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KAGAZER NOUKA is a topical film that portrays the contemporary reality of a corruption ridden society. Through the character of a freedom fighter (Victor Bannerjee), a Gandhian with strong idealistic values the film mirrors the decadence and frustration facing the elderly who had sacrificed everything to liberate the Nation. In that respect, the film echoes Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s TAHADER KATHA. Otherwise, it is a very different film from TK and revolves around the nefarious chit-fund business that rocked West Bengal and brought about its disrepute.

The versatile Soumitro Chattopadhyay in the role of an evil businessman controlling the chit-fund empire & a childhood buddy of the protagonist freedom fighter is competent as usual. The others in the cast includes Bidita Bag, Anusya Mazumdar, Rajesh Sharma and others. Victor B reprises the role of an Angry old man again after LATHI and act with aplomb. The film is directed by Partha Pratim Joardar.

The film was severely criticized by some critics, but somehow I liked the subject matter and the unfolding of events and don’t attest the critics viewpoint who gave it a rating of 1, or 1.5 out of 5 to this film.

Rating; 3.5 out of 5

SASHI BABUR SANSAR was based on a story by Ashapurna Devi. The film showcases the inability of the older generation through the character of a recently retired patriarch (Chabi Biswas) to come to terms with the changes represented by the needs and aspiration of GenNext.

The film boasts of an impressive cast that also includes Pahari Sanyal, Chandraboti, Sabitri Chatterjee, Arundhuti Mukherjee, Basant Choudhury, Anup Kumar, Jiben Bose and others. Chabi Biswas utters one of the most significant dialogues in the film when he says to his daughter-in-law Arundhuti Mukherjee “Tomra aageye jao, amader mariye jayo na …”

One interesting sub-text in the film has a similar ring to Satyajit Ray’s MAHANAGAR in that in both the films the daughter-in-law goes out to work to earn a few extra bucks for the family against the wishes of the orthodox father-in-law. I don’t know whether this was incorporated in the two novels on which these two films have been based on the writings of Ashapurna Devi and Narendranath Mitra.

The strong cast acts brilliantly and makes it a watchable fare. The film was directed by Sudhir Mukherjee, who also directed the remarkable film BASHER KELLA featuring Anup Kumar.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5

 

 

In some respect, the protagonist of Ray’s SEEMABADDHA & Mrinal Sen’s AKASH KUSUM are quite alike. Both have a burning ambition to go up the social ladder. In the Ray film, the protagonist succeed in his endeavor through unscrupulous means. The Sen protagonist fails but unlike the Ray protagonist doesn’t come across as being too cruel a person.

Ray comes across as a greater pragmatist in this case, as in modern life one need to pull a few strings (maybe bump off a few people too) to climb up the corporate/success ladder. If this be true, it’s a sad commentary on human values. Mrinal Sen seem to second the Ray conviction in his later film EK DIN ACHANAK where a less ambitious academically inclined Professor leaves his family unable to cater to their ever increasing need/greed.

Greed can even compel a mother to send her daughter for prostitution as seen in both Sen’s CALCUTTA SEVENTY ONE & Ray’s JANA ARANYA. While greed helps the protagonist rise in stature in SEEMABADDHA, it leads to a downfall in AKASH KUSUM. Even in Sen’s INTERVIEW the protagonist in need of a better job doesn’t succeed in the end. Can we say that while MS seem to suggest that greed ought to be kept on a leash, SR unleashes the contemporary reality by projecting characters in higher echelons riding on the miseries and tribulation of the commoners?

 

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The year 1965-66 is an interesting phase for Bengali cinema in terms of experimentation with the medium. Mrinal Sen’s AKASH KUSUM (1965), Tapan Sinha’s GALPO HALEO SATTI (1966) and Satyajit Ray’s NAYAK (1966) showcases the penchant of these titans to incorporate new devices into the narrative. In this Ray work, one sees use of surrealism in abundant measure – the scene of the actor (Uttam Kumar) drowning in a pile of money or the sequence of the seductive actress (Anjana Bhowmick) haunting the actor among others …

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There is also a commonality of NAYAK with the much later film PRAKTAN (2016), exactly fifty years after the first was made, in that both these films are based entirely on a rail travel.

