Trolling the internet for Soumitra Chatterjee films, as fangirls are wont to do, Indie Quill found Khudito Pashan, adapted from Tagore's short story, and we leapt upon it immediately. We were in love with it from the get-go as a disembodied, echoing voice shouts "Run away! Run away! It's all a lie!"** Seriously, that's the first thing that happens after the censor certificate. BRILLIANT! If that weren't enough, in the first few minutes it also gives gives up an angsty Soumitra in a suit jacket and trousers, an abandoned Mughal palace,
|"Soumitrao's thought bubble: 'By the thighs of Dharmendra, this kurta is doing a whole lot for my nonexistent pectorals!'" –via @inuit4|
However, there are two things about his character and performance here that don't really work for me. First is the very few moments of reciprocated love between Mumtaz and Soumitra. I won't spoil how they met in the past, but their romance is unconvincing and kind of perfunctory. Their backstory isn't even in Tagore's original story; maybe the problem here is that its development was cut short in favor of ghostly wanderings or the music, leaving it feeling unsupported, rushed, and out of nowhere. Their bond might also stem as much from his respect of her unwillingness to surrender to the Mughals (she's a captive) as from actual romance, but I didn't find the film clear on this point. Mumtaz has spent most of the film silent, so we know very little about her other than that she is a sad ghost who gets dragged away by soldiers, and Soumitra's historical character is not decisively linked to his current-day one other than through his physical appearance (and in fact, historical Soumitra is reprehensible at first), so the film has a lot of work to do in giving either of them a personality that can carry part of a love story...and it doesn't quite manage it. Giving these two characters just a few minutes more to demonstrate who they are and why they are worth the big risks of epic love would have helped a ton.
Endhiran probably laughs more convincingly, but then again he's scripted by Rajnikanth, so he should do everything better than anyone else. The laugh detracts from an otherwise convincing portrayal of a relatable, very human man.
And as a special treat for all my sonpapdis, here is Soumitra in jodhpurs and riding boots. I'll leave you to discover him dripping wet in Mughal silks on a moonlit beach on your own.
** "Yeh jhoot hai! JHOOT" is probably my favorite bit of filmi dialogue ever, and this movie offered up a nice little twist with "Sub jhoot hai!"