Thursday, July 24, 2014

Film review: Iti Mrinalini directed by Aparna Sen
The film begins with Aparna Sen, actress and director, writing her suicide note. She is addressing all the major events in her life as a famous actress and why she has now decided to end her life. There are a handful of pills within her reach which she is going to consume once the she has completed her letter. The night goes on, and she has dismissed the last of the house help and told her that when she comes in the morning, she must not disturb her if she is sleeping. Also, she is not going to take any calls. That understood, Aparna Sen prepares for a suicide that can’t fail. An empty stomach, without a dinner, is a killer, if those pills reach their destination.

The film goes into flash back to tell the audience, why a young Aparna, played by Konkana Sen has arrived at this stage in her midlife. And then the audience is left choice less to decide whether, she was the strong personality she always plays her roles around, or just a woman trying to be ‘different’. She is standing on soft soil, where the social system is concerned.

A young Aparna, now Konkana Sen becomes a famous actress and quite naturally falls in love with the director. They have a child together, but of course, the child is not born in India, but in Canada, where her brother and sister in law are childless and in desperate want to adopt the baby she was going to give birth to. After the birth of the child, Konkana returns to her life as an actress to be duly visited by her daughter, once in a while. As far as giving birth to a child outside marriage, Aparna Sen the director had ensured to play safe, by getting the couple, that is herself and the director married in an obscure temple, for as you might have imagined already, the director was of course a married man.

The film ends with many other losses – Konkana has lost her daughter in a plane crash, just as her daughter had made up her mind to spend a year with her biological parent. The older version of Konkana, that is Aparna herself, loses her man to his wife and son and just as she was about to consume the pills, an old love, from Auroville, calls to say he is coming to her.

A ray of hope makes her change her mind to choose life instead. She throws the pills and takes her dog for a walk. But in a twist of fate becomes a victim of a bullet shot out at a man escaping the police.

The film closes with a clear message – when the moment of death is nigh, nothing can stop it from happening. Second, her death matched the death of her first lover, the hunted and wanted revolutionary, from her college days, who was killed by police firing, in the jungle, as he tried to run from them.

As a film, Iti Mrinalini fails to deliver the punch it could have easily. Ventesh Films, Kolkata, famous for making films that defy social norms, and are only screened in Kolkata and the west, like Chicago, perhaps could not take the chance of a film that might not be well received by aam junta, Bengali bhodrolok, who is willing to arm chair think of breaking the boundaries of social norms, but rarely has the spunk to go ahead with it.

Sen, should have walked away with a stronger theme. If her heroine was bold enough to have a relationship with a married man and bear his child, she ought to have shown more muscle power by bringing up the child herself and not finding a convenient excuse of giving it for adoption albeit only to her brother. Besides, if the child were to have been comfortable with two mothers, a biological one and a real, caring surrogate mother, Sen ought not to have killed her in an air crash, just as she was coming home to her biological mother. This was a cowardly step, because, by doing this Sen, deleted the possibility of a actually placing a debate and discussion before her audience and allowing them, our Bengali bhodrolok to go home relieved – “Jak, bhaloi hoyeche meye ta mara gelo. Ja e bolo, ei tah ki hoy? - Good the girl did not survive. Whatever you may say, can this be an accepted way of life?”

Really, she displayed weakness throughout the film and was a great disappointment for the intellectual elite, who look upon her as someone who can affect change.

Iti Julia Dutta

Aparna Sen
Konkana Sen Sharma
Priyanshu Chatterjee
Srijit Mukherjee
Rajat Kapoor

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