The film narrates the compromises an actor has to make to scale heights of popularity and the regimentation binding him to keep it going. Just see the sequence where the actor’s friend (Premansu Bose) takes him to address a group of agitating workers in his company to provide a morale booster and the actor doesn’t accede to the request of his good friend.

The aspect of the mega-star with a feet of clay also found echo in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s GUDDI (1971)..

Rating: 3.9 out of 5

 

 

An Assamese biopic reminds us of folk singer Pratima Pandey Barua’s remarkable legacy

Bobby Sarma Baruah’s ‘Sonar Baran Pakhi’ traces the life and times of the artist whose achievements were overshadowed by controversy.

Both these scenes sum up Barua’s often contentious public persona. Her championing of Goalporia folk music was looked down upon by purists and Assamese linguistic chauvinists (the Goalporia group of dialects is often regarded as crude or inferior). Similarly, the contested details of Barua’s married life were often used to downplay her artistic achievements.

Sonar Baran Pakhi (The Golden Wing) will be screened at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (April 5-9). The 86-minute Rajbangshi language biopic not only recreates Barua’s life but also covers a fair section of the indigenous community’s history in Assam. Although this is more of Sarma Baruah’s creative reimagining, the film is aided by archival details, field research and a recollection of Goalporia folk songs. Pranami Bora and Susmita Ray play the character at different stages.

Pratima Pandey Barua (1935-2002) was known fondly as “Hastir Kanya” (Elephant’s daughter). She was the niece of legendary filmmaker Pramathesh Chandra Barua and was born into the royal family of Gauripur in the western Assam district of Dhubri. From an early age, Barua’s love for music took her to commoners like buffalo herders and mahouts. Sacrificing the privileges of royalty, she gave a distinct voice to the Rajbangshi community through her songs. The soulful nature and the humanitarian content of the lyrics touched a chord in the state.

In his essay Life as Lore: The Art and Times of Pratima Baruah Pandey, Jyotirmoy Pradhani writes:

“Her life reflects the various phases of the evolving Assamese identity, and how the folk acted as a syncretic energy in the understanding of the Assamese. Her songs, popularly called the Goalporia lokageet, are a part of a cultural community, largely the Rajbanshis, who have been historically dispersed around a vast territory including Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Southern Nepal and even Bangladesh. When Pratima Barua picked up the songs, they were seemingly in their last phase of life in public memory, for the history of the land took a sharp turn forcing the communities living in the periphery to abandon their cultural moorings and acquire new identities to conform to the altered geo-political legacy of the colonial times”.

The biopic attempts to chronicle the linguistic tussle in the region in the 1950s. Goalpara has always been a politically volatile area, especially since independence. As a result, the folksongs of Goalpara have been all but nudged out of mainstream Assamese music.

We are shown how Pratima’s family members shun the people’s music (“These are songs of the commoners, my child. We in the royal palace are forbidden to sing those”). Fighting through personal struggles, Barua continues to dedicate her life to collecting and tuning folk songs.

“These songs are performed with traditional instruments like dotara, sarinda, dhol and so on,” Bobby Sarma Baruah told Scroll.in. “The lyrics are about the human experience that each of us can relate to, so that’s why I believe these Goalporia folk songs are very special for us. And my intention is to preserve them through this movie.”

When Bhupen Hazarika met Barua on his return to Gauripur in 1956, he decided to incorporate her songs in his Assamese film Era Bator Xur (Songs of the Abandoned Road). It was the first step towards appreciating the fluidity of Goalpara’s folk heritage.

Both artists stole hearts as they sang to Lead Belly’s “We are in the same boat, brother” tuned with folk instruments. Unfortunately, we only get a brief glimpse of the duo in Sarma’s movie.

Sonar Baran Pakhi.
Sonar Baran Pakhi.

An artist’s inner turmoil surfaces in Sonar Baran Pakhi as Barua comes to terms with her identity. The coming-of-age section is substantiated by historical data. For example, the scene in which Barua shares her experience of auditioning at Guwahati Radio Centre speaks volumes about the kind of marginalisation she faced. The language of her songs – neither dominant Assamese nor the upper caste Bengali but a mixture of several dialects (Sylheti and tribal influences too) – came under suspicion as they did not qualify to be “Assamese” enough for public recordings.

