What is the story about?
Nirupam Chanda, a journalist, comes to the border village of Sundarpur, in order to dine at the famed restaurant, Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni, that is run by the enigmatic Mushkan Zuberi. With the help of local police informer Ator Ali, he tries to investigate Zuberi's background. A cat-and-mouse game ensues between Mushkan and Nirupam. But who will have the last laugh? And what is the truth?
The best thrillers are also often the strangest. And this can be said for Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni, or REKKA. Bangladeshi author Mohammed Nazim Uddin's novel comes to life in spectacular fashion as a nine-episode limited series, but creator and director Srijit Mukherji does more than adapt the novel to an Indian setting. Much of the heavy lifting is done by the original source material, but Mukherji mounts the twisted narrative on a grand scale. The long-format storytelling surprisingly allows us to see a more restrained director, since Mukherji takes his time in building up the plot in the first 4 episodes. By the time Episode 5 comes, the stage is set for a climactic showdown between Mushkan and Nirupam, and the last three episodes keep the tension ticking all the way to the end.
A large part of the show is dependent on the performances, since much of the events driving the narrative happen off-camera. In such a scenario, it is remarkable how Mukherji, with the help of his cast, brings to life an entire narrative that starts from the time of Rabindranath Tagore, and incorporates various events such as the 1971 liberation of Bangladesh and the 1972 Andes plane crash as plot points. A common charge levelled against Mukherji's films is that he sometimes gets too carried away, but here he is surprisinly restrained and in control of the story from the very start. As a result, REKKA becomes another feather in Hoichoi's cap after Mohanagar.
This series would not be what it is without its two leads. Azmeri Haque Badhon was the toast of the Cannes Film Festival a few weeks ago for Rehana Maryam Noor, and when you watch her in REKKA, you understand why. The seasoned Bangladeshi actress brings all her craft and energy to the role of the enigmatic Mushkan Zuberi in her Indian debut, carrying off the role with a mix of pizzazz, vulnerability and ruthlessness. She is spectacular in the last few episodes. Rahul Bose is the perfect counter to her as the unflappable Nirupam Chanda, who doggedly seeks to find out her truth. Episodes 6, 7 and 8 feature the climactic battle of wits and wills between Mushkan and Nirupam, and it's amazing to watch them at the top of their game.
Anirban Bhattacharya is in top form as Ator Ali, getting the physicality and the accent just right. Anjan Dutt is decent as Nirupam's mentor, Khawraj Khasnobis. However, Anirban Chakraborti doesn't get much scope as a police officer. Debopriyo Mukherjee shines in a bit role as the gravedigger Falu.
Music & Other Departments
Joy Sarkar's music and background score is an entire mood, and complements the slow-burn narrative perfectly. Shibaji Pal's production design is certainly lavish. The sound design, especially during the sequences at night, certainly make you feel as if you are in a desolate village. Indranath Marick's cinematography is unhurried.
A scene where a character gets buried alive and exhumed after a few days while still alive might be hard to digest for some.
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?
Yes. Give this a watch if you are interested in thrillers that go beyond the usual tropes.