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Starring: Dev, Gerard Rudolf
Directed by Kamaleswar Mukherjee
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.
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.