Hirer Angti (1992):
“Kaal raat ke aami…….”. Oh! Sorry. That was a failed attempt to begin a sentence in Bengali, which sadly didn’t get past 3-4 words. Don’t even know if those were correct either. What I was trying to say was: “Yesterday night I watched a delightful children’s movie, titled Hirer Angti” (with sub-titles of course). The language is so sweet that it had it’s influence and hence the attempt. Well, perhaps after a few more tries.
Now coming to the film. “Hirer Angti” (Diamond Ring), is based on the story by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, and it’s not the first time I watched it.
Once Upon a Time:
………..…..in the days of Doordarshan, when children’s movies were telecast during the summer vacations. That’s when I saw “Hirer Angti”, and I have always remembered it. I remembered the story, some vague impressions of scenes. I also remember being initially a little disappointed and someone remarking “why are Bengali movies always shot in dark”. And I finally remember being slowly drawn and ending up immensely liking it.
So, when I thought that it has been a long time since I discussed a CFSI movie, I chose this one. Because even after almost two decades it remains fresh (if not vivid).
Such was the debut of celebrated director- Rituparno Ghosh.
“Hirer Angti” was the debut movie of multiple award-winning director Rituparno Ghosh. It’s a fair glimpse into his later films. That “Hirer Angti” was directed by Rituparno Ghosh is a fact I learned while researching for this movie. And frankly I have not watched any of his movies except this and “Raincoat” (which again I liked). But those two are enough to prompt me to try more of his directorial ventures.
But that will come later. For now, let’s stay with “Hirer Angti”(Diamond Ring).
It’s night. Some men are standing with lighted torches (mashaals) in their hands. A man arrives on a horse. That is the Chief, and the men were obviously waiting for him. He eyes a big mansion in front of him, again obviously not with good intent. The Chief orders his men to march ahead and they storm this house. Chief looks for the master of the house, whom he finds under a bed. Chief of dacoits joins him and asks for the key. Master tells him he doesn’t have it. Chief gets angry saying that the keys must be with a lady of the house.
He looks from under the bed and orders one of his men to drag all the ladies of the house by the hair and bring them here.
The man says “Can’t do it”.
Chief: “What? You are defying my order. Why can’t you do that?”
The man without being scared answers: “Can’t do that. All the ladies of the house have short hair. Bob-chhat (bob-cut)”.
There now. Chief is momentarily left in silence, before threatening the Master again. But this time his sword strikes a pillow in Master’s hands and a key falls from it. Chief and his men now try to open a huge box with the key. It doesn’t open. They try with a spear, then a stick and finally with a crowbar, upon which the box starts spilling gold coins from the keyhole. The Chief stares at the coins. As he stares the gold coin turns to an ordinary one and the Chief loses his dacoit attire. The man in whose hands the coin lays was obviously dreaming.
This man- Shasthicharan (Sunil Mukherjee) works for a goldsmith Gopi Syankra (Bankim Ghosh). As the two converse we know that it’s Shasthicharan’s life’s dream to earn (or rather steal) enough money to form a dacoit gang. During that conversation they end up talking about Ratanlal Banerjee (Basanta Choudhary), the village landlord. He is obviously a big man in their place as the Durga Puja is celebrated in Ratanlal Banerjee’s house.
The light goes. You see it was already a night scene and the lights are gone. Back then we almost wanted to switch off the T.V. at that point, as the film seemed to be only on dark. But I am glad that we didn’t.
But coming back. Ratanlal Banerjee is standing before the unfinished idol of Durga Maa. His servant and confidant Panchu (Gyanesh Mukherjee), comes and slightly admonishes him for staying awake so late and also worrying unnecessarily. Because it’s obvious that Mr. Banerjee is worried about something. He shares his anxiety with Panchu over the next day, which is “Mahalaya”. It seems that if certain thing happens on this year’s Mahalaya, Mr. Banerjee might lose all his wealth. Even the Durga Puja will stop. But Panhcu tells him not to worry too much and go to bed.
At this moment the credits roll. The dawn comes and some light into the movie too. And from hereon it becomes more interesting.
Slowly, the Banerjee household is introduced. It comprises of an elder son Bishweshwar, his wife Pratima and son Habul. A youngest son Bireshwar. The second son, Someshwar, is also supposed to come for the Puja along with his wife and daughter Tinni. It’s “Mahalaya” and the preparation for Durga Puja are in full swing. The drummers arrive. The Durga idol is taking the final form.
Meanwhile, a young man arrives in the village. He asks for directions to Ratanlal Banerjees house. To whom do you think, but Shashticharan. Shasthicharan spots a big ring on this stranger’s finger- a big diamond ring, Hirer Angti. When the stranger leaves, Shasthicharan takes off to inform Gopi, that his dream could finally come true. If he is able to steal this ring that is.
