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Film Review: The Storyteller

Film Review: The Storyteller

Starring: Paresh Rawal, Adil Hussain, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Revathi

Director: Anant Mahadevan

This unique gem of a film opened the London Indian Film Festival’s June season recently after a world premiere at the Busan Film Festival. As it approaches wider release later this year, this tale based on a short story entitled ‘Golpo Boliye Tarini Khuro’ by the legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray is sure to connect with audiences worldwide.

Tarini Bandopadhyay (Rawal) has had years of covering news stories for an iconic newspaper in Calcutta and as he retires from a busy reporting career, he inevitably finds himself at a loose end. Phone calls from his US-based “capitalist” son are interspersed with memories of his late wife, who was among his biggest cheerleaders as an engaging storyteller and keenly wanted him to share it with a wider readership by writing them down. Just as his socialist views remained deeply entrenched despite the political winds of change all around him in newly independent India, so did Tarini’s determination to never pen down his popular stories for fear of criticism, or worse – rejection.

When his close friends spot a quirky newspaper advertisement seeking out a storyteller for a handsome salary in Ahmedabad, an initially hesitant Tarini decides to embrace this shift away from his beloved West Bengal. What awaits the fish-lover in the staid vegetarian household of a wealthy businessman in Gujarat makes for an intriguing plot twist in his life. Mota Bhai (Hussain) has it all, it would seem, but a restful night’s sleep due to crippling insomnia. After trying all manner of sleep-inducing solutions medicine has to offer, the businessman takes his therapist’s advice and begins a protracted hunt for a talented storyteller who can help him drift off to the lilts of bedtime tales.

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What begins as a shaky meeting between two very contrasting personalities, gradually turns into a bond of mutual respect until Tarini’s regular visits to the local library bring a shock discovery to the fore. How will this revelation impact the shaky new friendship?

Believed to have been based on Ray’s own experiences with plagiarism, this short story is in adept hands with director Anant Mahadevan. Not only does he perfectly capture the old-world charm of Calcutta, but also brings each of the characters alive in a way that is reminiscent of the master filmmaker himself.

The shadow of Ray runs throughout, with the subject matter of who has the rightful claim to a story as relevant to today’s discourse as it was when he penned down this tale all those decades ago.

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With a cinematic release for ‘The Storyteller’ expected in India in September-October, this ode to the art of storytelling is sure to strike a chord far and wide.

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