Shayan Munshi) returns to Kolkata, while an ambitious young computer engineer Arpan Chatterjee (Parambrata Chatterjee) seizes his chance to take a big job in Houston.

The film says a lot about the new generation of Indians caught between their culture and pressure to work abroad. However, it takes Anjan Dutt a while to find his balance between dramatic narrative and broad comedy. Apu takes leave of his family and girlfriend Sheila (Raima Sen) and heads for the greener pastures of Texas. Sheila makes it clear that she prefers the young Kolkata, and they part on an uncertain note.

Meanwhile, Andy visits India for the first time and is welcomed into his grandfather's rambling old home. In contrast to Apu's comic fumbling in Texas as he tries to adapt to muggings, gay roommates and a high-pressure white-collar job, Andy takes the reverse journey of struggling to find a way to work and express himself artistically in a charming but opportunity-challenged old world. He falls for Sheila.

Traditional-minded Apu meets and resists flighty Indian rich girl Rita (Piya Rai Chaudhary), despite the best efforts of her family to marry them off. This peek into Indian expat life has a ring of truth to it, reaching the painful conclusion that despite their money and success, these immigrants still feel like "second-class Americans". More fiction than fact, on the other hand, is Apu's taxi-driver and friend Hassan (Shauvik Kundagrami), a hyper Bengali from Bangladesh who talks like a bad television movie and, lamentably, is scripted into an absurdly trite shootout with the Texas police, Shauvik earns points anyway for a rocking perf.

The young cast brings life and personality, topped by Shayan Munshi's romantic charm and a strong screen presences and by Chatterjee's confused but principled corporate player. It is particularly interesting to hear Shreya Ghoshal and Shaan attempt Bengali songs. The wild visual contrast between Houston and Kolkata is played up in Indranil Mukherjee's confident cinematography. The editor Moniak Bhowmick performs an outstanding balancing act in smoothly alternating the two stories, avoiding the usual feeling of channel-flipping. Neel Dutt is credited with the movie's highly-enjoyable modern fusion sound, which subtly recaps the theme of the old vs. new culture clash. On the ratings scale, four out of five.

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