Films & Feni: The Man Who Loved Yngve, Not Yngwie

Posted on November 26, 2008


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NOV 27, 2008 – BEFORE THE SCREENING OF ANJAN DUTT’S Chaurasta: Crossroads of Love, Victor Banerjee warned the audience that his director marched to the beat of a distinctly different drummer inside his head (“he doesn’t care too much if you don’t understand his film”), and that we should be prepared for something esoteric. “Eccentric,” however, would have better described both the film and Banerjee’s character, who sets the story in motion with a recital of Edelweiss (from The Sound of Music), stops midway to soar along with The Impossible Dream (from Man of La Mancha) and concludes the proceedings with a passage from Vincent, Don McLean’s ode to van Gogh – with every single phrase so plummily uttered, you’d think he’d been trained by the bosomy voice coach from Singin’ in the Rain. (“Rolls Royce” comes out as “Rrrolls Rrroyce.”)

Chaurasta is one of those Indian films in English that really belongs on the stage. Not only is the plot – a criss-cross of lives in Darjeeling – practically a play, driven by the loudly chugging motor of characters constantly bumping into one another, but the lines, too, are excessively in love with the written word. It’s declamation, not dialogue – and if the film works to the extent that it does, it’s solely due to the actors, who take to these declamations as ducks to water. It’s hard to believe Roopa Ganguly is the same actress who once came caked in makeup, every Sunday morning, and wrung her hands helplessly as the Pandavas and the Kauravas leapt at each other’s throats. Playing a third-rate actress who erupts into the life of her ex-husband, Ganguly, with her mere presence, fills for us the gaps in her character that the writing doesn’t. Cast your film well, and truly, half your battle is won.

HOW DO THEY DO IT? Are they, like Achilles, held by their heels and dipped into the holy Ganges, and thus rendered immune to the cravings that plague the rest of us mere mortals? I’m referring to the man who, one afternoon for sustenance, was dipping into the meagre contents of a fruit cup, while surrounded by the smells and sights of samosas being fried and paneer parathas turning golden brown and spicy cuts of gobi Manchurian being washed down with glasses of cold beer. This man is, no doubt, up at the dot of five, done with his yoga by six, and ready for the day (after a breakfast of egg whites and whole-wheat bread) by seven, and he’s quite possibly the perfect audience for a film festival. Wouldn’t you suppose austerity of mind would logically follow such austerity of body?

CONSIDERING THAT THE SYNOPSIS MENTIONED A ROCK BAND, I went into The Man Who Loved Yngve expecting a story woven around a gent’s adoration for the great guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen (whom I had a thing for during an extremely short-lived metal fascination, in my late teens), and I attributed the discrepancy in the way the name was spelt to the tiny technicality that the film was in Norwegian. (Perhaps, that’s how they refer to the rocker.) But Yngve turned out to be a beautifully modulated story of a boy who finds that he’s increasingly less interested in his girlfriend than the new boy at school, the blonde named, yes, Yngve. Coming-of-age coming-out tales are a dime a dozen in the indie scene, but this one was just mainstream enough to serve as a perfect change-of-pace from the heavily arty fare around it, yet just arty enough not to slip into mainstream we-are-people-too banality. Yes, it’s true. Some festival films do have happy endings.

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