About the Film:
Charlatan or Clown? Innocent or
Insidious? Terrorist or Troubadour?
There are many ways of describing Herbert Sarkar -- a forty
year old crank who thinks that he can talk to the dead.
Herbert grew up in North Kolkata, feeding on the charity of
relatives, and being the butt of local jokes. He declares
one day that he has received a message in a dream that has
told him where his long dead cousin Binu's diary remains
hidden. People are surprised and amused. But when this
prediction proves to be true, Herbert becomes a local
sensation. He sets up a roaring business called
"Dialogues with the Dead" for three years and for
the first time in his life, earns money and the respect of
others. However, his luck runs out when the international
Rationalist Society declares him a fraud and threatens to
turn him over to the law unless he closes shop. This deeply
affects Herbert and he commits suicide that very night.
However, his celebrity power increases to unprecedented
levels the day after his death. After his body is put inside
the electric cremation chamber, there is a tremendous
explosion that rips apart the building, injuring many
bystanders. The incident hits the headlines as a posthumous
terroristic act, and a high-level police inquiry is launched
to find the mystery behind it. The film begins at this point
and follows the trajectory of the inquiry, flashbacking into
the hidden corners of Herbert's quixotic life - into his
lonely growing up years as an alienated orphan, his
ill-treatment at the hands of his cruel cousin Dhanna, his
only tragi-comic love affair, and his unwitting involvement
with the underground Maoist Naxalbari movement during the
turbulent seventies. It covers several decades not only in
the life of its protagonist, but also in the life of Kolkata
- the city that is at once mysterious, funny, tempestuous,
and always full of life.
Based on Nabarun Bhattacharya's novel of the same name which
won the highest literary prize in India in 1997, Suman
Mukhopadhyay's debut feature Herbert is a deeply moving and
artistically accomplished motion picture full of profound
laughter, pathos, and humanity.