Sunday, August 05, 2012

Film review: Chitrangada by Rituparno Ghosh

To begin with, let me warn my readers that I am not a film critique, but write about films which affect me deeply.
Rituparno Ghosh’s Chitrangada is a film which addresses the gender, gender transformation, crossing bodies and boundaries of mind and body, physically, psychologically and emotionally in a compelling way.
The main protagonist in the film are Rituparno (Rudie)  and Partho, who are part of a Drama society and fall in love with each other. Their relationship continues to flourish until Partho becomes a victim of drugs. Thereafter the relationship is rigged with uncertainties and really Rudie wants to set himself free of the relationship, but neither he nor Partho, is actually able to do so. In days when things were better, Rudie and he had discussed living together in a house and adopting a child. Rudie was willing to change his sex to become a woman, in order that they could go ahead to adopt the child, in a country (India) that does not allow same sex lovers to adopt children. The logic was that if Rudie changed his sex, then they could marry and adopt a child. While the plan was being executed by Rudie, to Partho’s distaste, he found himself revolted by the new Rudie, in sex transformation, for he argued, that he loved Rudie just the way he was and he could not really connect with this ‘new’ person, and if he did want a woman, then, he would prefer a real one than an ‘artificial one’. In a way, even as the last steps to complete change over, is almost complete, the film takes the viewer into a journey that is beyond words!

Partho is moving out of Rudie’s life as Rudie struggles with the idea that all that he was doing was to make their relationship, more total and rather like ‘man, woman and child’ like a stereotypical family, despite his coming to terms with his new reality, well almost, he is left with himself only to take that last step to take the final jump and be totally transformed from the body of a man to a woman. But, then, an array of happenings pushes the boundaries of the viewer’s thoughts is the most profound manner.

There is that struggle at the psychological level. The Councelor/friend/alter ego, Shubho, who helps Rudie in his decisions often playing the devil’s advocate, his parents, who through their own struggle to come to terms with the fact that their son is gay, must still have another battle to win - his need to transform his gender to the opposite reality of a woman. Through tears and anger, they are still able to find peace in themselves, knowing that the ‘the nature of a being, has its own desire to express its own reality’ and no matter what, Rudie is their son/whoever else he feels comfortable to be. His mother is profound – I gave birth to this body, which is yours, I have a right to know, whatever goes on in this body. I have a right to know, if it is changing, transforming…”
But as the last day dawns, or as the light of Usha burns close to dawn, the viewer is taken to yet another paradigm, where psychology, body, emotions meet the last gate before one steps over threshold of  ordinary understanding and enters the philosophical.

All is impermanence, things are always changing, the reality we know now is no more in the next, everything is in fleeting. Change is the only permanent thing and therefore, if in the body of a man, exists a woman ready to take birth, then in that new body too will be another reality, that will seek its birth and so on and so forth, on and on, because, not that the body is changing, transforming, but reality is forever, changing, and what is ‘natural’ today, may not be the same tomorrow, or even in the next minute, for truth is an ever changing reality. And hence, what then is the meaning of the new realities, for they too are in transition, here, now and gone the next. The wandering soul must find its Home, here and now.
Having travelled though a mire of thoughts, actions, Freudian psychology, for me the film ended in a rather philosophical note and brought home the point that that there is no better ‘home’ than what is available now, and all else is but the mind which must chance upon different domains of reality, in order that it may finally arrive home.

Warning: Before you see the film, be sure your knowledge on gender issues is updated, your sensibility to gay desires of body and mind are progressive, your knowledge fund on Freud and psychology has been greased and oiled and your brush with philosophy is not vague and abysmally low.

Then and then only, the genius of the film which is highly intellectual in nature with an extraordinary display of showmanship, can be relished like an evening out for high tea and discussions thereafter.

Film :
Starring : Rituparno Ghosh, Jishu Sengupta, Anjan Dutta, Dipankar De, Anasuya Majumdar, Raima Sen & others.
Producer : Shree Venkatesh Films.
Presenter : Shrikant Mohta & Mahendra Soni
Written & Directed by : Rituparno Ghosh.
Language : Bengali & English with English subtitles

To know more on the original Tagore’s Chitrangada

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