It is undeniable that the film market is bustling with a crowd of directors bringing in their lot of ‘murder mysteries.’ Most of these movies are quite bland, have repetitive themes, and have similar visual styles and motifs. The genre that was meant to intrigue the audience, and brings in a sense of positive contemplation has now been reduced to a shell of what it used to be. Nevertheless, every now and then exceptions like Ali Zulfikar Zahedi’s ‘Kagoz’ are produced, ridding the genre of the staleness that plagues it. ‘Kagoz’ is much more than a simple mystery film; it is a social commentary and a study of an artist’s inner psyche.
‘Kagoz’ is a Bengali murder mystery film from Bangladesh that covers the rise and fall of an artist: a writer, and the people connected with him. Emon Ahmed, played by the very talented Mamunun Emon, is a writer who seeks inspiration from things he does, or incidents that happen around him. Back in the day when he was but an ordinary village boy, his uncle (Shahiduzzaman Selim) became his driving force. Uncle told him his stories, and Emon heard them with excitement. Uncle’s daughter, Renu (Airin Sultana) was deeply in love with Emon and would watch him in awe as he crafted his stories and poetry. Later, Emon leaves the village and heads for Dhaka to pursue a career as a writer. Driven by a hunger for fame, he publishes his uncle’s novel with his own name and reaches stardom. Little did he know that this would come to torment him later in his life. After sixteen years in Dhaka, Emon wishes to make amends for stealing his uncle’s work. He heads back to his village. Renu, who had been waiting to see him for years tells him that her father had passed away not so long ago. Driven by sadness and a craving for affection, the couple makes love to one another. When Renu wakes up the next morning, her world is turned upside-down when she discovers her lover lying dead beside her.
Ali Zulfikar Zahedi knows how to play with words and dialogues. His lines are almost poetic, written in a way the nature of his character, Emon. Although at times it does seem like exposition is dropped simply for the sake of it, Zahedi tries to blend it in as seamlessly as possible. One might suggest using clearer visual cues to bring exposition or introduce new information in the film rather than using actors for temporary roles. The character of the girl in the railway carriage was certainly an interesting addition to the film, but her existence is only necessary because she justifies the title ‘Kagoz: Paper.’ Her presence is however in no way negative, as she does a marvelous job of creating interest and enhancing suspense. The same can be said for the character of the psychologist in the ferryboat, and the silent reader across the seats. While the actors fit their roles perfectly, the delivery of exposition through them could have been handled more gracefully.
As for the technicalities, the cinematographer’s use of lights was quite commendable; especially in the candle-lit scenes. The use of shadows and candle-lit highlights did enhance the visual depth of the shots in a stunning manner. The use of practical foreground was quiet as well, and besides creating depth, it added to the nature of the scene and its visual impact on the audience. As for the editing, the dialogue scenes were cut quite well. The editing was seamless, and the flow and duration of shots matched the rhythm of the film.
Interestingly, the film brings about an extremely nuanced take on what a writer does to find inspiration; their actions might very well affect another person quite negatively. The film raises an important issue. It speaks openly about mental illness and the struggles of an artist in this day and age. It is a commendable step forward in the development of the mystery genre.