There's a spring in Rituparno Ghosh's gait. And no, heaven just cannot wait. Heaven is what the creative impulses urge out of the artiste. He could be an idol maker like Abhishek Bachchan in Ghosh's Antar Mahal. Or he could be a filmmaker, like Prosenjeet in Khela. Bearded, brooding, intense and idealistic Prosenjeet wants to make a film about little Buddha. And he wants only little Akashneel for the role.
Akashneel, a delightfully shrewd calculating and clever observer of adult quirks, suggests the director 'keednap' him when his parents refuse permission to shoot. There begins a charming endearing journey into a world of creativity and manipulation.
The little boy's tantrums brought to a close with never-ending bars of chocolate by the ever-patient dress designer (Raima Sen) will ring a bell in all those filmmakers who have shot with kids from Raj Kapoor in Boot Polish to Shekhar Kapoor in Masoom to Aamir Khan and Amole Gupte in Taare Zameen Par.
Beautifully capturing inner and outer landscapes, cinematographer Aveek Mukherjee fuses his characters' lives with immense amounts of compassion and understanding of the landscape that nourishes them.
Whether it is the rain-flooded streets of Kolkata or the green acres of a wilderness where the filmmaker-hero shoots his precious film or just a cosy middleclass Bengali home…Rituparno Ghosh's eye for physical and emotional detailing remains unerring. And the actors are a marvel of faultless casting. Not just little Akashneel whose tears and other manipulative efforts make him look more vulnerable than the character actually is. Raima Sen as the harassed emotional dress designer inhabiting locations that go far beyond the physical, is also in splendid form.
What the film lacks is a more cohesive emotional resonance. You want to see a deeper relationship emerge from the film unit's splendid bonding with the boy whom they bring into the picture.
The rapport between the sullen director and the precocious boy remains under-developed, probably deliberately so, to accentuate the larger picture of a film and how cinema swoops ordinary lives into its creative clasp.
The tone is kept mellow and the bitterness behind the camera is never exposed beyond a point. There are sporadic flashbacks of the director-hero's breached marriage with a timid bespectacled woman who likes her life peaceful. That's where Manisha Koirala comes in. That's when you wish an austerity of expression was not a rule in this film about making a film with a little hero who has been sneaked into the immediate line of vision.
Warm and original Khela isn't among the director's best works. But it has sweet and gentle tonal harmony guiding the plot .And you fall for it.