Udta Punjab: An Elegy to a broken nation

 

There is a moment in the film where two characters are arguing with each other as to who is the bigger idiot. Both of them claiming to be the bigger one till one points out to the other that lallu and fuddu are not the same. That moment in more ways than one captures the brilliance of the film. Abhishekh Chaubey has proven in the past as to how good he is in saying the heaviest and the most heartbreaking stuff in the most comical ways. So as to completely shock the audience into numbness. Here in this film there are several moments when your hearty laughter stops midway abruptly. Or doesn’t. You see, watching a film like this with audience which goes into multiple orgasms on TV-Serial standard melodramas like “Praktan”, subtlety is a difficult proposition. So for example when the interaction I referred suddenly turned into gut-wrenching outburst (a brilliant piece of acting like many more in the film) the audience in the hall were still laughing and I heard someone comment “ki boka boka bihari bolchey” (she is speaking in stupid bihari).

 

The way it slaps us laughingly with the harsh ironies by juxtaposing polar opposites against each other is what makes this film so powerful. The jail scene interaction between Tommy and his two fans who worship him and got inspired to be druggies by him is chilling. The simple laid back matter of fact way in which they talk of their horrific crime is shocking. It smashes out Tommy. It smashed some of us. And then there were others in the theatre who were laughing even in that scene. The biggest example is obviously the pre-climax. The most heart-wrenching message of loss of innocence comes in that scene. The futility and vulnerability of human life so strongly brought out in the scene. The value of holding onto life brought out and juxtaposed with the sheer wastefulness of the drug addiction. And yet the director injects the sheer comedy of helpless players who don’t know how to handle things. An utterly heartbreaking moment laced with the comic inability of people in it. This playfulness and the plank of tragi-comedy makes the film both sophisticated and also difficult to keep up with for viewers who are used to simpler fare.

 

The most brilliant thing about Udta Punjab apart from the sheer scale and complexity which the maker attempts to pull off and mostly does is the level of subtlety and intelligence with which the story has been told. The more you think back the more you appreciate the achievement of the filmmaker. It tells the whole menace of drugs from the angle of common people who are affected. Not the villains, not the heroes, but the common people. Who are directly or indirectly affected by it. Those who have lost their innocence to it like the characters of Alia and Shahid. And those who still have their innocence or a chance to keep it. Like DIljit and Kareena characters. At other levels it is also the tale of the common man who is too embroiled in the “System” to notice the flood waters rising all around him. Till the day it enters his drawing room. There are two back to back scenes of one of the characters which serve as pre-post demonstration. His actions before realising how far the water has gone up and his reaction post that. This is one of the many moments of ingenuity by the director. We see this every day, every moment. How our mothers and fathers and uncles keep telling us “not to get involved” in order to keep us safe. And yet one day it all sweeps us all and w cannot look away anymore.

Another element of the film which really makes it win is the sheer honesty and transparency of story telling. Once you see the film you can see why SAD are pissing in their pants about this film. The film makes no bones of the administration and its casual involvement in making this drug-terrorism which Pakistan is inflicting on the state a success. In fact the list shown in the film has a parallel in reality which had been prepared by an ex-DIG, submitted to the CM and has got lost since then. And yet in all its moments of “in your face” fact sharing of the drug menace the makers never make it a hero-villain story of man vs the system like so many formula films. The message is loud and clear when Diljit’s character tells Kareena’s- “madamji, the men in Punjab are all lying somewhere in their drug induced coma. I guess its time the women have to stand up and do something”. There is no one who is coming to save Punjab. The average joe and the average jane has to start the fight. And the basic reality as kareena’s character tells is that the war is two fold. The external war against the other country and the system which allows the menace. And the internal one where the sons and daughters have to win against their addiction.

