Chander Pahar (Mountain of the Moon): Film Review
This adaptation of a popular 1937 Bengali novel depicts a young man's hair-raising African adventures.
Relatively few Bengali films reach our shores, and if Chander Pahar (Mountain of the Moon) is any indication, we’re not missing very much. Director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee’s film version of the popular 1937 adventure novel by Bibhutishushan Bandyopadhyay struggles mightily for an epic quality in its depiction of a young Bengali man’s hair-raising African adventures. But it’s undercut by a sluggish, rough-hewn execution and special effects so laughable that any sense of wonder is quickly lost. Indian audiences may flock, but crossover commercial traction seems unlikely.
Tollywood star Dev Adhikari plays the central role of Shankar, who relocates to Africa to take a job as a stationmaster at a remote Ugandan railroad station where the train stops but once a day. The intrepid young man quickly finds himself embroiled in a series of near-fatal encounters with the local wildlife including snakes, spiders, elephants and a lion, the latter of which he somehow manages to outrun.
He eventually meets and forms a friendship with Portuguese fortune hunter Diego (Gerard Rudolf), who persuades him to leave his clearly dangerous job and join him on a search for the “Mountain of the Moon” that supposedly contains vast amounts of gold and diamonds. The pair set off on an equally perilous trek through the wilderness in which they’re beset by such life-threatening episodes as a raging volcano and an attack by a mythical creature known as the “Bunyip.” Both are conveyed via rudimentary CGI effects that wouldn’t pass muster on a Saturday morning kiddie show.
The choppy, episodic storyline is dragged out for over nearly two-and-a-half hours and quickly proves repetitive. As blandly played by the handsome Adhikari, the central character never proves a particularly compelling figure, and the frequent action sequences are rendered in such clumsy fashion, including choppy editing and an overreliance on slow-motion, that they’re often visually incoherent.
The film, shot primarily on South African locations, does offer a plethora of gorgeous landscape vistas and enough exotic animals to fill a dozen episodes of Wild Kingdom.
Production: Shree Venkatesh Films
Cast: Dev Akhikari, Gerard Rudolf, Martin Cito Otto, Nabeel Khan, Paul Ditchfield, David James
Director/screenwriter: Kamaleshwar Mkherjee
Producers: Shrikant Mohta, Mahendra Soni
Director of photography: Soumik Haldar
Editor: Rabiranjan Maitra
Composer: Indradeep Dasgupta
Not rated, 148 min.