It is impossible not to notice where ‘Generation Aami’ draws a lot of its narrative inspirations from. It creates a world of Apu living with his doting but controlling mother, with his father living mostly out of station to cater to the family needs, a grandmother who is mostly a silent spectator to things living in her own den, and an elder sister (okay cousin) Durga who is far more ‘danpite‘ and adventurous and practically becomes the lifeline of Apu to help him grow up and find his wings, albeit post a tragic loss!
Mainak Bhaumik knows very well of the emotional and nostalgic impact that Bibhutibhushan‘s legendary story has on the average bangali, and so he uses its structural foundation heavily to tell his own modern day story of ever increasing generation gaps, their fading communications and relationships and of rebellious growing ups. That he manages to tell a fairly engaging and relatable story (especially told from the perspective of generation millennial ‘aami‘) in spite of treading the disastrous possibility of tampering with the classic, is primarily because he gets the equation of Apu and Durga and their very believable bonding spot on through its own highs and lows. It happens because of some fairly good writing in creating some genuine moments of affection between the siblings, with them sharing their own worlds of not haves that their parents have never tried to understand. It also happens because Rwitobroto Mukherjeeand Sauraseni Maitra are both cast very well as Apu and Durga, and give very competent performances to depict the entire range of emotional turmoil that they go through in their own misunderstood worlds.
Mukherjee especially is excellent as the vulnerable Apu, his expressive dialogue modulation is his strength and he never loses the grip on his character, ably preventing its falling into the traps of a typical teenager caricature. Maitra also remains fairly grounded (well mostly), hers is a difficult role and she delivers it with some genuine honesty, other than when the writing goes off track to create forced high octane drama around her surroundings. Good casting and performances come from Apu’s group of friends as well, and the ever reliable Lily Chakraborty as the grandmother. I wanted to see more of her.
What pulls down the efforts of the siblings however is the overarching melodrama of the parents both in writing and performances. These are parents of extreme worlds. While Apu’s parents are over possessive and always controlling every single move of the grown up boy, the ones of Durga have practically zero time for her even when they are aware of her clinical depression. These are contrasting worlds, but united by the theme that both sets of parents just don’t want to understand where the kids are coming from. I understand that such typecast worlds do exist, but where Bhaumik falters badly is the extreme, overdramatic portrayals of the same. Seasoned actors Aparajita Adhya and especially Shantilal Mukherjee practically become unwatchable because of the same (and I don’t even have words of disappointment for Durga’s folks!), their performances are so theatrical and over the top that it practically kills some of their important showdown moments with the kids – scenes that have important things to say but get lost in their own jarring noise. Adhya needs to reflect back upon her work, her performances in film after film are becoming overbearing and caricaturish, she is certainly capable of more refined and measured acts. Adhya and Sr Mukherjee are totally out of sync in their tonality with what the film needed and with what Bhaumik had established well with the generation next track.
A very heavy, jarring and constantly playing background score further mars the experience; which again is tragic because the background score is in sharp contrast to a couple of pretty good situational songs in the film.
A film that starts with a good prologue and ends with an equally good epilogue is an opportunity lost if its not uniformly consistent in between. I really wish there was more to like in the film. Rwitobroto and Sauraseni, their stories and their performances deserved a better finished product. In its current form, Generation Aami and its rebellion withers away like the flying pages of a book burnt out of frustration, or like the bunch of colorful balloons released free in sharing messages of hope. That it will reach its destination is the unfortunate illusion.