Shankhachil (2016)

Posted: August 18, 2016 in Bangla 2010-2020, Bengali films, Gautam Ghose, Prasenjit, Ritwik Ghatak, Two Hundred Bengali Cinema
One looks forward to a new Gautam Ghose offering with great expectation. The Indo-Bangladesh production SHANKHACHIL , the newest from the veteran director, has his signature style written all over – the marvelous photography, great music and terrific performances from the lead cast. Prasenjit is wonderful in the role of a teacher in a village in Bangladesh bordering India. It is a performance worthy of a National award and overlooking the tremendous work by this maturing actor over the past several years at the National awards is highly unjust.
Like Ghatak (to whom the film is dedicated) GG rues the plight of Bengalis segregated into two Nations. Through his Muslim protagonist Badal (Prasenjit) we get a glimpse of the deep reverence for Tagore that exist in that country. In an early sequence, the farcical division that was created between the two Nations is highlighted. The protagonist Badal lives a happy life in Bangladesh with his wife and daughter Roopsa. Roopsa is a bright girl, inquisitive by nature and always seen with a magnifying glass in her hand. She falls seriously ill and need to be immediately hospitalized. The nearest hospital is in the town of Taki in West Bengal in India..’
Can’t helpless people living in the border areas be allowed medical facilities in the neighbouring country on humane ground? Why do we have to conceal our identities and illegally avail of medical expertise in that country? How has partition improved the lives of citizens of the country, especially those living in border areas? The narrative unfolds at a sedate pace. The story is simplistic but heart-rending and the film progresses through some great cinematography. No one can match GG in technical finesse which has been the hallmark of several of his award winning works.
The film succeed in making some forceful statement. In an initial sequence Badal says “Our biggest identity is not our religion, but our language. We’re Bengalis, not only Muslims. When India was partitioned in 1947, Bangladesh became a part of Pakistan. The following year Jinnah promulgated that Urdu would be made the National language of Pakistan, and other languages relegated to a subordinate level. This formed the seed of the war of liberation in 1971 over the issue of language and the formation of Bangladesh.”
The film is a bit patchy in parts but overall it is engaging. I would have liked it more had it ended on a positive note. btw, when Roopsa was undergoing treatment in hospital, what did that out of place nightly bike sequence implied?
The concluding sequence showing birds freely moving across the fence at the border is a directorial assertion that chaining humans and segregating on basis of nationality in modern times reek of dominance by the regressive forces of such Nations. The film won the Best Bengali film at the National awards this year. Dipankar Dey and Mukul Vaid act in supporting roles.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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