Film Review: Bariwali-The Lady of the House


Bariwali-The Lady of the House, is yet another masterpiece by director, Rituparno Ghosh. Bariwali is a self-reflexive film, a theme highlighted by Rituparno in many of his works. The director has matured as both a film-maker and a writer since his first movie, Hirer Angti.

Banolata, played by Kirron Kher, is a lonely woman with an eccentric background. All the members of the family have either died or distanced themselves from her. A house and its valuable assets is all that she inherits. Prasanna and Malati, the maid, are her only companions. Taxed with the burden of the vast mansion to handle, fate presents an opportunity to her in lieu of a film shoot. Director Dipankar, played by Chiranjeet, is looking for a location for his upcoming film and Banolata’s abode suits him well. A suitable rent is fixed and the shooting begins. However, destiny has other plans for Banolata.

Rituparno Ghosh outbids himself with the direction and the screenplay. Banolata’s dreams provide her with a way to escape her tragedy. The dream wherein she is hoping the women to celebrate her marriage bedazzles her when she sees Prasanna telling her otherwise. It bewilders the audience. The blood squirted on her face in another dream is as realistic as possible. In one of the dialogues Banolata blames her father for all her sorrow. This makes the reader wonder about a typical father-daughter relationship. The story is emotional and funny at times yet there’s a neutral tone to all the events which connects with the audience rather than being superficial. For instance, the climax is dramatic while being subtle making the pain felt believable.

Kirron Kher represents a new generation of artists who believe in finesse. Banolata’s character couldn’t have been played better by anyone else. However, at crucial times, the voice of the dubbing artist betrays her persona and the audience feels uncomfortable. Malati is played by Sudipta Chakroborty. She provides the audience with all the humour that goes around in the movie. The bickering of the maid with the mistress is delightful. Chiranjeet Chakroborty plays the role of Dipankar. The diplomacy and cunningness are well showcased by the seasoned actor. However, he could have lent a more cheerful tone to the character at times. For instance, the scene where Banolata serves him food required a tinge of curiosity and naughtiness. Rupa Ganguly does an outstanding job as Sudeshna Mitra.  Her conversations with Banolata, the rift between Dipankar and her and her mental upheave have been superbly highlighted by the actress. She provides much attention to all the minute details.

The film owes its brilliance to the excellent work done by the Cinematographer, Vivek Shah. The window shot of the temple when the Officer and Prasanna converse establishes the upcoming creativity of the cameraman. The long shots of the house provide a pleasing atmosphere to the film. The scene wherein Banolata sees Dipankar leaving after meeting him for the first time through the window heightens the anguish.  The shot where the storm is about to come and Banolata witnesses Malati and Narayan kissing significantly outlines the storm within Banolata’s mind. Excellent shots of the dream sequences in one of which Banolata is shown clinging to her bed in her marital gown and the audience can actually relate to her agony. The series of shots where Dipankar woos Banolata to act in his film are extra-ordinary.

Editing is crisp and clear. The sequences in which Banolata reads Dipankar’s letters are well edited. However, in one shot when Dipankar comes to ask Banolata for the keys of one of the rooms after the shoot is complete, the establishing shot is too stretched.

Sound Design is in perfect sync with the movie. The songs sung by Rupa Ganguly not only add meaning to the story but also relaxes the audience and adapts them to the scene. Minute details such as stridulating crickets, chirping birds, redundancy of the spinning cotton reflect the meticulousness of the film-maker. Ticking of the clock adds to the longing which Banolata craves for.

The sets and costumes are precisely utilised. The cooking and eating scenes provoke the viewer with hunger pangs. The rotten furniture shown when Dipankar explores the mansion brings about the financial as well as the mental state of Banolata. Bottled water is kept in the scenes where Rupa Ganguly is shown focusing on the minutest details.

Symbolism and metaphors mark the substance of the story. Banolata’s desperation for companionship, the gender stereotyping and orthodox traditions are well covered. The film mocks the industry of cinema and criticises those who don’t understand its importance.

Bariwali is an experience and has an exhilarating  story to offer.

Source: Tony Dorjey


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