 

A film of this complexity needed its actors to really rise up. And what a great choice of cast! The effortless innocence of Diljit DOssanj has made him a heartthrob. This film shows why. He is effortless as the simple Punjabi munda next door who lives by the book, takes bribe and seeks a better life to fall in the “system”. Till his life comes crashing down by the same substance which is providing him the security of the “system” and extra income. Kareena is earnest and spirited as the crusader. Her character is too straightforward. But she brings in a lot of panache. And makes the most of the scenes which break down her “perfect”ness (as diljit’s character says) and show her fear, softness of heart and vulnerability. However the meatiest roles are of the two losers. The lallu- Alia and phuddu- Shahid. This film is another milestone in Shahid’s career. After Haider, Kaminey etc. He leaves shahid Kapoor on the wayside and what you see in the film is all Tommy Singh the Gabru. His character undergoes immense stress and transformation. His well maintained bubble bursts and he has to cope or die. His struggles, his failures, his over-the-top image and the real self. All of this in all of its complexity is resting on the shoulders of the man previously known as shahid Kapoor- now Tommy Singh. The shock of the film however is Mary Jane- Alia Bhatt. Every frame she is in makes open-mouthed in wonder of what a talent she is proving to be. She is simply brilliant. Her impact on the performance and the film is best experienced and hence I will not speak much on her. The support cast is strong and able. And even the smallest of roles don’t have any spot of black and white. Everyone in this film is grey. Simple people trying to cope.

 

Finally if for nothing else then at least for one reason Udta Punjab is a film we should all be thankful for. At long last the drugs issue in Punjab to the forefront. It is the issue which needs immediate addressal. Before it is too late….

 

Udta Punjab is a very personal film for me. Because my land is Bengal but the land of my beloved is Punjab. And it is the land which has loved me back unconditionally as a puttar, as a brother and so many other designations. It is a land where people can treat you to roti and ghee-shakkar with all their love. When you have landed in the middle of the night to attend the funeral of the person who was their life. It is a land where you can chat with people as if you know them for ages though you have never met them before (similarities with Kolkata here).

 

It is a land where the poetry of sahir, gulzar and so many others came to life for me. I really understood the meaning of “jaadon kin narm dhoop”, “thandi safed chadron mein der tak jaagna”. It is a place where I have run to many times just to relax and clear my head. Sat for hours in the Gurdwaras to experience peace. Be it Taran Taaran,  Nangal or the Golden Temple. The land of Baba Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Manto, Amrita Pritam Shiv Kumar Batalvi camouflaged with hearty laughter and self mockery and a glass of lassi-vassi and a few pakoras. The land which gave the language of love to Bollywood and the country. The land which taught the others how to take life a little less seriously and have a lassi-vassi and chill. The land which for heaven’s sake taught us how to hold a marriage! The land which taught us that there does not need to be any reason to break into a dance. It is the land where for decades young men have laid down their lives to the cause of the country. A country which attacked its holiest place to quench the bloodlust of a family.

 

It is the same land which today is losing a generation to the drug-terrorism of Pakistan, supported by its greedy politicians. Who will save the jewel in India’s crown? Who will be the Sartaj Singh and Dr. Preet who will stand up against the system? Who will save the Pinkies and Tommy Singhs?

 

Perhaps the words of the great Shiv Kumar Batalvi is used in the movie just to convey this anguish and hopelessness:

Ikk kudi jida naam mohabbat
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai
O saad muraadi, sohni phabbat
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai
Gum hai, gum hai, gum hai

The innocence, the beauty, the soul is lost. Who will find it again for us?

The film ends in a somewhat positive note. The maker gives us an escapist ending. Where ultimately the good guys do win. In a way. The maker gives us a positive ending because he can. The reality of the state is just too depressing and morbid. There has to be some hope. This escapism gives hope. The maker has done his job. The artist has done what he could. Now its up to the rest of us…

Indians comfort and loss of time is of no value to British Airways

I have heard horror stories about BA in the past. And precisely the reason why I avoid both AF and BA for international travel. People who want can do it at their own risk. You see service becomes visible in crisis…not when things are ok…

getsetandgo

Update as on June 2, 2014 – IST 5.30pm – Thanks everyone for helping me spread the word on this. I have just received a standard email from British Airways Customer Care apologising for the inconvenience and confirming that they will look into this matter. I will keep you all updated on the progress.

