One day whilst on a rickshaw in Santiniketan, the rickshawallah said “Gurudev was the best businessman to my knowledge. With minimal investment of a pen and paper the amount of money and employment he could generate, no other businessman has the capability of rolling out that revenue”
Whether the writings of Rabindranath Tagore were a money-spinner in his days is best left to those who are familiar with the history. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was the most popular Bengali writer as he could relate to the feminine folks of the era within the ambit of a restrictive society. Tagore on the hand was rolling out works ahead of his time with a philosophical vision well above the common man’s reach. His profound insight was above comprehension of the mass.
With both creative personae now gone, the corporate sponsored authors failing to reach that height, the disintegration of a corporate controlled cultural milieu was a natural outcome. The bankruptcy of creativity is more evident with the turn of the century. Not that there is dearth of creative talent, but political sponsored dominance of sub-mediocrities in the last fifty years failed to bring to limelight the creative talents who would carry the Olympian Torch of the past.
Amidst such cultural insolvency, Tagore was fished out into the marketing arena for survival of these sub-mediocrity folks. At least, it gave them the dime to prod on, if they were able to make the requiste connections, carving the grave of a prosperous culture. Anyone who could don the Tagore mantle had a prospect of fetching the lolly. A bunch of such sub-mediocrities were out in the open, harping “We can’t think of anything outside Tagore”, not to boost Tagore’s established creative genius, but to secure their existence amidst their shortfalls. Without an iota of Tagore’s insight, they dished out distorted Tagore sizzlers which often hit the bestseller list, only to wither away with the passage of time. With the turn of century, the socio-politico-cultural milieu has undergone a radical metamorphosis. So has the style of presentation. Leaving Tagore in his outstanding creative realm, time has come to progress, generate something new from the vision he left.
Whilst the movie Ghware Bairey Aaj may be different from Tagore’s insight, let us shred the Tagore mantle and assess it as a solitary movie away from other influences (though the director claims it as revisiting Tagore in a new light). I must confess, during my college days, I was a fan of Aparna Sen for her acting skills outside then prevalent foibles of other heroines. I was fascinated by her directorial debut in 36 Chowringhee Lane in its choice and excellent treatment of an offbeat subject. Masterpieces followed with Paroma, Paromitar Ek Din, Mr and Mrs Iyer and 15 Park Avenue which all achieved eclectic acclaim.
The most difficult task for a script writer is to accommodate a script in a two hour plus time frame. A short story might be budget friendly, but the script writer has to stretch it to a desired length with less events at disposal. If a novel, it has to be squeezed to the time frame. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Short story has less characters, hence casting budget is low, so is the turn of events. In a novel though events might be plentiful, condensing it, getting rid of superfluous characters poses a difficult problem. Location costs increase the budget. Especially in a regional cinema where the audience is limited, the recovery of outlay needs a fine poise in weaving the story.
In Ghware Bairey Aaj (though it would have been appropriate to give it a different name) the Tagore emblem might have a marketing strategy. Of a movie of 2 hours 13 mins, for more than 45 mins one is stuck with introduction of just three characters. Even then, the demarcation of their persona is missing with a sluggish script which seems to beat about the bush without highlighting their diversity failing to establish its foothold. Unless one is a die-hard Aparna Sen fan, one would switch to some other movie than prod on. This languor has been a serious drawback from her film The Japanese Wife. The trend continued into Iti Mrinalini, Gyonar Baksho onto this film. Whilst the pace of storytelling has radically changed over the latter half of the decade, her scripts are stuck to a bygone era. It tends to put off the viewer. Might be, where the story-telling art is missing, it’s safer to condense a novel than stretch a short story to the timeframe. It would provide considerable ingredients for a faster storyline.
It's not until the end the characters emerge with their own attribute when she desperately tries to adapt their aftermath in a series of short shots to define their other facets which could have been partially revealed by restrained dialogue. Not until more than three quarters of the movie have elapsed, do we find political slogans to embellish those characters. The best part of creative author is to depict the political opinions through the dialogues of the characters which also help in adding uniqueness to them. Something missing in this movie. It seems the director is focussed on harping a political message like a political slogan. By and large, a creator should be neutral. If at all, he/she wants to be suggestive of a political view, the characters could be depicted in such a way that the audience develops a fascination for that ideology than imposing it as a slogan.
If one were to ask in a satisfactory marital relationship, how does adultery arise without a provocation or rift, one would be groping in the dark. Couldn’t find a justified explanation, especially when the characters are middle-aged adults. The incidence of ectopic pregnancy doesn’t come to light until the heroine Brinda is pregnant. Without wasting considerable movie time on Brinda’s Dalit background, we don’t find much of her background regarding her mental make-up, if at all, the prime aim of the movie was depiction of interpersonal conflict. For some obscure reason its missing in the storyline.
When the sluggish story climaxes histrionically, one wonders whether the script writer had worked out the subtle balance of the timeline events.
Having analysed in detail the script and story, time to look at other directorial features of the movie. Even with a moderately crisp editing, the editor Rabiranjan Maitra fails to maintain a pace in a weak script. The cinematography and art direction are a feast to the eyes if you are bored. The striking feature of the movie is excellent background score by Neel Dutt. Appropriate use of musical instruments to capture the mood was par excellence with Rashid Khan, Monomoy Chakraborty doing justice to the vocals. All the three prime actors Anirban Bhattacharya, Jishu Sengupta and Tuhinaa Das were excellent within their limited scope. Veteran actor Anjan Dutt and newcomer Sreenanda Shankar did that was essential for their role. Theatre actor Anirban Bhattacharya, now into movies, definitely deserves an extra acclaim for his brilliant acting. His entry into movies might fulfil the vacuum of a multifaced natural hero lacking in Bengali movies after Uttam Kumar’s death.
To conclude, Aparna Sen as a director has held her standard high like some of her other movies but failed as a script writer and storyteller. If the points which I have raised are audited, might be, we would get further masterpieces from this talented director.