Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Film Review: Ganashotru by Satyajit Ray

 “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” - Peter Drucker

One of Satyajit Ray’s lesser known films was made after he had a heart attack on the sets of a hugely successful film, Ghare-Baire. One his doctor’s advice, the renowned film maker, was forced to make the film totally in the Studio.

The film is an adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen: An Enemy of the People. Set in a small Bengali town, Dr. Ashoke Gupta (Soumitra Chatterjee) who heads the town hospital finds that he is flooded by patients with jaundice. All these patients have been to the town’s largest temple and participated is drinking the holy water, called charanamitra, which is contaminated water from the river on which the temple stands. Dr Gupta's younger brother, Nisith (Dhritiman Chatterjee), is the head of the committees running the hospital and the temple, both of which were built by a local Industrialist. The temple is a big tourist attraction and quite naturally a cash-cow for the industrialist.

Convinced, after proper water testing, Dr. Gupta believes that the holy water of the temple is contaminated due to faulty pipe-laying, which is now causing an epidemic in the town. He warns his brother Nisith. However, Nisith and the Industrialist and other town officials reject the idea that holy water might be the cause of the epidemic. They refuse to close the temple to carry out the repairs, with the fear that if the public came to know about water contamination, the crowds may thin out. 

Obsessed with the town’s heath, Dr. Gupta wants to write an article in the newspaper to warn people. The enthusiastic Editor of the newspaper, however also comes under pressure and the article goes unpublished.
Left with no alternative, Dr. Gupta organises a public meeting that is also sabotaged. He is proclaimed a Ganashotru, enemy of the people.

The film moves on to show, how, one by one, the doctor’s wings are cut off – first, he is suspended from work, then his daughter loses her job and finally, his landlord asks him to leave his house. Left with little choice, the Doctor is preparing to leave, when finally from far, he hears the people’s voice, shouting slogans in support of him. The lone, crusader has won his battle against the industrialist and those who tried to malign his effort to save people.

Highly unlikely, a lone doctor’s fight against a money-spinning industry like a temple, the film is saved from utter rubbish, when one looks carefully at some other layers that intertwine to make it a watchable film.
First, it brings out the stark difference between religious beliefs and what is scientific. For example, the water report on the charanamitra, proves it is contaminated but the industrialist, tries to drill into the doctor’s mind, how a mere presence of the tulsi leaf in the charanamitra makes the liquid ‘pure’, free of all contamination.

Second, although it may have had no relevance then, when it was made, the clash of objectives between the religious bigots and the scientifically objective can at least be the central take-away from the film, now in India, especially if you consider that Satyajit Ray, is an Indian born international figure and film maker, unmatched so far. It is a film that warns public against religious bigot and the rise of people’s power to overthrow blind belief, against scientific evidence.

Third, who is the real enemy of the people, blind belief, religion or science? 

Indeed, as the film ends, with a bottle of charnamrita and a stethoscope lying side by side, we get the message loud and clear – blind belief of religion and science lie side by side and it is for us to choose what we want – one, or both, either/or. Whatever.

As for me, I am with Peter Ducker - “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

Film: Ganashatru  
Producer: NFDC, National Film Development Corporation of India
Screenplay & Direction: Satyajit Ray; Adapted from the play: 'An Enemy of the People' by Henrik Ibsen.
Cinematography: Barun Raha
Editing: Dulal Dutta
Art Direction: Ashoke Bose
Sound: Sujit Sarkar
Music: Satyajit Ray
Character: Performer
Dr. Ashoke Gupta:Soumitra Chatterjee
Maya, Dr. Gupta's wife: Ruma Guha Thakurta
Indrani, Dr. Gupta's daughter: Mamata Shankar
Nisith: Dhritiman Chatterjee
Haridas Bagchi: Dipankar Dey
Biresh: Subhendu Chatterjee
Adhir:  Manoj Mitra

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why I won’t dine at Koshy’s again

We sat; our hands tightly held under the table, our hearts beating as one, this time not in love, but in grief common to both of us.

We had not sat, like this when in 2005, she and I made this journey together to meet what she called an integral part of her body, mind and soul. That day, at Koshy’s Bangalore, India, we had sat wide apart, because, I only needed to be around, but not right next to her.

The smoky, noisy restaurant was divided into two parts then. One side where people blew smoke in the air, shouted loudly and drank their Sunday Beer. On the other was a quiet space, quite like a fine dining space and we walked through the glass door and seated ourselves on different tables. I sat with my magazine and she sat calmly by the window at the far end of the room, strategically sitting in a spot that would make her visible to anyone coming in from the doorway.

