While the rest of the world is finding it difficult to sail into the headwind left in the wake finds is of a once-in-lifetime pandemic Bangladeshi movies seem to have found some serious tailwind. First there was Poran, then it was Hawa and now it is Operation Sundarbans.
The plot of this action thriller is loosely based on real-life events. The movie chronicles a fictionalized version of how the world's largest mangrove forest was freed from the thralls of pirates.
The film is helmed by Dipankar Dipon of Dhaka Attack fame. He also penned the story and screenplay. Noted thriller writer Nazim Ud Doula was in charge of the dialogue. The movie also boasts an ensemble cast featuring Riaz, Siam Ahmed, Nusraat Faria, Ziaul Roshan, Darshana Banik, Taskeen Rahman, Raisul Islam Asad, Arman Parvez Murad, Rawnak Hasan, Shatabdi Wadud, Manoj Pramanik, Monir Khan Shimul, Tua Chakrabarty, Dipu Imam etc. The film has been produced by Produced By: RAB Welfare Co-operative Society Limited.
The Mighty Sundarbans like you have never seen before
Let's get one thing out of the way, this is the best ever portrayal of the Sundarbans by a Bangladeshi production. Which granted is not a high bar to clear but credit should be given where credit is due.
The movie starts off with a nice little animated exposition. Then seamlessly transitions into majestic live action shots of the Sundarbans. I can't imagine how challenging it must have been to shoot in the Sundarbans. Moving around with heavy shooting equipment on the mud with stilt roots propping up every few inches is the stuff nightmares are made of.
DOPs Soumodipto Vicky Guin and Ramyadip Saha should be given full credit for their commendable work behind the camera. The long shots were of course the highlight; this reviewer also quite enjoyed the shaky handheld footage used in a chase scene.
Debojyoti Ghosh and Tathagata Ghosh also did a commendable job color grading the movie. The gloomy palate used for the movie by the duo really brought the tense and dreary situation to life. One minor gripe I have with the cinematography is that there were too many drone shots. Sometimes drone shots were used when the situation did not demand a drone shot and seemed a little gratuitous.
The shoestring budget our movies are made on means VFX is not a highlight in any local production. Sadly the VFX was a little all over the place here as well., The computer generated tigers were quite convincing and yet muzzle flashes felt a bit cartoony. According to the production team the film contains 750 VFX shots which amount to about 67000 frames. One can't help but wonder if we really need this much VFX.
Since the movie is produced by RAB the props and vehicles used in the movie were quite authentic and lended a sense of believability to the world of the movie.
Twinkle twinkle too many stars?
The movie boasts a really strong cast and there were plenty of strong performances. Manoj Pramanik has the most well defined character arc in the movie, which he pulls off with dexterity. The two male leads Siam and Roshan gave solid performances. Siam seems to have taken a liking to uniformed roles as we have already seen him play a law enforcement personnel earlier this year in Shaan. Nusraat Faria who plays the female lead has improved considerably from her previous outings but there is still room for improvement.
Vetern thespian Raisul Islam Asad played his role to perfection.Dipu Imam injects some much needed comic relief into the story. The stand out performance for me was Tua Chakrabarty who plays the mysterious Papri. The less said about her character here the better.
Riaz however on his return to Dhallywood after a long hiatus seemed a little wooden. The second female lead Darshana Banik's Dr. Aditi seemed undercooked and did not contribute much to the plot.
One issue with having such a stellar cast is it is difficult to give actors enough to do. Actors like Shatabdi Wadud, Rawnak Hasan were underutilized. While, an actor of Monir Khan Shimul's caliber barely got any lines.
Too many villainous cooks spoil the broth
The screenplay moves at a fast pace. 141 minutes might seem a little intimidating but the movie does not feel nearly as long. But the runtime could have been shortened down a little in my opinion.
The plot has plenty of twists and turns to keep you hooked. However at times it feels too much as the movie seems to have a never ending supply of baddies. The trope of every bad guy successfully apprehended seemingly working for an even badder baddie got a little tiring by the end. It seemed like our protagonists could not walk more than a few faces before bumping into someone who was either a pirate or smuggler or someone secretly working for either.
The dialogue was sharp for the most part. There were times it felt like the dialogues were inspired by the kind of language used in English thrillers but they did not sound right in Bangla.
Mixed music box
The background score complimented the visuals well. The movie features three melodious songs. One for each pair of leads and one featuring all couples. However, these melodious songs felt a little out of place especially the one featuring the main lead pair. Ironically in the movie made to showcase the beauty of Sundarbans, the song featuring the lead pair was visualised in the hills of Bandarban. The song is also not woven into the story aptly and seems tacked on. It is quite jarring when the song comes on at an inappropriate moment.
Overall though this is no masterpiece and I don't think the production team set out to do that either. They wanted to entertain you and that is exactly what they do for 2 hours and 21 minutes. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.