This post is my letter to the CEO of British Airways recounting my recent experiences while flying British Airways from New York to Mumbai. Thanks to many of you who found the concerned email id for me and I have now sent this as an email out to him. I am also posting this as a blog post and hope that this makes a difference in the way British Airways treats its Indian customers.

May 31, 2014

 Mr. Keith Williams

CEO – British Airways PLC

 Dear Sir,

I had recently read a blog-post (which went viral on the internet) about an Indian national…

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Those days with the soccer ball: Part One

The good thing was about the goal posts. They were flexible. Depending on the mood of the group. It could be asymmetrical on either side of the arena. It could be as wide as the width of the arena. It could also be only a foot wide. Putting the ball through the smaller goalposts was the true sign of advancement of skill. And seniority. Terrace soccer was our life. There was badminton, and the occasional cricket during winters. But the only all season habit we all had was soccer.

Balls changed. From tennis balls to round balls made by rolling newspaper to the real deal- leather bound soccer ball. Real soccer balls bought from the sports shops in College Street. Those were rare but they were there. Usually when the action shifted to the lanes outside. The gulleys. Yes- we rarely had gulley cricket. It was always gulley football. Days of bandh (there used to be quite a few), days of public holidays, and sometimes even at night with a large 200watt lamp and other streetlights serving as the floodlights. But all that were usually the domain of the elders. For us single digiters it was usually terrace football. With tennis balls or paper balls.

Central Kolkata is one single building block running for many square kilometers. I know you will not believe me. But check out on Google Map. Every adjoining building shares the adjoining wall with each other. At least one wall of any building is attached to its neighboring building. So it is not a locality of many houses with lanes and by-lanes. It is a locality of super-houses of enormous width ocassionally getting broken by lanes. Terrace soccer required a skill other than ability to play football. You also needed to know terrace hopping. Or what the kids of today call parkouring? OK- that’s bragging. We were not as good as the free-runners of today. But we could give any professional burglar a run for their money in our abilities at scaling walls and terrace hopping. OK- not me personally to begin with. But some of us. Those ball recovery experts. For every time a ball fell out of the terrace it did not fall onto a road. It fell on top of someone else s terrace and mostly there would be no one there to throw it back.  Thus ball recovery was an essential skill to continue our engagement in soccer. It was needed for other sports too. But then we weren’t playing much of other sports.

School soccer was more conventional. There was the school field. The recess. The school football and some of the tennis balls bought by some of the classmates for use during recess. It was standard stuff. Recess was fun though. Usually there would be 4-5 groups playing soccer in the same arena. (Some of the other groups playing cricket in corners, but we soccer players usually treated them with scant respect). With 4-5 balls bouncing around and various groups running after various balls the prospect of a comedy of errors was always palpable and in many occasions was a hilarious realty. Many occasions of the goalie making an acrobatic save of an unrelated ball while the relevant ball rolled slowly into his goal, or the attacking player confidently speeding ahead to find unexpected defensive thrust from completely unknown quarters. Or the raging dispute on every goal being scored as to whether the goal was scored by a relevant player at all.

The games after school were less chaotic and definitely more engaging. And every game would result in a few of us friends taking the long walk home and all the while discussing the game which we just played and how we should have won it or how we were too good for the other team. My cousin sister who came to pick me up from school once in my lifetime would tell you that all she saw me doing was running after the ball in all possible directions, but that’s ok. I don’t mind her. You know sisters. In my defense I did play in the house teams in junior and middle school. And once also for the school. This was before I changed school before I grew up and before my broken ankle made me bid an early good bye to soccer. For now in junior and middle school soccer was my life. And also the life of the city.

Interestingly cricket was an alien sports with curiosity more than genuine interest going for it. That was in my days of toddler-ship. Before 1983. 1983 was the year I turned nine and Indian Cricket turned the corner with the World Cup win. The years after that did see increase in popularity of the game. But it continued to be a winter sports. One with much less spontaneity for the likes of us. Our heroes resided in Kolkata and played their game in the Maidans.

the real lagaan. 1911

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shyam thapa with the god of soccer

Going to the Mohun Bagan grounds was a monthly treat. Multiple promises of good behaviour, sound studying and healthy eating used to be taken before dad would wake me up early on a Sunday morning and take me to the wooden stands of Mohun Bagan club to watch my heroes practice. I vaguely remember Shyam Thapa shaking my hand. I vaguely remembered anything else happening for a few months post that. Shyam Thapa. The hero of my childhood. The expert striker of Mohun Bagan. The possessor of the legendary bicycle kick. Till today the hero-worship of the guy never ceases. After all these years I remember the rush of blood and excitement when I saw him on a talk show on the TV.

the bicycle kick

There were others. Prashun Banerjee  and Prashanto, his brother. There was the mercurial Subrato Bhattacharya, the rock of Mohun Bagan defence and Mona- Manoranjan, his nemesis in the East Bengal defence. The silken legs of Krishanu and the work horse Krishnendu. Brilliance of Bhaskar in the East Bengal as well as the Indian goal to be matched with the penalty saving magic of Shibaji Banerjee for the Mariners.  There were the players who came from out of Bengal. Though soccer was mostly a Bengali affair those days there were brilliant players from outside Bengal who came into the club. There was Ulganathan, Xavier Pius, Victor Amalraj, and one of my favourite players- Babu Mani. Partnerships and combinations used to be legendary those days. Bidesh-Manash of the invincible years of the club, with Sudip Chatterjee and Satyajit   in mid-field. East Bengal’s Manoranjan and Tarun Dey were the defensive wall with Krishanu-Bikash in attack (the latter a Mohun Bagan find).

Every time a team won a title the para signboard would have a garlanded collage of the team, made by the supporters. In the ensuing one week there would be palpable tension with the opponent club supporters threatening to tear off the same and the defenders threatening back with dire consequences. Such tension rarely came to blows. But there were the para elders to get down to business in case of any violence.

Playing with Pele: Mohunbagan 2- Pele2

Sudip and Bidesh. Anyone who saw the India- Argentina match of 1984 Nehru Cup will never forget these names. It was a complete Argentina 1986 World Cup winning team sans Maradona. Maradona was replaced by Gareca due to club commitments. India lost the match 1-0. But everyone including the Argentina coach, the legendary Carlos Bilardo was stunned by the performance of a team a few hundred ranks below them. Sudip matched Valdano step to step in creativity and brilliance in the mid-field. Bidesh’s speed in the left wing left their backline with pants down on multiple occasions. However India lacked quality in its strike force- Shabbir Ali/ Krishanu simply could not do justice to the build-ups. Argentina scored through Gareca and Bilardo and his men thanked their lucky stars. Post match Bilardo had predicted India to play the World Cup in a decade. Milovan, the Indian coach had mentioned that India had two World Class players in its ranks. They needed to build more. The two players were Bidesh Bose and Sudip Chatterjee.

Prashanto against the argentines

The battle of equals. Prashanto exchanging jersey with Valdano after match

the legend- bidesh bose

sudip chatterjee the temparamental genius

We all waited with breathtaking excitement for the predictions of Bilardo to come true. In the coming decade a sports phenomenon did hit Kolkata. However it was not in football. The phenomenon was named Sourav Ganguly. And the sports topography of the state changed forever. These days everyone wants to be Sourav. Everyone has managed to get a cricket kit. There is good money in cricket. Thanks to the BCCI and its events. It is an affordable sport for the middle class today. All through the year and all through the parks in the city everyone plays cricket. There is the net and there are the teeming hopefuls taking their chance at being Sourav. No one plays football much. There arent too many Bengalis in the Indian Soccer team. Last we heard they lost to Afghanisthan in SAFF games.

Some years back I came across a news article. Sudip Chatterjee was dead. He had died before he could be treated. He had died in pennury. Some 17 years after retiring he died, neglected and forgotten. One of the greatetst mid-fielders of Indian soccer could not last two decades post retirement. Subrata commented once that he would never let his son pursue soccer. His son is not a soccer player. He is a budding actor.

