CHORABALI

Director: Redoan Rony
Year: 2012
Country: Bangladesh

Ignorant Westerner that I am, I can’t say that I’d ever seen a Bollywood film before watching my entry for Bangladesh. Technically, I still haven’t, since Chorabali is in Bengali rather than Hindi, but the style seems pretty similar. The correct term for Chorabali would be “Dhallywood”, after the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka.

Chorabali is marketed as an action thriller, which led me to expect over-the-top car chases, explosive stunts, and unconvincing special-effects – Bollywood action clichés that have gone viral through gifs and YouTube videos too many times to count. However, director Redoan Rony’s feature debut is slightly more subdued than all that. Whether this restraint is due to artistic reasons or budgetary ones is debatable, though.

The plot involves two heroes – Noboni, a resourceful and determined newspaper reporter, and Sumon, a disillusioned hitman with a troubled past, working together to undermine a corrupt politician.

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Noboni (right) is a no-nonsense reporter, fighting to expose corruption.

The style is highly melodramatic in a way that reminded me a lot of Classic Hollywood, complete with a handsome hero, a plucky female sidekick, and a flamboyant villain who laughs maniacally at every opportunity.

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Corrupt politician Ali Osman, the main antagonist of Chorabali.

Perhaps more interesting than the plot were the different cultural approaches to filmmaking. The most obvious of these was the product placement, which is far from subtle. There’s also a public safety warning that appears in the lower corner of the screen whenever a character is shown holding a cigarette: Smoking is injurious to health. True, but so is getting shot, which in Chorabali happens just as frequently.

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The cool, suave Sumon deftly turns the tables on the villain.

Chorabali clocks in at just over 2 hours, which seems to be typical for films from the region. As someone who generally prefers tighter, stripped-back storytelling, it seemed slightly excessive. There’s an extended flashback sequence in the middle of the film which depicts Sumon’s backstory, but which definitely feels like it could have been shortened significantly.

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Noboni tries to persuade Sumon to leave behind his life of crime and join her.

I don’t mean to disparage Chorabali too much, though. The music stands out, which is perhaps what Bollywood films are most famous for internationally. The plot moves along briskly, aside from the occasional distraction as mentioned above. But ultimately what drew me in were the characters, who are charming and compelling in a sort of cheesy, familiar way. This blog can sometimes tilt too far in favour of morbid, art-house dramas, so sometimes a simple action film doesn’t go amiss. Chorabali doesn’t break any new ground in terms of filmmaking, but it’s slick and entertaining, and sometimes that’s enough.

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