Director: Debaloy Bhattacharya
Cast: Anirban Bhattacharya, Mimi Chakraborty, Bidipta Chakraborty, Supriyo Dutta, Rudranil Ghosh
Dracula Sir starts off on a slow, but promising note. Bringing back memories of West Bengal’s bloody past of the 1970s, it opens with a shot of a young Naxalite being shot from the back as he attempts to run away from the police on the false hope that he has been set free. It’s a story that many of us have grown up hearing, from when our parents were impressionable young adults and the Naxalite movement was at its peak in the state. The story, unfortunately, loses steam fast as it gropes in the darkness and latches onto unrelated tropes like vampires and a reincarnated Naxalite.
School teacher Raktim Chowdhury (Anirban Bhattacharya) is ridiculed because of his sharp, protruding canines and leads a solitary, woeful life in a rented room in a dingy house in Kolkata. He lets himself be bullied as the ‘Dracula Sir’ and is desperate to become a permanent staff member at the school, even if it means demeaning himself by enacting Dracula in a Bengali film at the behest of the school headmaster. Raktim is convinced that he is the reincarnation of martyred Naxalite Amol Shom and is haunted by Manjari (Mimi Chakraborty), Amol’s girlfriend who was forced to get married to someone else after Amol leaves her to join the Naxal movement.
In a series of painfully slow flashback sequences, it is revealed that Amol had sought shelter at Manjari’s house, who lives all by herself in a massive house after her husband’s death. Local villain Katu (Rudranil Ghosh) has his eyes set on Manjari but his attempts are thwarted when she fires a shot at his leg with Amol’s pistol. A vengeful Katu informs the police of Manjari sheltering a runaway Naxal. Manjari and Amol are caught and tortured by the police. While Amol is killed by the police, Manjari goes missing.
Until the interval, the film looks like a sincere Bengali adaptation of Todd Philip’s Joker (2019). Like Arthur Fleck; Raktim is the bullied ordinary man who embraces a life of crime after he’s misunderstood and branded a freak by society. In a scene straight out of Joker; Raktim- made up to look like Dracula and donning the costume of the fictitious character – wanders around Kolkata in the dead of the night and does a crazy dance in the middle of a flyover. While Arthur suffered from bipolar disorder in Joker, here Raktim is diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. When Raktim sinks his sharp fangs into his landlord’s neck and is taken away by the police, he is treated at a government home for his schizophrenia and told that Manjari, Amal and Katu do not exist and were in fact, creations of his overimaginative brain.
The film seems to thread the Naxalite movement into a vampire story without any solid link. There’s no explanation as to why Raktim behaves like a vampire. In a particularly disturbing scene, he sits in a pool of water and drinks straight out of bag of blood that he has smuggled out of a hospital.
“I was very thirsty,” he says, as blood dribbles down his shirt and a desolate Manjari looks on at him from behind, dressed in a pristine cotton sari.
Even the name of the character feels forced- Raktim (red, the colour of blood).
The film glosses over the Naxalite movement and instead shows stray protests by young followers, shouting slogans and being tear gassed. The story may have sounded promising on paper, but the cinematic outcome is arduously long, filled with questionable plotlines and eventually builds up to a confusing climax with a twist that leaves the film open ended. There’s an inconsequential reference to the desecration of a statue of Vidyasagar, during a political rally in Kolkata last year. When Raktim consults a dentist seeking help to remove his canines, the doctor is busy spouting philosophical dialogues about existence and the need to stand out in a crowd instead of actually helping him.
Bhattacharya does a fair job of depicting a crazed loner, desperate for respect and acceptance. Raktim constantly hides his mouth with a handkerchief to hide his teeth. His performance makes you sympathise with his discomfort and pity him when he is ridiculed by students and fellow teachers. Chakraborty, however, looks like she has walked straight out of the sets of her hit television serial Gaaner Oparey. Dressed in immaculately ironed white, cotton saris, she doesn’t have much to do other than tailing Raktim and Amol and reminding them about their unfinished business.
The Dracula Sir review is a Silverscreen India original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.