A dark night in a mercenary city
Mohanagar maybe a work of fiction but right from the very beginning, it steps out of the world of fantasy. And that’s why this goes beyond entertainment and turns into a poignant reflection of the current zeitgeist.
While in most celluloid works the tendency is to showcase an idealized, almost puritanical version of society, here we get a pungent slice of reality. Alcohol is not just consumed by the antagonist but also the guileless, artless people who make an honest living. For too long, the drink has been demonized by common culture as something which only the villains indulge in.
In movies, the nasty guy is the profanity-using, ill dressed, unsophisticated lout who is seen drinking while the protagonist is the paragon of virtue.
No extremes in Mohanagar, though, which is refreshing.
The definition of ‘decent’ is redefined here against the tableau of a metamorphosed social creed; they so say: a little vice is always nice and adds spice to life.
But the movie’s main attraction is its ability to recreate the ordeal city dwellers often have to face. One night, a young person from a party is harassed by the law and ends up at the police station.
On his way home from a party with a beautiful colleague with hopes of an intimate night, he is stopped by the police and asked curt questions to which neither he nor his companion can give plausible answers.
Well, how many times have you come across the questions: “apner porichoy?” (what is your identity?), “kotha theke ashchen?” (where are you coming from?) and “kothae jaben?” (where are you going?).
The film switches to an upscale part of town where an opulent party is underway by a pool side. Young hedonists gather to flaunt their wealth, their stunningly beautiful girlfriends and their knowledge about premium drinks.
The women purr, seductively smile while the egos of the guys clash to establish who is the better man.
There is the heady smell of hauteur in the air! Once more, it’s a reflection of a part of real life where designer labels dazzle while greed and lust are provocatively packaged as an indispensable trait.
This Dhaka is not unknown to most of us anymore. Upmarket exclusive clubs, swanky cars, rave parties topped with Mephistophelean instincts.
That Dhaka is driven by predatory values. Idealists may call this debauchery… those who follow such a life take it to be their right.
Whether this is right or wrong is perhaps a debate better left for social scientists, however, as long as human dignity is not forcibly taken or undermined, a person has the right to do whatever s/he wishes with his/her wealth.
All roads lead to the police station
Those who spent some time at a police station either for any infringement or to settle any issue know how unsettling the experience can be. Not blaming the police here, but as Mosharraf Karim, playing the unforgettable role of OC Harun, says: normal people have two eyes, the police have four!
This means, a man in a uniform is always looking for the truth behind the so-called truth. Or maybe, the lie behind the lie.
Sounds a little confusing? Well, Mohanagar is a repository of aphorisms about life. Delivered with panache by OC Harun, these lines, on one hand show the analytical minds of men in uniform, but on the other, also work in a very subtle way to create in the audience, a sneaking admiration for the men in uniform.
OC Harun is a rogue but you love him….and you go back home with his lines stuck inside your mind.
The underlying message is clear: lie to the police at your own peril or, as OC Harun cleverly puts it in the movie: never lie to two people, your mother and the police.
As the film progresses, it wades into murky territory. A rich brat who hits and kills a man on the road is taken to the police station and is throwing tantrums to be allowed to go home because ‘he always gets what he wants.’
Like many rich people, he has grown up with the belief: with money all mistakes can be wiped out.
I won’t spoil it for you by revealing the plot but as the night progresses the fate of the young innocent man brought to the station for discourteous behavior become intertwined to the destiny of a business tycoon’s arrogant son.
To add twists, a young honest police officer, a dedicated assistant commissioner, and a shrewd OC who has no qualms about asserting his love for money are caught in between.
A dash of decadence and a drop of integrity
Mohanagar’s biggest appeal is its ability to honestly depict the demons of the times. Almost insidiously, a set of very ruthless, wealth driven ideals have penetrated the social canvas while most were busy flying the flags of morality.
If we take off the film elements off this production, what stares back us is a toxic urban doctrine where money is king with all sins unceremoniously swept under the carpet as long as one knows who to call and has large cash to hand over.
Yet, there is a chance for good old integrity, otherwise, the world would not survive. Just like in real life, when evil is all around there is sometimes a faint ray of hope.
That edifying element is the honesty in some who are out there to serve the people. Many wear it openly, some disguise it under a false mask of indifference.
As OC Harun told us in the film: there are two things to remember in life: “kormo ebong kormofol” (work and its consequences)
Following OC Harun’s ‘two item advice’, here’s my advice to the readers: when watching movies, remember two things, films with item numbers, bravado and machismo will fade away, those which portray actual life with all its flaws and a few virtues will linger.
* Pradosh Mitra is a film buff, social observer and a freelance writer