Kakababur Protyaborton  Review – More of a lacklustre travelogue of the Savannah than a Film
Kakababur Protyaborton (2022) Review: It might be safe to assume that Bengalis are born with a healthy dose of wanderlust, and if the satiation of said wanderlust isn’t possible via physical means, the next refuge would be in the comfort of the paperback thriller novels – “Feluda” series by Satyajit Ray, “Kakababu” series by Sunil Gangopadhyay. Mostly written for children and impressionable teenagers, the majority of these stories would double up as a travelogue through a different locale or tourist destination. Thus the dream of exploring that locale would be fulfilled by the words of these authors and the active imagination of their readers.
It isn’t a coincidence that the majority of the adaptations of these novels are the ones leaning heavily on the travelogue aspects. However, the best of these stories would maintain a balance between the investigative aspects of the story as well as the road trip vibes of the tale. Leaning more towards the latter, especially in cases of these movie adaptations would bring about a sense of redundancy, especially when actual travelogues shot and edited far better exist.
Succinctly speaking Kakababur Protyaborton is neither a very good investigative or thriller picture, nor a good travelogue which it had the ambition to be from the first frame itself. Honestly, you can’t blame cinematographer Soumik Haldar, considering the movie was shot primarily on location. The vibe of a travelogue can best be replicated if realism could be invoked, but what the movie needed was less luxuriating in the visuals, and crisper editing. There would be long stretches of the savannah, with wildebeest or giraffes ambling, grazing, or galloping, and Kakababu explaining to Santu different factoids about the indigenous wildlife with the veneer of a genial uncle, which he is. However all that amounts to, at least in the first half, a staid and dare I say, stodgy film.
It also didn’t help that the movie chooses to point out one character’s similarity with a well-known fictional character in Bengali literature. Appropriate context would reveal that Srijit Mukherji would be directing the next instalment of a Feluda TV Series, which does beg the question – frontloading the movie with so many references to Feluda, both verbal and visual, was it just a filmmaking choice or a subliminal hint? Could Kakababu’s Protyaborton be a stealth audition tape for Mukherji to direct a Feluda series or movie? However, I will give Mukherji and the screenwriters credit. So much of references did lull me into a false sense of expectancy, so when a twist regarding a character happens, transitioning into the second half, I was a tad bit blindsided. The second half does have some thrilling moments. There is a scene involving Kakababu, Santu and a lone elephant, and a rhino intent on charging against each other, the two humans caught in the middle. That was a legitimately well constructed “set-piece”. Mukherji does try to replicate the same feeling of thrill with two other consequent set-pieces, but to somewhat diminishing returns.
Barring those set-pieces, the movie does end with more of a whimper. Mukherji trying to cram the central messaging of wildlife conservation as well as the difference between tribal simplicity and civilized complexity, but it does come off as a bit too simplistic a solution for a topic so important and sadly still relevant. The end scene with the antagonist of the movie too stands out for how gruesome it is, a surprisingly bloody conclusion for a bloodless tale.
Also, Read – 10 Essential Bengali Films of the Last Decade
It is going to be hard to ignore Srijit Mukherji as a filmmaker even in the current climate. When he debuted, the critical appreciation was immense because of the quality of the movie. Now though Mukherji stands out more because of the amount of content he is churning out. However, if compared to the previous entries in Srijit’s “Kakababu” trilogy, this instalment lies squarely in the middle. The inclusion of the thrill elements in the second half made me remember the old spark of Mukherji’s filmmaking, hidden beneath the almost slavish love of the source material. But he did get the casting right. Prosenjit Chatterjee is pitch-perfect as Kakababu – his composure, his vulnerability, his genial manner of speaking and yet his bravery, are translated effortlessly by Prosenjit. Anirban Chakraborti as Amol De, the newer addition to the cast, brings in a different layer, but altogether not a surprising one, especially if you are familiar with his work on Hoichoi’s Byadh.
As a movie in Srijit Mukherji’s filmography, Kakababur Protyaborton is far more decent than some of his much recent fares. It is watchable, even thrilling at some parts, but for the most part, it is simply a slog to go through. It tries hard to be a travelogue and mystery thriller, and thus callback to the paperback thriller novels of old, but it fails to maintain that balance, and in the end, becomes redundant.
Kakababur Protyoborton is now streaming on Hoichoi
Kakababur Protyaborton Official Trailer
Kakababur Protyaborton Links: IMDb
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Kakababur Protyaborton Cast: Prasenjit Chatterjee, Aryann Bhowmick, Anirban Chakrabarti, Alonso Grandío, Jacques Adriaanse