Her looks were deceptive; inside she was trembling like a leaf in April, about to fall from a bel tree. After 17 long years she was going to see someone, who was the closest person she would ever have in her life. I was only a partner, not her child!

When the door opened, I saw a face, which was so close to my partners', I could have even identified him to be my partner’s son, in the middle of the most crowded street. He did not know, that his cousin, who was with him had hidden the fact that this lunch at Koshy’s was going to be with his mother.

I left the scene at that moment, taking my eyes off my partner and focusing on the magazine instead. The tremble of hearts caught in a twist of fate, that brought them willy-nilly face to face with each other, was not in my imagination, because a good two hours later, after much conversation and small morsels eaten, the young and handsome lad, now doing his Ph.D in Purdue University, USA, along with his mother, my partner, came forth. She looked happy but exhausted too emotionally.

“This is my partner,” she said simply. I stood up and shook his hands. Then, we raced off to FabIndia on M G Road and in the car he and I talked about Mood Indigo and IIT, Mumbai, where he had passed out from, before he left for the US. His mother would have bought him the whole shop, if he wanted that day!
The meeting ended after this and then, it picked up later, only to fizzle out again. Hers was a constant longing to connect; his was inability to face the real, when in his mind, he had constructed an ‘unreal’ picture of her and preferred to live with it.

He had emulated all his mother had and it made me think of all those people we love but cannot have – would we also not emulate someone, we loved and lost, unconsciously? Is that not a way to keep the memory of that person alive in us? Would we not have found a way to live and let go, if we could live with the unreal, because, the real was not a part of our lives any more.

Life is a creative force: What you cannot have, you never forget; what you will never have, you become that.

This is why, when she and I sat to watch, Philomena, the movie, we held our hands tightly and silently under the table, our hearts beating as one, this time not in love, but in grief common to both of us.  

“Based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, PHILOMENA focuses on the efforts of Philomena Lee, mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock - something her Irish-Catholic community didn't have the highest opinion of - and given away for adoption in the United States. In following church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn't allow for any sort of inquiry into the son's whereabouts. After starting a family years later in England and, for the most part, moving on with her life, Lee meets Sixsmith, a BBC reporter with whom she decides to discover her long-lost son.” (From the web)

This is also why; I will not dine at Koshy’s again.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Film review: Blue Is The Warmest Color

I swung on either side of doubt – the side that tell you, all is good and the side that said that I was watching a porn film, made well with a story.

Blue Is The Warmest Color, is a film about discovering one’s sexuality.

The main protagonist, Adele, is in high school and is discovering her sexuality and her leaning. She is with a boyfriend but finds sex with him, missing in something; she can’t really place her finger on. But, quite by chance she meets Emma, the girl with the blue hair and between them a relationship takes birth. An older Emma is a painter and has had her share of girlfriends, is experienced and is able to handle and take our Adele through a road that makes the latter very sure that she is lesbian. Yet, when she is insecure or lonely, she finds herself in the arms and bed of a boyfriend. Naturally Emma is not happy about it. A fight ensures between the two and even as Emma is warming up to her ex-girlfriend, whom she will finally find a home with again, she throws Adele out of her life in an angry burst. Adele may have discovered her preference, by now, but she is unable to move on in her life with another woman. The two lovers meet again and although, Emma is not happy with her sex life with her present girlfriend and professes to have enjoyed the life with Adele, she too is stuck and does not break the relationship she is already in.

The film is graphic and visuals of love-making are real as real can be. So maybe children who need their own time to understand their leanings, need to be kept from seeing it.

The story focuses more on the sexual life of Adele and in that sense, I did feel at the end of the film a bit cheated, because, as a woman, my feelings were quite this: the Director, Abdellatif Kechiche had used Adele’s body a bit too much over the film. Also, he had made a film for men who are curious to know what goes on between lesbians, in intimate sexual relationship.

It would have been better to know that, perhaps discovering one’s sexual orientation is not only about sex. I did not see some tell tale signs like falling in love with a woman teacher, older aunt or some signs that are indicative of what is to come.

The story too, was sad. It did not end on a positive note. It did not bring Adele and Emma together; indeed, it helped the viewer reiterate the fact that Adele was used as an in-between, Emma’s ex and her return to her, after Adele was thrown out. So, it sent out a strong message of use-abuse scenario between the two, although it may be argued that Adele used Emma to discover her own sexuality. Well, the argument could go anyways, but the fact remains the same – the film made out in French with English subtitles, is worth seeing and talking about and both Adele and Emma were certainly in love. Their eyes said so, then what happened? Why did the Director not make a happy ending?

You will have to see the film to answer that question, but for now, let’s hear what Adele has to say about her role.

Download Film here:

Or watch online: