Movie: Ek Din Achanak (1989, Hindi, India)

Movie Review: Ek Din Achanak (1989)

Ek Din Achanak is an art film of 1989, based on a Bengali story titled Beej. The movie is directed by veteran Mrinal Sen and has won a lot of awards national and international awards.

Ek Din Achanak Poster

Directed byMrinal Sen
Released in1989
GenreDrama, Suspense, Relationships, Art Cinema
CastShabana Azmi as Neeta
Shriram Lagoo as Sashank (Professor), Neeta’s father
Uttara Baokar as Neeta’s mother
Aparna Sen as Aparna, a student of Professor
Roopa Ganguly as Seema, Neeta’s younger sister
Arjun Chakraborthy as Amit, Neeta’s brother
Manohar Singh as Neeta’s uncle
Music byJyotishka Dasgupta
Produced byN.F.D.C.
Length1 hour 45 mins

The Plot

One rainy day, when the streets of Kolkatta are flooded, Shashank, a retired professor (played by Shriram Lagoo) steps out of his middle class house for a walk and does not return. His family – comprising his wife (played by Uttara Baokar), his elder daughter Neeta (Shabana Azmi), younger daughter Seema (Roopa Ganguly), and son Amit (Arjun Chakraborthy) tensely wait for him to return and start the process of tracing him after a day or so, by contacting hospitals, informing the police, enquiring with acquaintances, and so on.

Days stretch into weeks, and weeks turn into months, and there is no sign of the professor. Slowly the family gives up hope and starts reconciling to their life without him. In the initial period, they go through tense moments when a doorbell ring or telephone makes them jumpy and anxious. As time passes they remember their relationships with the professor and also with each other (a lot of the story and character building is done through back story). Past incidents take on different interpretations as each of them tries to answer the question “why did he leave us?”

The family faces financial difficulties as Neeta is the only person with a steady income; her brother Amit is struggling with his fledgling business and her sister is a college student. Neeta’s relationship with her boyfriend goes into a ‘hold’ pattern with the uncertainty facing the family. The professor’s regular pension is also inaccessible, because is he neither legally dead, nor are they in a position to prove that he is alive.

Relatives, like Neeta’s uncle (played by Manohar Singh) try to help in their own way, but that sometimes embarrasses the family.

Ek Din Achanak PosterAs time goes by, the family suspects the professor’s relationship with Aparna, one of his students (played by Aparna Sen), when they see her name written multiple times on a bookmark in one of the professor’s book. They confront her, but that does not get them any closer to the missing prof.

Why/ how did the professor vanish one day, suddenly (ek din, achanak)? Do they eventually find him? Is he dead? Does the family finally reconcile with the situation? Well, you will have to see the movie to get the answers; however, I cannot guarantee that you will get all the answers, nor can I promise you that you will like the answers that you get.

Timeless, unforgettable drama of family relationships

This is one the few movies where the acting by all the characters is brilliant while being understated, and all credit must go to the director and the cast. Some scenes like the family’s tense wait on the first night, the eventual disposal of the professor’s books to a library, the family’s confrontation with the professor’s student Aparna remain firmly etched in memory.

This is a must-see movie, has a great value for repeat watch, and is a collectible item. The movie has won many awards, and even after so many years it is still gripping (I saw it a third time in 2013 after many, many years). The medium (theatre, TV screen), and the fact that you know the end does not make any significant difference to the impact created by the movie.

The movie is less than 2 hours – so there is no need set aside a big slot of time to watch it.

Here is a trailer of the movie on youtube:

(If the youtube clip does not load, use the url

Your comments are welcome!

Author: Rajesh Naik

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