Buddhadeb Dasgupta is one of the most prominent contemporary Bengali filmmakers, having received 27 National Awards, the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Athens International Film Festival. “The Flight” is the latest work.
Banchu Mondal is a car mechanic, but most importantly, he is a dreamer. His dream is a simple one, he just wants to fly, an aspiration he shares with his wife, but mostly his son, who actually enjoys his father’s attitude, since Banchu behaves like a child (in a good way) quite frequently. Eventually, Banchu discovers the crash site of a World War II Japanese plane and decides to rebuild it, without, though, having any clue on how to accomplish that. Furthermore, the place the plane is lying is “inhabited” by ghosts, who have the tendency to share their life stories with our protagonist. While his wish brings him to Kolkata in search of parts, the authorities also begin to investigate him as a life threatening series of bizarre events conspire.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta directs a film about the concept of “chasing your dreams” no matter how illogical they may seem, highlighting the fact that notions like that are not only a privilege of children. His approach towards this concept is split in two parts, with the first one presenting the “romantic” aspect and the second the realistic. This dichotomy results into two very different parts, with the first one being quite close to comedy and the second one to drama. Through the second part, and as we watch Banchu being ridiculed, prosecuted and even having troubles with his wife, is the main source of Dasgupta’s social comments, who seems to say that reality, particularly in the current circumstances in India, will not let a man follow his dreams, but instead punish him for them.
On the other hand, and mostly in the first part, Dasgupta makes a point of showing that for someone to embrace his inner child can be a great source of joy in his life, with Chandan Roy Sanyal as Banchu being wonderful in portraying both the aforementioned concepts. His ability to act as an individual whose attitude lingers between that of a child and a madman is exceptional, and actually carries the film for a significant part.
Another trait of Dasgupta’s direction is the way he has incorporated surrealism in the film, both through the concept of the dead that talk to Banchu and a number of other scenes, as the one where he is sleeping with his wife. His approach towards this element is so smooth, that one wonders if the dancing of the dead is actually happening, with Banchu’s attitude towards these occurrences heightening the particular sense, while inducing the movie with a very entertaining magical realism.
Asim Bose’s cinematography finds its apogee during those scenes, with his impeccable framing highlighting this aspect in the best fashion. Amitava Dasgupta’s editing is equally accomplished and the main source of the surrealistic elements appearing so smoothly in the narrative.
“The Flight” is a very interesting and entertaining film, particularly due to its social comments and directorial approach, and a great introduction to Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s cinema.