Ataheen is a Bengali award-winning film about love, loss, risk and the fear of being alone. Abhik Chowdhury (Rahul Bose) is a straight-laced Kolkata police officer. He’s moved up the ranks quite well for his age and has further potential for advancement. His personal life isn’t as successful; he’s girlfriendless and spends his free time chatting online. One friend in particular has become close. It’s with a woman he’s never met but he looks forwards to their nightly chats.
Abhik’s online friend is a woman named Brinda (Radhika Apte). She is a young and determined TV news reporter. She hasn’t had much luck with love but finds comfort in her online friendships. Unbeknown to each, they run in the same circles. Abhik is related to Brinda’s boss. They meet socially but no sparks fly when they’re next to each other initially.
There’s a side story running concurrently with the unfolding online romance. Both of them are investigating separate instances of violence. The trail leads to a powerful real estate developer. When Abhik and Brinda’s paths converge again, the ice melts between the two and a friendship begins.
It’s a bit hard to piece together Abhik’s motivations. Abhik is very stoic but uncommunicative, yet from both the director and actor it’s difficult to understand his inner turmoil or motivations. He seems to be lonely, but is utterly uncompromising about it. It makes sense why he’s single but it doesn’t make a great base for a for a compelling love story. Bose is interesting to watch. He carries himself with authority and quiet physicality. Apte does an okay job playing Brinda. It’s a capable performance but there are no hidden depths to her character.
English dialogue is liberally sprinkled throughout the film, with the antagonist speaking it most of the time. It’s used to stress that he’s more like a foreigner than a native Bengali and probably more exploitive. His part in the film is important to the plot, but there’s little care in his use. Often it would seem like his role is an afterthought.
The direction by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury is awkward. He’s a skilled composer of scenes but is too indulgent in the length and editing of the film. Antaheen means endless in Bengali and there were times this movie seemed like it would go on forever. At almost a 2 hour run time, it could do with lots of editing. The drama does work itself to a climax but it lacks any emotional heft. Even with all that film that proceeds it, the director wasn’t able build enough of a case for me to care by the end. There is a decent story in there somewhere; it’s unfortunate that it takes 1.5 hours to get there.