Film Review: Ahalya
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Tota Roy Chowdhury and Radhika Apte
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Adapting a legendary story on screen is a complex task and it’s either you get it right or you go completely off track, the length not with standing. Sujoy Ghosh took a gutsy step in adapting Ahalya as a short film but also reinterpreted the literary work in his own way, exploring the dark and tragic. Quite a task at hand, I would say.
In the epic Ramayana, Brahma created the most flawless woman who is conquered by Gautama and Indra takes the garb of the former by deceit and makes love to Ahalya. In return, Ahalya is cursed and turned into a stone. One is tempted to ask what is the fault of Ahalya in that?
Sujoy Ghosh re-interprets Ahalya with the visit of police inspector (Toto Roy Chowdhury) to the house of artist Soumitra Chatterjee and his young-cum-beautiful wife Ahalya played by Radhika Apte. This time Ahalya is depicted as a temptress and seduces the police inspector in the most subdued manner. Ghosh weaves 14 minutes of powerful cinema, where the audience is hooked to the powerful and tight narrative-cum-screenplay. The director casts a critical view on society who castigated a woman and the new-age Ahalya showcases that she is a human being and carves her own identity. The film, set in Bengal, injects the metaphor in a very potent manner that makes it a sheer delight. Adding to that, the camera movements, close up shots and the lamps set the mood to make the film convincing.
Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee is effortless and flawless whether it’s spawning the mystery or naughty act and is such a delight to watch. Toto Roy Chowdhury holds his forte and plays his part with competence. The winner in Ahalya is its female lead, Radhika Apte who is effortless as an actor, pulls a mature act where her body language marries the Bengoli that she speaks. She gives the short film the added edge and plays Ahalya to perfection, sinking easily in the character. Certainly, Radhika is going to re-define acting and is someone who has a powerful stroke play. She is the soul of Ahalya.
Final words: Mystery, thriller and re-adaptation of the mythology, Ahalya, is a must watch and will blow your mind. I remain speechless after the climax scene where suspense has been deftly explored coupled with the thrilling end. The director should be applauded for the introduction of statues which is not only a novel concept but a strong metaphor in this female-centric act. The scene where Ahalya strokes Indra has been shot with an aesthetic sense and is splendidly done. The climax is brilliantly sketched.
On the flip side, Ahalya, at some point, is not a full suspense and one can sense what may happen towards the end and Ahalya (Radhika) holding the status towards the end seems a bit flimsy. But, it doesn’t diminish the merit of the actors in 14 minutes of dark, gritty and delightful cinema which is an ode to feminism. A must watch.
You can watch it here or click on You Tube. Enjoy.