Based on the popular Bengali novel of the same name, Chander Pahar is an unfocused adventure-cum-travelogue.
At first, writer-director Kamaleswar Mukherjee’s adaptation is an homage to the domestic melodramas of Ritwik Ghatak, the subject of Mukherjee’s directorial debut. Pressured by his concerned mother, 20-year-old daydreamer Shankar Chowdhury (Dev Adhikari) leaves home and becomes a stationmaster for the Uganda Railway, resulting in a preposterous man-vs.-nature narrative.
Shankar stubbornly ignores multiple lion assaults and one black mamba molestation — all captured in slow-motion, compounding Dev’s already awkward performance — so he can make like David Livingstone and master, in Shankar’s words, “the Dark Continent.” Then, after saving fellow explorer-tourist Diego Alvarez (Gerard Rudolf) from a pack of hyenas, Shankar quits his job and looks for diamonds in the mountains of South Africa.
These scenes are a desert-set variation on Robinson Crusoe, except unlike Daniel Defoe’s civilized hero out in nature, Shankar winds up fighting a giant purple lizard-monster called a “bunyip” — a beast that, once seen, makes it impossible to take Chander Pahar seriously.
Like a walking concept sketch for an aborted H.R. Pufnstuf-style Diablo expansion pack, the bunyip is two beady yellow eyes, crooked sabertooth-tiger fangs, and a bullfrog-like neck bulge on a fat purple dinosaur’s body.
Mukherjee’s chimera, like the movie around it, is too ungainly to live.