Tale of a River (Ek Nadir Galpo)

Bottom Line: A moving story of a father-daughter relationship set on the picturesque banks of a river, but with a slight flaw in the script.

International Film Festival of India

CHENNAI, India -- In "Tale of a River" ("Ek Nadir Galpo"), first-time director Samir Chanda adapts a short story by Bengal's renowned poet and writer, Sunil Gangopadhyay, and turns it into a sensitive portrayal of a father-daughter relationship.

Setting the film in a Bengali village, Chanda uses the lush, virgin beauty of the countryside to narrate the tale of a river on whose banks Anjana/Anu (Shweta Prasad) grows up. A motherless child affectionately raised by her postmaster father, Darakeshwar Bhattacharya (Mithun Chakraborty), she is bubbly and spreads joy in the neighborhood.

Pregnant with messages -- such as the value of female education (still a burning issue in rural India), the rigidity of the caste system, the divisive forces of religion, the bugbear of bureaucracy and even the evils of tobacco chewing, -- the Bengali language movie nonetheless goes beyond these to tell a poignant story of a father's fight to immortalize his daughter's name. Gripping enough to even attract non-festival arthouse crowds, it scores with its plot and visual imagery.

When college-going (the first girl in her village to do so) Anjana, or Anu as she is fondly called, dies on the banks of the river she adored, her grief-stricken father begins a crusade to rename it after her. He hits a wall with an unfeeling bureaucracy and a political system that might change any number of other names, but not of this river. Recounted with touching simplicity, "Tale of a River" -- competing at the International Film Festival of India at Panaji in Goa -- is not so much the story of flowing waters as it is of flowing feelings, those of a distraught man struggling to keep alive the memory of one person who mattered in his life.

Chakraborty essays this pain with extraordinary intensity, transforming himself from a happy, hopeful father to one completely shattered, the grief pushing him to the verge of insanity. Prasad portrays sheer joy and is a refreshing presence, though her naivety appears a trifle unbelievable. Can a teenager be this innocent in this day and age, given the reach of information through Internet even in the remotest corners of India?

Lisac Entertainment
Writer/director/production designer: Samir Chanda
Based on a story by: Sunil Gangopadhyay
Producers: Sangeeta Ajay Agarwal, Leela Chanda
Executive Producer: Chintu Mohapatra
Director of photography: Rajen Kothari
Music: Nachiketa
Costume designer: Leela Chanda
Editor: Sanjib Datta
Darakeshwar Bhattacharya: Mithun Chakraborty
Anjana/Anu: Shweta Prasad
Running time -- 124 minutes
No MPAA rating