The Voyeurs



Toronto International Film Festival

CHENNAI, India -- Buddhadeb Dasgupta's "The Voyeurs" ("Ami Yasin Arr Amar Madhubala") is a critique of the modern surveillance system that makes a mockery of individual privacy. Dasgupta is one India's fast vanishing tribe of art filmmakers. He lives in Bengal, makes movies in Bengali and owes his debt to the region's cinema greats, such as Satyajit Ray, Ritwick Ghatak and still living Mrinal Sen. The director often has been accused of making his movies overtly poetic. This is only natural, because Dasgupta is a renowned poet, and the use of verse as a metaphor and the seemingly absurd make his films distinct from many others. "The Voyeurs" may hold wider commercial prospects than previous films, appealing to viewers outside the art house, given the picture's plot and its treatment.

At the very beginning, we are introduced to both the good and evil of the system. A hospital chief installs monitors to keep an eye on negligent nursing staff. Well, good, if they are for saving lives. But a little later, at a busy train terminus, a policeman gleefully watches on his screen a young couple smooching.

Dasgupta pans across these scenes to take us to a room of a young woman named Rekha, whose window affords voyeuristic scope for men on a terrace across the street. This idea is developed into a close-up with a sharper picture when the woman's neighbour, a strapping youth called Dilip, and his friend, Yasin, plant an eye in her room for endless peep-shows on their little screen.

The story takes a dramatic turn when Rekha discovers Dilip's crime, and in a series of twists and turns, Dasgupta touches upon Islamic terror, mistaken identity and police brutality that claims the life of an innocent man. Set in the midst of Kolkata's (formerly Calcutta) teeming millions, the movie, though minimalist in dialogue, tends to be somewhat expansive in imagery. The recurring scene of men carrying wooden furniture on the streets appears distracting, implying sloppy scripting and editing. One fails to understand why the film should have gone into areas like terror, diluting in the process what Dasgupta had set out to tackle in the first place, the intrusiveness of camera.

Performances here are markedly above average with Amitav Bhattacharya making a strong impression as one torn between righteousness and desire. A seductive Sameera Reddy playing the part of an aspiring actress could push "The Voyeurs" into the commercial circuit. Sunny Joseph's photography illuminates the dark crevices of voyeurism.

B.A.G Films and Media
Writer/director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Producer: Anurradha Prasad
Executive producer: Sanjeev Shankar Prasad
Director of photography: Sunny Joseph
Production designer: Swapan Kumar Ghosh
Music: Biswadeb Dasgupta
Editor: Amitava Dasgupta
Dilip: Prosenjit Chatterjee
Rekha: Sameera Reddy
Yasin: Amitav Bhattacharya
Running time -- 102 minutes
No MPAA rating