More Fellini-esque than Bollywood, the latest film from Buddhadeb Dasgupta, one of India’s most-celebrated directors, is a lyrical and at times comedic three-part portrait of rural Indian life.
Like a strange fairytale THE BAIT (TOPE) is about a hunter from a royal descendant who desperately attempts to kill a tiger but fails miserably each time. So a film crew wants to make a documentary about him. Meanwhile, a postman becomes the town’s new psychic by stealing all their mail and fortifying himself in a tall tree while he yells at them their “fortunes”. He tells Munni, the impoverished pre-teen daughter of a low-cast couple who make a living as traveling street performers, that she will marry in four years. All these narrative threads initially unfold separately, then cross and intertwine.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta, a published poet, former economics professor and multiple prize-winning director in his native India, has created a film that appears entirely out of time. Some characters are stuck in an antique fantasy version of India, while others live fully modern lives. But their obstacles are wholly contemporary. Class, wealth and inequality is at the center of this fable, and viewers are encouraged to draw their own conclusion after the spine-chilling finale.