After an emotionally struggling phase of her younghood and being under the shadow of her mother Urmila Manjushree a celebrated thumri singer, Qala Manjushree is now an established singer. But with the rise of fame comes unprecedented pressure from the media and Qala tries to cope which begins to deteriorate her health.
Qala is a period film set in Calcutta in the pre-independence era of the 1930s or maybe 1940s. And when it comes to period films of the golden age, the bygone era, there are two departments that become more responsible for enhancing all the technicalities and the aesthetics of filmmaking. That is the designing of costumes and the production.
It is hard for me to describe in the most perfect sense but both aspects of Qala are electrifying and give rich vibes of the earliest decades of Indian filmmaking artistry. A meticulous effort to present the old age that disconnects you from the present era. Gives you the same vibe as if you are in the music video of Khamaj and Shyam Benegal‘s Bhumika, or Guru Dutt‘s Kaaghaz Ke Phool.
The angle of feminism clicked in the screenwriting. I liked this arc of Qala questioning the precise questions and receiving no genuine response. In a universally male-dominated industry, only a woman can describe how difficult it is to make a place in any department in the film industry and what she has to suffer mentally and physically.
Speaking of physical suffering, there is a scene that perhaps never happened before and may have triggered us to question ourselves. After Qala fails to sing the right notes, the music director takes her out and forces her to give oral sex. Minutes later, Qala returns and sings correctly.
It may look like an awful sequence but highlights countless behind-the-door horrors inflicted on women. At the same time, the question that triggered me was how did she sing so well minutes after swallowing semen? Does the vocal chord of the singer not affect or harm after that? I actually had to research on the internet and found out that it doesn’t unless there is a transmissible disease.
LANGUAGE AND PERFORMANCES
The Urdu language was the treasure of classic Bollywood. But here, there is a visible error in language proficiency when actors speak dialogues. I will limit my criticism by implying that the film is set in Calcutta but not Bombay. So perhaps this is how Bengalis spoke Urdu in those times.
The performances are not up to the bar where the period film can be judged with more splendidness. Perhaps it was challenging to perform in a different setting than the norm for the actors. You need actors who can fit in the language and justify the aesthetics otherwise they will end up like Suniel Shetty in Umrao Jaan. Happy to see the debut of Irrfan Khan‘s son Babil Khan. Amit Sial and Swastika Mukherjee were average.
Tripti Dimri as Qala, I don’t know why she reminded me of Sonam Kapoor in her earlier films. There was so much grace and beauty in Qala but her mental performance was bleak. She visibly struggled to collapse her settled persona.
Qala’s music is the signature and authentic reminder of the good old times of the melody. Amit Trivedi knows what to offer in a different setting and he is familiar with this. His music was fabulous for Bombay Velvet and not to forget Lootera‘s number ‘Sawaar Loon‘. This time it is more distinctive and time traveling to listen to the notes, the lyrics, and vocabulary. The music sets the mood and drops you to feel more about those times.
I want to specially mention this singer, Sireesha Bhagavatula; I don’t remember if I listened to her before. But here, her songs particularly the best track of the film ‘Ghodey Pe Sawaar‘ reminded me so much of Geeta Dutt‘s voice and her melodious songs of the 1950s. Qala’s music definitely is one of the best music albums of the year.
Anvita Dutt has usually been a lyricist all these years. But her ass on the director’s chair has opened the gates for period films in better crafting and finesse. She is really fond of the classical era. Her directional debut was Bulbbul which was beautifully set in the Bengal presidency of the 1880s.
Qala compels the audience to fascinate with striking visuals and lush cinematography.
Qala is the tale of the struggle for acceptance but jeopardizing it with jealousy. A girl who lost her male twin at birth, failed to convince her mother about successfully passing the legacy in the house of music, and later on being rejected by her. The events occurring in the second age of the film industry.
Qala is a reminder of unwanted rivalry when a professional begins to believe there is a competitor who will replace you and the general audience will accept your competitor and forget you that will distraught you. I wonder what reminds me of this? Yes. Black Swan.
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