Bioscopewala: Not JUST a modern-day Kabuliwala
Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!
To be simple and direct, Bioscopewala takes up from where Kabuliwala ends.
The movie opens with Minnie’s (Geetanjali Thapa) return from Paris to her hometown Kolkata, because her estranged father (Adil Hussain) dies in a plane crash. We find an indifferent Minnie shrugging off to many happenings around her. However, things take a different turn when Bhola kaka, their domestic help, brings home a frail old man struggling with Alzheimer. Minnie is baffled and confused when she learns that the man is an Afghani convict, Rahmat Khan (Danny Dengzongpa), who was jailed for murder; and that her father had been fighting for his custody before his death. Minnie tries to figure out as to why her father wanted the custody of a convict and why was he flying to Afghanistan. In the midst of these perplexities, it dawns upon her (when he was humming his favourite tune) that this old man is none other than the Bioscopewala with whom she shared a strong bonding in her childhood. For others, Bioscopewala was an immigrant from Afghanistan going around in the streets of Bengal showing movies on his bioscope. But, for 5 year old Minnie, this tall Pathan with a turban was her buddy, ‘her bioscopewala’ who ‘taught her to tell stories, to make things up’. Her quest to unravel Khan’s story leads her to the streets of Kolkata, Sonagachi and eventually to Afghanistan.
“He was the one who taught me to tell stories, to make things up…”
Talking about acting, Danny is superlative as always, getting perfectly into the skin of this Pathani character. Although Bioscopewala happens to be his comeback movie, we get to see him much less than expected with minimal dialogues. But then again, why does one need dialogues when his intense and expressive eyes are doing the job? Geetanjali Thapa has been ideally casted as the grown up Minnie, who gives a spectacular performance. With the support of stellar cast like Adil Hussain and Tisca Chopra, this movie is definitely going to stand high.
What makes Deb Medhekar’s (Director) Bioscopewala different from Tagore’s story is the way in which Medhekar digs into the father-daughter relationship and diaspora.
In one instance Minnie explains that whenever she recalls her father, who was a photographer, she can only see half of his face as the other half would always be covered by his camera. On the other hand, peeking through the lens of Rahmat Khan’s bioscope, Minnie found a totally different world.
The movie also explores the theme of diaspora and how wars and exodus scar people’s lives. Khan, being a hazara refugee from Afghanistan longs for his home and family. Back in Afghanistan, he was a nonconformist who showed cinema to the people of his village, which was considered a sin by the Talibans. He had to elope to India with his bioscope, after the Talibans destroyed his cinema studio. Unable to return home, he finds solace in the company of young Minnie who reminds him of his own daughter, and compresses the memories of his film studio into the bioscope.
What one cannot miss is the title track. Sung by K. Mohan of Agnee band, the track is repeated a couple of times and you are not going to be bored at all. Every time you hear the chant “Bioscopewala aaya…” with Danny on the the screen, a sense of euphoria runs through your heart and soul.
The plot keeps shuffling between memories and events of the past and present, allowing the audience to connect the dots. The setting is of Kolkata and Afghanistan. The language, too, keeps juggling from Bengali to Hindi and then English, reminding the audience of A Death in the Gunj.
Overall, it’s a must watch movie. What Minnie brings back for her Bioscopewala, from Afghanistan, is definitely going to leave you soggy-eyed.