Bioscopewala: The Danny Denzongpa film realises only some of its great potential


Tagore’s touching tale Kabuliwala gets a contemporary re-jig in Bioscopewala, with Danny playing the titular, much-loved, still-remembered character.

Rehmat Khan, an Afghan refugee in Kolkata (Danny Denzongpa) strikes up a warm relationship with little Minnie (Geetanjali Thapa), who grows up, and moves away, as people do. A tragic event brings Minnie back to her childhood home, and the memories she had left behind; Rehmat and his beloved bioscope appears as a hazy dream; gets concrete form in the letters written by her father (Adil Hussain). They hint at a far deeper connection between him and Rehmat, and Minnie is left, uneasily, to unravel the mystery.

There was great potential here; Bioscopewala realises only some of it. The casting is inspired, just being able to watch the wonderful Danny on screen should have been good enough. But the film is choppy, especially in the way the father-daughter relationship is fashioned. What makes it strained? We never quite know.

The parts about Afghans in Kolkata (Tisca Chopra plays an Afghan refugee forced to box for a living) could have been richly detailed and lent heft to the film. And while the portion shot in Afghanistan, showing Rehmat’s painful past, is atmospheric, as is the film, it isn’t filled in enough.

Only Brijendra Kala rises above it all. His family retainer is marvelous, with Kala playing the part with affection and warmth. A most moving scene has a bucket of bathing water with neem leaves floating in them, Kala’s character offers it to Minnie without a word, and in just that gesture, gives us a glimpse of what this film could have been—a palimpsest of memories and lost love.

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