Charlatan or Clown? Innocent or Insidious? Terrorist or Trickster? There are indeed 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 Binus diary is 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, and the switch turned on, the most unbelievable thing happens. 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 Herberts 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, his unwitting involvement with the underground Maoist Naxalbari movement during the turbulent seventies, and his business of speaking to the dead in the globalized marketplace of the early nineties. The film depicts, with a rare blend of empathy and irony, the efforts of a gifted mans constant struggle to adapt to his changing surroundings and his efforts to gain love, friendship, and community.
Based on Nabarun Bhattacharyas novel of the same name which won the highest literary prize in India in 1997, Suman Mukhopadhyays debut feature Herbert is a deeply moving and artistically accomplished motion picture full of profound laughter, pathos, and humanity.
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