Film: “Once Upon A Time in Bihar”; Director: Nitin Chandra; Cast: Kranti Prakash Jha, Deepak Singh, Ajay Kumar, Pankaj Jha, Arti Puri, Ashish Vidyarthi and Neetu Chandra; Rating: **
Written and directed by Nitin Chandra, “Once Upon A Time in Bihar” is a poignant tale that reveals the distressing state of affairs in Bihar. It is a patriot’s honest appeal and mirrors a slice of life.
With the core dramatic issue of tackling corruption and youth migration from Bihar, the film is a socio-political tale that is based on true incidents.
The film opens with the riots that took place in Patna during March 2005 and soon flashbacks 18 months earlier to reveal the reason of the riots.
Set in the Buxar district of Bihar, it is the story of three acquaintances — Rajeev Kumar, an IAS aspirant; Shankar Pandey, a graduate who is seeking a good “government job”; and Jeans, a restaurant helper-cum-wannabe singer.
The plot intertwines their lives when life gets from bad to worse. Their tryst with destiny is beautifully relayed on screen by the effortless performances of the able cast. Kranti Prakash Jha as Rajeev Kumar along with Deepak Singh as Shankar Pandey and Ajay Kumar as Jeans live their roles. You empathise and feel sorry for them when they resort to take the easy way out to make money and unfortunately fail in their mission.
Arti Puri as Seema, Rajeev’s love interest, along with the co-producer Neetu Chandra, who plays Arti, Rajeev’s sister, are wasted in their one-dimensional flat roles.Whereas, Ashish Vidyarthi as the sick Naxalite leader gives a new, humane dimension to a dreaded character.
The dialogues are simple, everyday Bihari-lingo and appealing. The line, “Aadmi ko maarne ka samaan itna mengha aur aadmi ki zindagi itni sasti”, simply stated when the trio are evaluating the cost of a country-made handgun, perplexes you and leaves you aghast.
With songs like “Chanarma mein daag baa” and “Deshwa deshwa”, the music is soulful and is well-integrated into the script. It brings out the pathos of the land.
With modest production values, the film is technically sound. Deepti Sawant’s production designs are flawlessly captured by cinematographer Sanjay P. Khanzode’s camera work. Rural Bihar has never been displayed so beautifully earlier. Also, the camera panning through the cluttered overhanging wires entangled in a web, symbolically denotes the complex disorganised situation of the state.
The script, written by directed by Nitin Chandra, is well-researched and mounted with passion and attempts to erase the “Bimaru” stigma (an acronym for – Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh), which denotes sick in Hindi. Padded with many misgivings about Bihar, the exposition is verbose which at times sounds too preachy for ones’ liking. Also not being singularly focused and with a few plot-holes, the story seems superficial, convoluted and manufactured.
Overall, “Once Upon A Time In Bihar” will appeal only to Biharphiles.