India produces more than thousands of films every year which cover themes from drama, romance, horror, thriller, experimental to new age of cinema. Indian cinema consists of many regional film industries which include Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Gujarati, and many more. However, since the origins of cinema in India, Bengali cinema has always been at the top of the list in making great piece of cinema. It never shied away from experimenting and bringing new things onto big screens. It has also produced some of the best film directors of the world and especially of India. No list of Indian cinema is complete without the name of the great Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen. These are among the people who changed the course of cinema in India by making some of the greatest films which even today feature in the list of 50 or 100 films of the world ever made. They started Parallel Cinema movement in India after being influenced by Neo Realism. They took Indian cinema to international film festivals and gave a global face to it. After these connoisseur of cinema comes another league of finest film makers which include Shyam Benegal, Rituparno Ghosh, Kaushik Ganguli, and many more. The new name added in this league is of the supremely talented Aditya Vikram Sengupta.
Asha Jaoar Majhe is Sengupta’s directorial debut which tells the story of a couple living in Kolkata’s version of apocalyptic world when the city is under recession and a lower middle class couple works complementary shifts to make ends meet. They re-count the notes after withdrawing money from bank and reuse resources whenever possible while living a simple life that is full of values and systems. Most of their days are spent in a kind of suspended animation waiting to flicker to life for a little reward at the end. It’s about biding your time for that small window that the director opens for you as an audience to experience something which is very new, unique, pure and passionate. This film brings back the memory of Parallel Cinema of the 1970s where the idea of realism was positioned questions of limitations. Being true to its theme, the film constantly explores negotiations and interactions between characters and objects or consciousness and objective reality which somehow destabilise the idea of subjects positioned dialectically. The film itself criticises our perception of modernity at large.
I can’t recall any recent Bengali film that has as much of detailing as this film. Whenever the camera usually zooms in and lingers over the seemingly insignificant things, the cracked wall, the sunset, the clothesline, the revolving cycle, it confidently tests the patience level of the audience while narrating the story. It’s a story that is about our daily life where we are fighting each moment not to survive but to love. The slow pace camera movement is intriguingly exquisite build-ups for the last five dystopian-cum-poetic minutes where we come to the realisation that to cherish few moments of love we continue our journey further and are always ready to be a labour of love.
It explores the measures that there are no yardsticks of a perfect life. Music in the last minutes is heart-piercing. The semi-classical song, Khayals and at the end the dreamy drop of Tilak Komad on Shehnai have been amazing. I don’t recall anyone in Indian cinema who recently has used music as magically as Sengupta in this film. Performance by both the actors is perfect. They didn’t let a single moment pass by just like that. Ritwick Chakraborty’s purple patch continues. If forgetting camera while acting is accomplishment then for sure he is now an accomplished actor. The way he has enhanced his acting skill in recent years is commendable. He played his roles so convincingly that it becomes tough to imagine other actors in this role. The vacant stare, the way patiently he manages his daily mundane routine and the wait for the golden moment of the day shining in his eyes is brilliant. He shows that one can portray despair without any sigh and frustration. To see his versatility you can pick up Kaushik Ganguli’s ‘Shabdo’ where he plays the character of a Foley artist.
It’s a film that teaches us the value of love that how even in the greatest crisis, a couple can manage to find love where majority of couples file for divorce even if their taste of food, music, film and clothing don’t match. In this world where finding true love has become rare and relationships don’t last for years. This film is like a commandments sent through the hands of this new breed of purely talented film maker on block. It doesn’t narrate or explore something which is very rare or new but the way it has been captured and compiled it stays with you for quite a time after you watch it. It’s a film which should be watched by all cinephiles, writer, poet, photographer and others who have an artist in them in this socially, culturally, religiously, economically, ideologically, and mentally fucked up world.
The film would have been incomplete without its near-to-perfect execution in every cinematic aspect. I mean, don’t miss this. Also see Sengupta’s next ‘Jonaki’ trailer on YouTube.