The stranger now arrives at Ratanlal Banerjee’s house. Habul opens the door. The man introduces himself as Gandharva Kumar and asks for Ratanlal Banerjee. Now this man’s Bengali is of the highest purity (very shuddh). In fact, when Habul tells him that Mr. Banerjee is his Dadu (grandfather), the man asks him “Tumi taa pautro na dohitro” (Are you his Son’s son or daughter’s son). Habul, confused replies “I am his elder son’s son”. Simple.
But Mr. Banerjee is doing his morning prayers and this will take time. So, the guest is left in charge more or less of Habul. Gandharva Kumar asks Habul to call him Genu Da. Slowly Habul, who of course is of the impressionable age, gets impressed with this Genu Da. Awed rather. Because he knows so many things. And the small bag (jhola) Gandharva Kumar carries seems to contain almost everything (like Bhanumati ka pitara). He can play drums, he can do magic, he even instantly become friends with the family dog “Jimmy”. This Jack of All man seems to know everything. Genu Da also does not take long to befriend Tinni, Habul’s cousin, whom Habul finds trifle irritating as she always speaks in English.
Who is he?
Mr. Banerjee finally finishes his prayers. All family arrives in the prayer room to take prasad. Habul arrives last. Mr. Banerjee remarks: “always late as usual”. On which Habul informs his grandfather that he was attending to the guest. What guest? Habul responds by repeating a sentence which Genu Da had told him to convey to his grandfather.
On hearing that sentence both Mr. Banerjee & Panchu look in shock at each other. It is clear that there is a secret which only Mr. Banerjee & trustworthy Panchu know about. Immediately, Mr. Banerjee leaves asking Habul to send Gandharva Kumar to his room.
But Mr. Banerjee’s sons are bewildered. As no one knows the reason behind their father becoming suddenly so upset.
So, what did upset Mr. Banerjee? What is the secret that is shared only by Mr. Banerjee & Panchu? Why does Mr. Banerjee keeps worrying about loosing his wealth? What is the significance of the “Hirer Angti” on Gandharva Kumar’s finger? And not to forget does Shasthicharan succeed in stealing it?
Interesting questions. Equally interesting answers. But for that you will have to watch it.
As I said the movie gets its momentum after the initial 10-12 minutes. Momentum, that’s to say it’s drive, but it’s not very high paced. It proceeds with its own sweet, slow, comfortable pace. Yet engaging at the same time. The execution and the simplicity of it all makes the story really engrossing to watch. The simultaneous depiction of Banerjee household, the drummers, the Puja preparations, the house and people come alive in that short span. And most importantly one is as charmed by the man wearing the Hirer Angti, as are Habul & Tinni.
A special mention for the dialogues. For interesting dialogues further amp up the script. Here is an instance. Shasthicharan asks Gopi on why he adds impurities to gold (more than necessary actually). Note Gopi’s reply: “Gold is like human character. It has pure as well as impure substances in it. Both of them together makes it interesting.”
He has an intriguing personality as a man who seems to be jack of all trades. It’s quite easy to see how he makes his way into the hearts of both the kids. As a kid back then I too was charmed. So, this time I did a little research on the actor playing it. Ayan Banerjee. It seems he worked in a movie called “Shriman Prithviraaj”, which was quite popular. Reading that film’s review on the blog The Films & Me, has got me quite interested. Now it’s definitely on my watch list (if it’s available with subtitles that is).
Ratanlal Banerjee; Shasthicharan & Gopi:
As for the other main character, Ratanlal Banerjee. It was played by veteran Bengali actor Basanta Chaudhary. Now I don’t know anything about him except what the internet tells. Personally I think he was quite a good-looking grandpa.
The most interesting character for me was Shasthicharan. Really funny, effortlessly. Also delightful was the relation between him and the goldsmith Gopi. While Shasticharan harbours the dream of starting his own dacoit gang, I felt that Gopi indulges him because he knows that Shasthicharan is not as fierce or skilful as he thinks himself to be. That Gopi does it perhaps so that Shasthicharan does not get himself into trouble.
I do hope sincerely, that my write-up has encouraged you sufficiently to at least bookmark the movie. You should definitely watch it. It was a wonderful debut, to a sadly short, but highly illustrious career of the director- Rituparno Ghosh.
There was a song in the movie that I liked, dedicated to Goddess Durga, which plays with the initial credits.
Every language I find has its own charm and sweet qualities. That’s why I profoundly miss the old Doordarshan. The Doordarshan which introduced us to the many gems of regional movies and was instrumental in evolving an overall love for cinema, including children’s movies.
Links & Video:
When I downloaded the movie, the subtitles just vanished. So I watched online. So, here’s a link to the movie.
And a small part of the song dedicated to Durga Maa from the movie:
DISCLAIMER: The screenshots, stills and videos from the movie are included here only for the purpose of information, entertainment and propagation of children’s cinema. The copyright over the film rests with the owners/ producers of the movie.