“Kalkokkho” is creatively unsettling, remarkably sensitive and a viewer’s delight writes Narender Yadav
The psychological trepidity due to the global pandemic could manifest itself in the form of eccentric behaviour patterns and unexpected situations – sometimes crossing the moral and ethical boundaries too. Bengali feature film Kalkokkho (House of Time) explores these dark aspects of human nature that the pandemic has so plainly laid bare. The best aspect about the film is its context – which is real and experiential and its juxtaposition with a seemingly illusionary plot. This debut feature film of National Award-winning filmmaker-duo Rajdeep Paul and Sarmistha Maiti, both alumni of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, is creatively unsettling, remarkably sensitive and a viewer’s delight.
In the initial few shots, the film looks easily relatable in that it mirrors what many of us had lived through lockdown in 2020. But, a few more minutes into the film, and the plot takes completely unpredictable turns. With a combination of gripping storyline, powerful acting, and high production quality the film creates a world which is illusionary yet real, emotional yet frightening, disturbing yet soothing. Sometimes, the film looks like a chimera, a delusion in the garb of reality and then suddenly it hits hard in your face. The 124-minute long film makes one find something new, something unexplored in the plot and its characters as the film progresses.
Interestingly, “Kalkokkho” also marks the launching of the new generation filmmakers of the legendary Aurora Film Corporation led by the third-generation custodian, director-producer Anjan Bose. Since the inception of cinema in India, with the legacy of producing and distributing Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar”, “Aparajito” and also distributing Ray’s “Pather Panchali” and Ritwik Ghatak’s “Ajantrik” to name a few, Aurora Film Corporation has been the pillar of strength for supporting novel creative minds and enlightening the vision of noble cinema.
Kalkokkho (House of Time) is a cinematic experience of time-loop which explores the sense of being trapped in time where life stands still. ln the middle of a contagious pandemic an apathetic but adept doctor is taken hostage by a young woman in a desperate attempt to ensure the safety of her family. Captive in an almost desolate house inhabited by three women of three ages – the paranoid young woman along with an amnesic old woman and a lonely young girl, the doctor discovers that forces beyond his comprehension are at play and he might be trapped not only in space but also in time. At one level, the film does a great job of making viewers understand the long-lasting impact on mental health that the pandemic leaves behind. On the other, the psychological thriller takes you on a completely different journey testing your limits, to its full intensity.
Delightful setting, clutter-free filmmaking, minimal casting and crisp narrative keeps one glued to the film for a long 124 minutes. After the initial 35 minutes, the film smartly builds up into a chilling psychological thriller, well-timed and sharply edited, making it a must watch. It’s a mosaic of a range of behaviours – love, isolation, and redemption. An emotional rollercoaster to ride on with four protagonists and a strange plot.
While the directors were able to successfully keep the film on a fast track, it was the raw emotion of Mamoni (Tannistha Biswas) which brings a kind of much needed stillness at regular intervals. All the actors have stood out stupendously in their performances and a special mention needs to be made for the almost perfect casting in the film. Janardan Ghosh’s character as a doctor, who is oscillating between his professional commitment and his other emotional and physical desires, is inherently troubling, and generates several persistent moral questions about doctor’s changing behaviour and his intentions – a conflict between morality and practicality.
Visually, phonetically and through the background sound design, the film creates a feel and texture that makes one oblivious of time and space. The film is also rich in spiritual and mythological symbolism and weaves the journey of spiritual enlightenment subtly into the narrative of the cinematic space.
Kalkokkho (House of Time) is truly an unbelievably relatable film.
Original Title: Kalkokkho
International Title/English Title: House of Time
Language: Bengali (with English Subtitles)
Duration: 124 min
Year of Production: 2021
Written & Directed by: Rajdeep Paul & Sarmistha Maiti
Produced by: Anjan Bose, Aurora Film Corporation, India