Ram Kamal Mukherjee

#Nirbashito – Freedom After Speech

By Ram Kamal Mukherjee

 আমি ভালো নেই ι তুমি ভালো থেকো প্রিয় দেশ ι
“Aami bhalo nei, tumi bhalo theko priyo desh!” (I am not well, you be well my dear country)

b2ap3_thumbnail_Ram-KamalAfter watching debutant director Churni Ganguly’s Bengali film Nirbashito (BANISHED) at MAMI 2014, I paused myself. I paused myself from the mad rush. I wanted to cherish the moment, I wanted to buy a slice of silence. I wanted to go back. I wanted to end my exile.

How poetic can be a pause? How precious can be loneliness? Churni aptly captures the long pauses, and treats slowness like an ornament. It’s been 15 years since I have relocated myself from Kolkata to Mumbai. I love Mumbai, probably a bit more than Kolkata. Kolkata is my mother, but I am married to Mumbai.

So, when a director talks about uprooting, I can think of Ritwik Ghatak and his series of homage to Banga Bhongo or partition of two states. When we leave a city, willingly or unwillingly, apart from broken bricks and bridges we also leave behind the sun light, the fragrance of wet soil, and a bunch of frozen memories. A closet full of thoughts and some shades of shadow. We are often haunted by our own memories, while we cling on to our own past, just like a bat.

Loosely inspired by the life of noted Bangladeshi authour Taslima Nasreen and her pet Baghini (cat), the film talks about forceful separation of a mother and child. Churni deals with two emotions. Taslima expresses her loneliness through verses, while Baghini is constantly in search of warmth. While Satyajit Ray’s portrayal of Charulata’s loneliness remains a yardstick for cine connoisseurs, Churni’s interpretation is much more piercing.

I met Churni after the screening. We met after almost two decades. We hugged. She smelled so fresh. Was it mogra or just essense of innocence? She was just like her film – fresh. We smiled and we walked away. We reciprocated in silence. Just the way we do when we see a rainbow or a falling star.

b2ap3_thumbnail_churni-as-taslimaNirbashito deals with freedom. It doesn’t talk about the freedom of speech, it talks about the freedom after the speech! Trial of the triumphant. It’s a much relevant topic. Churni who doubles up as the protagonist in the movie (outstanding) is seperated from her pet Baghini and is deported to Sweden. The cacophony of Calcutta is pitted against the monochromatic stillness of Stockholm. The story unfolds through Baghini’s perspective. The four legged fur, squandered from one room to another, just as her master moved from one roof to another. The cat in search of a shelter and Taslima’s wait to meet her pet, is the basic premise of the film.

Cinema as medium of expression can be touted as one of the most expensive medium. Unlike a painting or a street play which requires limited resource. Churni could have opted for a canvas or a stage, but she choose celluloid for a reason. She wanted us to feel the pangs of separation and finally throw a dash of air, as sigh of relief. Nirbashito is like a perfume. Or maybe a painting. Every layer has a note. Almost how M F Hussain would have painted his last days of exile. I can even see an irony. How his body lies in the slow clad streets of London, maybe Taslima’s body will be lying in some foreign land, while her soul will seek refuge in the dingy lanes of Dhaka.

The movie smartly ducks all controversial issues related to the author and doesn’t even mention the name of the best seller for which Taslima was banished from her own country Bangladesh. Churni effortlessly transforms herself into the character and almost breathes heavily over your shoulder. The climax of the movie reminds me of Kalidasa’s Meghdootam. When cloud courier your thoughts and rain represents the verse. When alphabets are not just words and they become your voice. That’s freedom, that’s the truest home coming. Just the way Raja Mehendi Ali Khan had beautifully penned,  “Ke lag ja gaaley ki phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho, shayed phir iss janam mein mulaqat ho na ho.”

poster-of-nirbashito

Churni smartly incorporates political sattaire and gets brilliant actors like Saswata Chatterjee and Raima Sen to execute them. Shirsha Ray is Picasso of cinematography and he brushes the canvas just as you would want your dream to look like, and Kaushik Ganguly who have conceptualized and presented the movie remains as the rock of Gibraltar. Kaushik is a fabulous story teller, and no wonder he could visualize the film almost like a soothsayer.

And yes, the cat. She reminds me of Harshali from Bajrangi Bhaijaan! Pardon me for being chalk and cheese, but the innocence quotient of both helpless mute kids would match the barometer. Unfortunately, the cat is yet to find a Salman Khan.

Nirbashito is not an easy film. It must have taken a lot of courage for Churni to make a film on a subject that is not commercially viable. Not atleast, as far as mathematics is concern. But then, do we evaluate art before it’s canvassed?

Finally, the tag line “No country for a woman” is the slice that you bring home. From Sita to Taslima, women had to embrace self exile. Always questioned. Never asked. Always punished. Never cared. Always banished. Never loved.

PS: I refrain from rating cinema. I think its redundant. Good cinema shall be immortal.

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