The rainy afternoons. The rain-drenched exhilaration on a terrace. One smallish rubber ball. Breathtaking excitement. The Mohunbagan-EastBengal derby had just got over. The serenading poetry of Ajoy Bose’s voice had finished describing the proceedings.The whole group till now sitting in front of one radio comprised of the under 15s of the para. The supporters were fighting tooth and nail on the terrace now to prove supremacy. And show their allegiance to their club. The youngest in the group suddenly managed to push the ball into the defined goal of the opponents mostly by accident. The seniors around him- including the oponents exclaimed with wide eyes- “tap korey goal korli! daarun!!” Everyone took turns to lift the young “talent” on their shoulders in their appreciation and affection which lasted beyond the match. So did the indulgent nickname they gave him that day- for a year or two- Tupul Thapa, in acknowledgement of his hero Shyam Thapa…we were the soccer boys…

(More in part 2)

link to excerpt from match between Pele’s Cosmos and Mohun Bagan- when Pele played in Kolkata.

the SHyam Thapa inteview

http://www.mohunbaganac.com/interview-detail/shyam-thapa-interview-part-i

Last thoughts on rituparno… when the lights go out

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There are film-makers. Then there are film critics. And then there is us. No not the audience. We are not audience. We are not the people who go to see films to fleetingly look at the on-going events on the screen while munching our tubs of pop-corn. We do not switch off our mobile phones to show our civilized upbringing- but for other reasons. We do not run out of the hall the moment the credits start rolling on. We do not make one sentence judgement of what we just saw while casually munching on the chicken leg in the KFC outlet in the food-court. We are not the audience. Cinema is not our weekend diversion or distraction before more important work schedules engulf us for the other five-six days. For most of our ilk the work is the five-six day distraction which we deal with to survive. We live in duality. The two worlds. Like the two worlds of tengo and aomamae in 1q84. Our world starts when the lights go out. And the screen ignites in all its brilliance and exuberance. We survive in the real world so that we can breathe in the dark cinema theatres. When the lights go out. We are the cinemaniacs.

 

Long back in college I was discovering the love of cinema inside me. I had just watched Desica, Kurosawa, Ray, Ghatak, Wajda, Bergman, and Truffaut among others. I had started my life in my world of duality. The customary attendance in the college and then the two rupees journey to Nandan. A ten rupees ticket for the world of cinema to open up. It was in these times when I came upon Rituparno Ghosh. It was a time when we cinemaniacs were running away from Bengali cinema. The demise of Ray had put the last nail in the coffin and the present commercial cinema was a torture for any soul. Don’t get me wrong. I am a happy consumer of pulp. But what was happening in Bengali cinema was beyond pulp.

 

Someone talked about a very good movie called Unishe April which had got released and was a refreshing change from what was going on. I ignored. The sheer knowledge of the names of the world greats instils arrogance into mere mortals and here I was watching their work day in day out. Bengali cinema was below me. Life was about the world cinema and the time spent in the USIS library hunting through the innumerable film magazines and books. It was after a few days when this chorus of goodness went up that I finally, grudgingly walked into the cinema hall in Rashbehari. A ticket in the fifth row on a matinee show on a working day. This was the third week. The movie was a commercial success.  This was an ominous sign. Undeterred I walked in, I had already made my decision.

 

