What is the story about?
In a village somewhere in West Bengal, Sanatan, a diver by profession, is tasked by an old man with finding a lost earring belonging to his widowed daughter-in-law Nilu. Sanatan, who never fails to find anything, keeps trying time and time again to recover Nilu's earring, even as she keeps goading him to recover it. Is the earring really lost, or are Nilu and Sanatan chasing something else?
It's very rare these days to find a movie that tries setting its narrative in the fields and rivers of rural Bengal. Krishnendu Dutta's Duburi: The Song of Breath, stuck for over two years, finally reveals itself, thanks to the wonders of streaming. As far as the visuals go, Dutta's film is a treat. Not since Kaushik Ganguly's Bishorjon has rural Bengal looked so rich. Like another movie that's also streaming on Addatimes, Sahaj Pather Goppo, this film prefers a melancholic monochrome palette for the most part, possibly to justify the conventional boxes into which Nilu and Sanatan's lives are supposed to be categorized in, but it also devastatingly switches to muted colours at two points to convey turmoil of the soul. As the anchor of the story, Nilu is a mystery, as you don't guess for the most part whether she is sane, delusional, grieving or manipulative, and the various close-ups of her staccato face only trick the viewer further.
Unfortunately, when you look at the screenplay there's hardly any meat in the story that could justify its runtime. At 76 minutes, the film feels longer than it is, because you get the gist of the film at the mid-point, and from then on, the film loses its novelty. In fact, the relatively-simple story would have sufficed more as a 30-minute short film rather than as a full-blown feature, and there's only so much that the visual flourishes and an arthouse aesthetic can do to take the story forward. The climax and ending of the story feel unfinished and haphazard, making it look as if Dutta ran out of ideas on how to complete the narrative. Overall, in spite of gorgeous frames, this film feels like a missed opportunity.
Piyali Guha's Nilu is the heart and soul of this film, and, considering a substantial part of the film rest on close-ups of her face, she gives voice to the grief and frustration of her character through her expressive eyes. Bappa Mondal's Sanatan is gruff and assured, but Mondal's dialogue delivery feels off at times. The rest of the cast is all right.
Music & Other Departments
Dutta's cinematography is eye-filling, with several gorgeous shots of the Matla river in south Bengal, where the film was shot. Atishay Jain's work on the sound design is also great, though his background score (composed along with Subhamoy Ghosh) could have been better.
The cinematography and sound design are the definite highlights.
The story drags a lot after the interval, especially when the mystery of Nilu's lost earring is laid bare. Also, the background score, though sparse, seems to be overtly melodramatic at places.
Did I enjoy it?
I found it interesting in parts. Overall, it left me feeling disappointed.
Do I recommend it?
If you're used to character dramas that progress slowly, you can give this a watch. But don't expect anything extraordinary.