There has been documentation on this topic. In Dhiren Das’s book O’ Mur Hai Hostir Kanyare, one gets a perspective on the treatment of these songs by All India Radio’s Guwahati station. Barua was asked to translate her music into Assamese first, and second, to focus on the religious nature of the songs. The politicising of folk music made the recording of Bhawaiyya and Chatka (fast-paced songs of an erotic/celebratory nature) music very difficult indeed.

“Hostir noran hostir choran hostir paye beri
Shottya koriya kon re mahut ghore e koye jon naari re
Tumra geile ki aashiben,
mur mahout bondhu re?”
(“You move the elephant, you graze the elephant,
you chain the elephant’s feet;
But tell me the truth, O mahout,
How many women do you have back home?
If you go away my mahout friend, shall you ever back?”)

There is a poignant mix of nature, desire, longing and the futility of worldly vices in Goalparia music. In the film, Barua’s engagement with nature is beautifully shot to convey this mix. As she emerges with clay wrapped sensuously around her body, the fulfillment of being one with nature comes to the fore. It stands as a recurring image of life imitating art. The human body in its corporeal form is bound to perish. Therefore, it is compared to a clay pitcher in the song Ek Baar Hori Bolo Mon Rosona:

“Ek baar hori bolo mon rosona,
arey manob dehai goirob koiro na,
manob deha maatiro bhando,
bhangile hoibe khondo re khondo.”
(“Say the name of God just once
My friend, take no pride in the mortal body
The human body is a pitcher of clay
When it breaks it shall shatter into thousands of pieces.”)

Sarma Baruah said, “This is an imaginative and illusory journey which I have recreated through the film. The beauty of her inner sense, her relationship with nature, all blend together to give a unique portrait.”

Today, the statue of Padma Shri Pratima Pandey Barua stands at Swahid Udyan in Chandmari, witnessing massive changes to its cultural milieu and the threat of the appropriation of folk music. It leaves me, as does the film, with a mixed whiff of hope and hopelessness.

(Src: https://thereel.scroll.in/832190/an-assamese-biopic-reminds-us-of-folk-singer-pratima-pandey-baruas-remarkable-legacy)

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Image  —  Posted: March 22, 2017 in Gautam Ghose

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PODDOKKEP highlights the loneliness faced by the elderly in our so-called modern society under transition from conservative values to newer liberal ones. The story is credited to the director Suman Ghosh (Nobel Chor, Kadambari) himself.
The film comprises of three acts: Act 1 is named SHASANKHA & MEGHA, Act 2 is TRISHA & Act 3 is titled THE FINALE.
Shasankha (Soumitro Chatterjee) is an elderly man living with his daughter Megha (Nandita Das) who works in a corporate office and an elderly spinster woman (Sabitri Chaterjee) – a relative of theirs. Soumitro has lost his wife around three years back in an accident. The lives of the protagonist delineates the conflict that exist between the new (daughter Nandita) and the old(dad Soumitro) through incidents about the kind of calendar hangings fit for walls of the living room (a rather cutesy scene this) or the Tagore fixation of Bengalis
Nandita: “Why’re Bengalis obsessed with Rabindranath Tagore? When you elevate a human being to the level of God, doesn’t it imply stagnancy of intellectualism?”
Soumitro: “He is timeless, just like Shakespeare”
Through course of interaction between the daughter and the father, we are given hints about the leftist leanings of Soumitro. When the daughter mentions of having watched a good film GOODBYE LENIN on collapse of Communism, the father questioned as to whether his daughter was mocking him.
A couple (Tota Roy Choudhury & June Malliya) has returned from America and is a neighbor of the father-daughter duo. The US returned couple has a 7 year old daughter Trisha. A strong bond develops between Soumitro and Trisha. Megha is in love with a Muslim colleague of hers, looks for opportunity and goes on a two-day visit with her paramour to Bangalore. When Soumitro makes a call to her when she was in bed with the guy, a male voice response informs the father of the relationship.
The film explores a gamut of issues – flight of professionals from the City of Joy to places like America and the Silicon Valley of India, the pangs of separation for the elderly and the challenge to adapt to liberal values in vogue, apprehension of forging alliances across religious divide. The sequence where Soumitro is shown playing with Trisha during a picnic and collapsing is reminiscent of the sequence of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, succumbing while playing with his grandchild in THE GODFATHER.
The film has quite a few poetic shots capturing the locales of Kolkata and its neighborhood with great finesse.
Rating: 4 out of 5