Unishe April opens with a scene of death. Rituparno explores death and loss and vulnerability in many movies. His first released movie was likewise,  an exploration of death, of loss… and its impact. I remember going back to watch the movie twice more. It was not about comprehension. It was about the ease of comprehension. In a time when I was delving into avant-garde and was spending countless hours in reading and discussing to digest and make sense  I was firstly dumbfounded by its simplicity and ability to reach me. Then there were the sheer layers and sub layers which made me discover something new every time I went back. It was not realisation, or understanding. But more about discovering those minute details carefully or carelessly left by the director for you to find out. Like that moment of sarojini trying to open the door of the store room with force and the daughter aditi shrieking “ma! Tomar hnatu”(ma your knees). Sarojini looks back with shock. She never expected that knowledge and care from her estranged daughter. In one single phrase the director shakes up the unspoken equilibrium of expectation and knowledge between the mother and the daughter. No lengthy dialogues or scenes. One simple phrase. Or that recipe book scene. First signs of sarojini’s sincere attempts at marital life through the recipe book. “Tumi ranna korte paro?”(you know how to cook?)- Aditi’s surprise at that discovery. The subtleness and simplicity of the final scene is nothing short of spectacular. I have seen a lot of cinema. From all across the world. Great films with their beauty of poetry, allegory, imagination. But my favourites are the ones which convey the most with the least and with pure simplicity. The reaction of Apu’s child when he finally meets his father, “dada ami banchtey cheyechilam”, the reflections of Kambei in the final scene of Seven Samurai, the last scene of “Memories of Murder”…Unishe April’s climax is way up there in this list.

 

The years of conflict between the mother and the daughter captured again in one phrase- “tumi konodin dekecho amay?” While narrating her claustrophobic childhood when her mother used to teach the other kids dancing while she quietly used to have her lunch and do her homework. Hoping and waiting and then seeing her heart breaking. Then, to her mother’s surprise at her observations and assumption that Aditi never liked dance. That one phrase for me defines that relationship. The problems of the relationship. That one phase for me tells the story of a relationship developed based on assumptions where none walked beyond the assumptions into the real feelings of the other person. That in my opinion is one of the most important truths of human condition. Most of our untested  assumptions are the ones which lead to the demise of relations. All this captured in that one simple dialogue of the hurt daughter-“you never called me in-did you?”

 

Rituparno ghosh went on to make some of the most memorable cinema which came out in the following two decades. He kept on making cinema till yesterday. Yesterday night he died. After completing the shooting of his last film- a story of the legendary Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi.

I am not a film director, or an actor or a cinema worker. I never knew him personally.  I cannot feel him as a co-director as a teacher or an object of criticism. I cannot remember him with the intimacy of a friend. But then  I am not the audience either. I cannot set him aside with a click of my tongue and that momentary feeling of pity. I feel him through his cinema. His cinema which has been talking to me for the last two decades of my growing up and growing old to this threshold of middle age.  Educating me and reminding me of the human condition. Not through complex pedagogy. But simple straight forward yet touching, subtle and intimate vignettes.

The first realisation of a son of the vulnerability and frailty of his father (Abohoman). The way undying love long forgotten and hidden inside the marital battleground of incompatibility suddenly breaks open all barriers and floods our lives when the person is no more (Shab Choritro Kalponik). The eternal compromise of marriage. That the woman keeps making with the man. The all-consuming Lord and the devotee wife (Doshar). The sheer confidence and fore-knowledge of the husband (Prosenjit) almost stung us to this reality. The final scene of voluntary submission tore our hearts. Then there was the chilling reminder of our vulnerability and duplicity in Dahan. I did not watch Dahan for a long time. I was too terrified to watch Dahan. Yes I- who gobbled down Tarantino, Kitano, Miike, Johnnie To, Oshima without batting an eyelid. The violence in his cinema was never physical. It was the attack into your soul. Dahan was frightening for me. I had to muster courage to look at the predicament of a woman who is attacked by man. Being  a man it was the fear of the shame. The humiliation of the truth. Be it the molesters, the lawyers or the husband…. Even today the memory of her rape by her husband suffocates me.

Rituparno’s cinema was like that textbook with those hidden clues. The challenge for us viewers was to discover the hidden clues. Of life’s realities, characters, moral dilemmas… a variety of things. The excitement and fun of watching a Rituparno movie were these moments of discovery. Of the twenty odd films he made there are many I liked and many I did not. I did not like Last Lear much. Or for that matter the presentation of Abohoman. Or Doshar. But in every film of his there were those moments which captured you. Be it the last scene of Lear, the interaction between the father and the son in Abohoman or the first husband – wife confrontation in Doshar. These moments were those hidden gems. Those moments of realization. And they came to us without any ornamentation or complexity. They were intimate and subtle no doubt- but simple and direct at the same time. That’s why his films not only appealed to the cineastes, but also the masses.

