Robibaar review: An intriguing, unconventional reunion of bitter exes

Prosenjit Chatterjee and Jaya Ahsan’s intense show drives this slice of life, unconventional romantic drama

Rating: 4 /5

Film: Robibaar (Bengali)

Director:  Atanu Ghosh

Cast: Jaya Ahsan, Prosenjit Chatterjee

Prosenjit Chatterjee and Jaya Ahsan in Robibaar [2020]

By Mayur Lookhar

Once strained, human relationships are hard to mend. But sometimes destiny has its unique way of reconnecting people.  National Award- winning filmmaker Atanu Ghosh’s films often harp on the complex human relationships and the economy of depression.

Robibaar (On a Sunday), his latest offering, is an unlikely reunion between bitter exes –  Sayani [Jaya Ahsan] and Asimabha [Prosenjit Chatterjee]. It’s not exactly your sweet robibaar (Sunday) for the two had a bitter falling-out 15 years ago.  Is it just a mere coincidence that the two former lovers bumped into each other in a quaint café in Kolkata?  Perhaps not for Asimabha who had one last request for his ex-lover.

Though reluctant, Sayani, agrees to spend some time with him.  The corporate law officer and aspiring author, too, has her vested interest. Asimabha is the key to the last missing chapter in her soon-to-be-published book The Fraudulent Mind. As a matter of fact,  it is the exploits of Asimabha that’s inspired Sayani to pen her book.

Though meant to be a short meet,  Sayani ends up spending the entire Sunday with Asimabha. Their rendezvous in day time has an uneasiness attached to it, but by nightfall, Sayani rediscovers a certain affection for her ex.  The Sunday reunion throws up moments of frustration, anger, contemplation, confession, regret and even admiration. 

Without going into any flashback, the gripping, engaging conversations between Sayani and Asimabha gives you a visual sense of their tumultuous past relationship.  The beauty of Robibaar [2020] is the unconventional narrative and setting. Usually, a traditional reunion would take place over social occasion, business meets, or even an accident.  The Sayani-Asimabha reunion comes in depressive times for the latter.  The trickster has run out of tricks and luck, with no hope for tomorrow.

Given its story line, the faith of this film purely hinged on the nature of the conversations, and the performance of its cast.  It’s here that Ghosh is blessed to have talents like Chatterjee and Ahsan at his disposal.

Shot in just 13 days, Chatterjee and Ahsan are flawless in the portrayal of their layered characters.  While both Asimabha and Sayani evoke a sense of frustration, but you don’t want to be judgmental about them.  Morality would abhor them, particularly Asimabha, but their imperfections also brings them acceptability.   

Chatterjee is exemplary in his portrayal of the sullen, despondent man. The litany of cases has clearly dragged the once self-styled magical trickster down.   He’s sinned a lot, but there still is an honest streak in him. That is seen from his kind gesture in adopting a street urchin.

Your reviewer is exposed to the talent of Bangladeshi import Ahsan and the lady floors us with her stupendous act.  For a lawyer, you would question why would Sayani even meet Asimabha?  Ahsan though takes you into the internal turmoil, moods swings of Sayani nicely.  As hard as one may try, but it’s difficult, especially for a spinster to forget her first love.

As a viewer, there is a sense of fear that this story may end up on a dark note for Sayani. Well, this fear is contrived in the first scene itself when Sayani wakes up to a nightmare.  It’s this fear that keeps you hooked onto Robibaar throughout, and also help to overcome the few odd drag moments.

Basing your film on just two characters runs the risk of over exposure and monotony. It is here that Ghosh creates well etched out supporting characters. 

Young Srijato Banerjee is terrific as the orphan boy raised by Asimabha.  Asimabha’s trained him to be like him, but it’s never easy to raise an orphan.  After all, apna khoon apna hi hota hain (one’s own flesh and blood is ours). 

Mithun Debnath shines as the contract killer.  He doesn’t make a fleeting presence as Ghosh gives you as insight into the turmoil world of this contract killer.  Those who kill can never be at peace with themselves. Debnath’s character bears a 24×7 troubled look. He’s a sociopath, one who simply doesn’t even care for his wife. The poor woman begs him to kill her as she can’t bear the loneliness.

And towards the end, Ghosh introduces us to Brinda [Saswati Sinha], Sayani’s office girl who is pulled out from a night of revelry, much to the chagrin of her fiance.  These well etched-out characters and their well-defined stories prevent monotony from creeping into Robibaar.

Much of the film rides on its natural sounds, but the odd poetry, sarod (background) sound lightens an otherwise intense romantic slow-burn drama. 

Robibaar’s appeal lies in its people and their complex relationships.  Ghosh delivers another thought-provoking film.  The past is past, but don’t give up on the present, for you never know all it takes is a Robibaar [Sunday] to turn a new leaf in your life.

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