Chander Pahar

Kam­aleswar Mukherjee matches, frame by frame, the spine-tingling suspense of the novel...

Starring: Dev, Gerard Rudolf
Directed by Kamaleswar Mukherjee
Rating: ***

The story about the diamond-studded, danger-­dotted Moon Mountains in the wilds of east Afr­ica, is one of the best adv­enture tales in the world­—with blood-chiling turns at every turn—by the great  Bib­hu­ti­bhu­san Bandyopadhyay. Kam­aleswar Mukherjee matches, frame by frame, the spine-tingling suspense of the novel, right from the adrenaline-­dri­pping opening sequ­ence of a man pursued by wild beasts, and keeps up the tempo till the end.

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Dev charms as Shankar Cho­u­dhury, the young Bengali village boy who dre­ads clerkdom and wangles a job as station master of a tiny train station in Uganda, where only one train stops in a day. He’s content to be surrounded by the scenic wilds until things start to happen. But Bibhutibhushan’s story is not just adventure. Its greatness lies in the depth of characterisation. Here, too, Mukherjee succeeds. Also noteworthy is his  eye for atmospheric det­ail—the lamp-lit feel of col­onial Africa, circa 1909, blazing deserts and freezing caves. Even the depiction of the mythical Bunyip (Rhodesian monster), though amateurish, is able to inspire terror. The erupting volcano was depicted through a fireworks effect, but succeeded in inspiring awe.

True to the original vin­­­t­age, wild beasts are the villains, though a cha­racter does say, “It’s human greed, not Bun­yip, which kills”. But unl­ess you can marvel, for instance, at an African tribe’s techni­que of amb­u­shing wild ani­mals (hunt or be hun­ted), you are missing the point.

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