Did anyone interpret Tagore the way he did? Perhaps Ray. But then apart from Ray anyone we can think of? Not only the story-telling. The creation of the world of Tagore. The women of Tagore. The aura of the society whose stories Tagore used to tell. Be it Chokher Bali or Nouka Dubi. Or the supreme twist on Chitrangada in his last release. Besides there was the serial with which he was briefly attached. Gaaner Opare. That was the only Bengali serial I followed. I downloaded all the songs. It was his take on those classic pieces of Rabindrasangeet. Through the serial and the songs his stamp his touch was visible and strong. And so welcome!

Bengali cinema in more ways than one learnt Bengali from Rituparno. His endless intellect and scholastic depth gave him his command. Only a person with immense knowledge can put things across with simplicity. His dialogue writing rediscovered the beauty of Bengali language in the cinema. While film is widely agreed as a visual media one of the main attractions of his cinema was his dialogues. The normal day to day conversations which used to reach sublime heights through application. I have said before- “tumi konodin dekecho amay” from Unishe April will remain as his “dada ami banchte cheyechilam”. A simple complaint of love from the daughter to the mother which practically defined the theme of the movie. And in many ways most human relationships.

Finally you can take away everything else. But the visual exuberance which leapt out of the screen itself was enough for revisiting it again and again. If Ray told us that cinema was a visual medium then Rituparno was its most extravagant performer. The colours, the movements, the composition of each frame. Especially in the period pieces or the performance pieces. The dream like Noti Binodini sequences in Abohoman, the dances in Chitrangada,  every frame of NoukaDubi or Chokher Bali… I am sure many critics would have knotted their eyelids and disapproved as indulgence. But what the hell? The sheer beauty of those passages was like ornaments on the lady. Unnecessary yes- but so beautiful! Or the scene of Rakhi-Sharmila showdown in Shubho Muhurat with Anindo rendering “Jibano Maraner SHimana CHaraye” in the next room. With the door locked. It was not glamorous (discounting the two most glamorous actresses of Indian Cinema) but so moving.

 

Rituparno is no more. Today is the second day without him. His passing has been as unique as his entry into the world of cinema. Sudden, like a flash. Cinemaniacs like me who rediscovered Bengali cinema through him are today numb. But along with us the common popcorn chewing Bengali audience too is today at a loss. Today morning after my latest bout of insomnia my mother came into the room mumbling to herself. When I asked her the matter she replied “ can’t get him off my mind,  can’t deal with it too. Started feeling unwell”. “Who are you referring to?” I asked instinctively. “Obviously that rascal! Why did he have to go so soon?”. Rituparno was the younger brother/ nephew for all mothers, elder brother for all like me…he was not that distant and huge star like Ray. Through his films, his media interactions, his writings he had come too close to us. He was with us- the common middle-class “us”, the cineaste “us”, the sensitive “us”…us, the Begalis. It was not fair, the way he went away. Not fair at all….leaving us to deal with this realisation… walking the streets alone…

 

One song  kept coming to my mind since yesterday. Those lines from American Pie-

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

Yesterday cinema died… a bit at least. The lights went out…and the screen was blank…

 

 

 

What Happened to Earth Day?

We selected one day out of 365 as earth day. do we even remember it? I didnt…I am ashamed…can some of take this as a bell and begin some work at change? i will try…..

ipledgeafallegiance

Whatever happened to Earth Day? I remember the first one back in 1970 and I remember the sense of urgency that people were feeling about the planet and air and water pollution and the overuse of fossil fuels and cars and oil and gasoline and carcinogens being everywhere and in everything etc…

We were all worried that if we didn’t change our ways then the future for ourselves and our loved ones would be bleak and filled with more pollution and harder times and wars over oil and…then… what happened? We seemed to just forget about it.
I blame my generation, which was in college at the time, for dropping the ball. We all graduated got jobs, got married, had children and joined the rat race and stopped paying attention and started shopping, eating out and driving SUVs…how did that happen?

Now the Earth is 1 and a half degrees…

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