In the recent years, there has been an increasing trend for biopics because people are more drawn to realistic characters than penned ones. It will be wrong to say that the audience has developed a taste for biopics lately; in fact, the audience always had interest in the characters known to them. The golden era in Bengali cinema also witnessed the release of numerous biopics. One such masterpiece was Antony Firingee, which moved both the mass and the class.
The 1967 movie not only had a roaring success at the box office or went on to become a blockbuster hit but also fetched Uttam Kumar the National Film Award for Best Actor in 1968. Even today one cannot simply take their eyes off the screen while watching this movie.
The biopic unravels the strong willpower of protagonist Hensman Antony or Antony Firingee in overcoming the hardships that came in his way of becoming a folk poet or kobiyal. The maturity of a young Portuguese man to learn Bengali intrigues the interest of common people.
Recipe of Brilliance: Antony Firingee
A strong script always acts as the backbone of a good movie. The script of Antony Firingee (1967) was a result of thorough and detailed research by director Sunil Banerjee.
The casting features many stalwarts of Bengali cinema. Uttam Kumar as protagonist (Hensman Antony), Tanuja as Antony’s love interest and wife (Nirupama or Shakila Begum), Chaya Debi as Antony’s mother, Haradhan Banerjee as Antony’s elder brother (Kelly Antony), Lolita Chatterjee as Marina, Asit Baran as Bhola Moira, Kamal Majumdar as Ram Bose, Haridhan Mukherjee as Thakur Singha or Thakurdas Singha, Ruma GuhaThakurata as Jogweshwari, Bhanu Bandyopadhyay as an employee of Antony’s business, Johor Roy, Tarun Kumar in other character roles.
Every artist justified their role and didn’t overdo a single expression which makes the movie entertaining. The romantic scenes between Antony and Nirupama seem magical with the presence of Mahanayak and Tanuja. Asit Baran gets under the skin of Bhola Moira, the celebrity Bengali kobiyal of the period. Ruma Guha Thakurata as Joggeshwari has done justice to her role. Even the character artists did the smallest bit of their part with perfection that went on to create the magical charm on screen.
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If acting is the brain, music is the heart of the movie. Music plays an integral part in this movie. Lyricist Gauriprasanna Majumdar filled up the vacant spaces left by kobiyals and beautifully merged the new lyrics with the originally composed ones. From bandana (opening song of a kobiyali face off dedicated to Gods) to sokhi sangbad (songs dedicated to Radha -Krishna), biroho ( compositions revealing truths of mortal life) and kheur (the compositions where oppositions faced personal attacks), music composers left no stones unturned to recreate an entertaining kobir lorai.
The music was not merely restricted to kobiyali but the classical pieces like GhiriGhiri also prove the versatility of music director Anil Bagchi. Soulful playback is done by Manna Dey, Sandhya Mukherjeee, Adhir Bagchi, Alok Bagchi, Malabika and RumaGuhaThakurata mesmerizes the audience.
The audience has widely retained ‘Ami je jalshaghorey’, ‘ChampaChameli ‘ and ‘Ami jamini tumi soshi he’. These songs are regarded as evergreen hits. The makeup artists and costume designers who created the look of the characters on screen need a special mention.
Here, lies the recipe of brilliance- superb script, excellent acting, soulful music and brilliant teamwork.
Contemporary Appeal of the Classic
The plot of the biopic revolves around the life of Hensman Antony, a Portuguese by blood who went on to become a Bengali kobiyal (folk poet).
His journey of becoming a kobiyal was full of leaps and bounds and once again bringing forth the old sayings ‘life is not a bed of roses’ and ‘when there is a will, there is a way’. Antony Firingee with his determination & hard work turns his dream into reality, pushing every obstacle aside. This is an inspiring tale even in the contemporary scenario because every other day when people complain about things not going in their favour, they can actually derive inspiration from the protagonist Antony & accept that things will never go fully in one’s favour.
Life has its share of obstacles and criticisms for everyone. The approach, with which a person deals with these troubles, makes them unique. Hard work and willpower channelized in the proper direction is the key to success.
In personal relationships too this tale inspires to be understanding, considerate and loyal. The unconditional support and emotional security bring out the best personality traits of a person. The movie ends with Antony walking with the corpse of his wife signifying the journey of an artist is endless. Irrespective of the circumstances that one is going through, ‘the show must go on’.
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Watch when there is a dearth of inspiration or for a pure dose of entertainment or to satisfy the curiosity what made golden era so special. From 1967 to 2017, even after 50 years it never fails to astonish the audience.