A DEATH IN THE GUNJ- AS AN ANXIOUS CALM

P.S :- Spoilers included.

THE COINAGE OF THE WORD “SEANCE” DIRECTLY COMES FROM THE FRENCH WORD FOR “SEAT”, WHICH GENERALLY IN FRENCH HAD A MEANING “TO SIT” OR TO HAVE A “SESSION”. HOWEVER IN ENGLISH THE MEANING GOT A LITTLE DEFLECTED AND CAME OUT TO BE A SESSION TO CALL UPON SPIRITS OR GHOSTS. THE MYSTERY OF THE AFTERLIFE OR THE MYSTERY BEHIND DEATH IS WIDESPREAD YET UNSOLVED.

KONKONA SEN SHARMA, USUALLY KNOWN AS AN ACTOR, UNFURLS INTO HER DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, A DEATH IN THE GUNJ IS TAKEN AND INSPIRED FROM THE STORY “A DEATH IN THE McKLAUSKIEGUNJ’ BY MUKUL SHARMA.IT IS AN UNCONVENTIONAL PIECE OF WATCH FOR ITS INTIMATE CONNECTION WITH THE HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND BEHAVIORAL TRANSITION. THE TITLE STRONGLY HOLDS A HINT OF A MURDER MYSTERY BUT AS THE STORY UNFOLDS IT RARELY STANDS UP TO IT.

THE DEATH AND WHAT LEADS TO THE CATASTROPHE IS AN UTMOST CONFUSION. KONKONA LEAVES A PERFECT EXAMPLE BEHIND IN DEALING WITH DEATH IN THE CALMEST WAY POSSIBLE. SHYAMAL OR AS HE IS COMMONLY KNOWN, SHUTU (VIKRANT MASSEY) PLAYS A SILENT PRONOUNCER OF THE DYNAMIC RAPTUROUS OF THE SITUATIONS THAT ARE PRECEDING. THE MOVIE IS FILLED WITH SYMBOLS OF DEATH. THE DEAD FATHER’S SWEATER WHICH HE PUTS ON, EMBRACES THE POSSIBILITY OF DEATH AND DISMAY ON SHUTU’S LIFE.THIS SHOWS HIS INTERNAL HE IS THE FEARFUL KID STILL TO BE A ‘MAN’, CONSTANTLY CHASED BY THE ANXIETY OF LOSS AND FAILURE. HE ACTS AS A PUNCHING BAG OF THE ENTIRE FAMILY, KEEPS ON TAKING ALL DIFFERENT COMMANDS OF DIFFERENT DEMANDS UNTIL HE DOES REVOLTS. HE IS DEFENSELESS AND VULNERABLE AND PLAYS THE PREY OF OTHERS. WE ALL MUST HAVE GONE THROUGH THAT CERTAIN PERIOD OF OUR LIVES WHERE WE HAVE FELT ALONE AND UNIMPORTANT. SHUTU IS THE BRILLIANT PORTRAYAL OF THIS, THUS BINDING HIMSELF IN THE SHACKLES OF CHILDISHLY THINGS AND INVOLVING HIMSELF IN THE ACTIVITIES OF TAANI. HE IS A SHY, INTROVERT BOY FEELING ALIENATED AND UNWELCOMED IN HIS FAMILY.

AMONG ALL THE PROMINENT ELEMENTS DEATH IS A CERTAIN AND MAJOR ONE IN THE MOVIE. THE VIEWERS ARE IN A CONSTANT ANTICIPATION OF AN EVENTUAL LOSS OF ONE OF THE CHARACTERS. INTERESTINGLY THE MOOD IS CALM AND EVEN IN THE IN MOMENTS OF AGITATION THE CALMNESS PRICKS IN AN UNEASY WAY THAT IT RENDERS THE MOOD OF EERIE.

IN THE BEGINNING WE ARE CERTAIN THAT THE DEATH HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE, AS A BODY IS BEING TRIED TO PUT IN A FOETAL POSITION. AS WE PROCEED IN THE MOOD WE WOULD NATURALLY FEEL A KIND OF AMBIANCE WHICH IS NOT SO HORRIFYING, BUT SHUTU’S OCCASIONAL PROJECTION OF HIS “OVER SENSITIVE” SIDE KEEPS US REMINDED ABOUT THE FACT THAT APART FROM BEING A TAG-ALONG IN THE VACATION HE PLAYS A MERE CARE TAKER OF THE CHILD.

KONKONA’S BRILLIANCE IS EVIDENT BY THE FACT THAT SHE DOES NOT PAY HEED UPON USING MUCH WORDS INTO AN ACTION; WHEREAS IT SHOWS THAT SUBTLE EXPRESSIONS AND PRECISED DIALOGUES HEIGHTEN THE UNDERLYING MEANING AND HELPS TO RESURFACE SUBTEXTS. MIMI (KALKI KOECHLIN) IS THE WOMAN WHO USES HER SEXUALITY AS A WEAPON BECAUSE DEEP DOWN SHE IS A VULNERABLE SOUL WHO JUST SEEKS UNDIVIDED ATTENTION AND IS NOW TORN APART BETWEEN HER INTEGRITY AND HER FORMER LOVER. AS A RESULT SHE THROWS HERSELF TO ANOTHER VULNERABLE THAT IS SHUTU, AND DECEIVES HIM BY GIVING HIM A FALSE HOPE OF A FUTURE WHICH IS NEVER TO BE THERE.

THE SÉANCE TAKES PLACE AS MERE INVOLVEMENT IN THE REMOTE RURAL STATE WHERE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO BE ENGAGED WITH AND TURNS OUT TO BE A PRACTICAL JOKE AGAINST SHUTU. IN ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE IT IS A VITAL SYMBOL OF DEATH. SHUT IS BEING BULLIED AGAIN AND BEING TOLD THAT HE WILL BE THE ONE TO DIE FIRST.THEY KILLED AN ALREADY DOOMED SPIRIT ALL OVER AGAIN. AS A RESULT SHUTU DREAMS OF A MAN WHO KILLS HIM IN HIS SLEEP WITH A GUN, WHILE THE SCENE IS TENSED WITH A TRIBAL SONG IN THE BACKGROUND. THE SLICE OF FRUIT CAKE IS ANOTHER PORTEND TO THE DEATH. IN THE CLIMAX WHEN SHUTU FALL INSIDE THE PIT AND EVERYONE FORGETS ABOUT HIM IS SYMBOLIC OF HIS OWN PREDICAMENT. IN THE MEANWHILE THE CALMNESS CONTINUES TO BUILD UP AND THE VIEWERS ARE LEFT UNSETTLED AND ANXIOUS.

SHUTU’S SECRET IS REVEALED IN FRONT OF ALL AND HIS IMPORTANCES EBBS DOWN TO A CERTAIN POINT WHERE HE IS TOLD TO GO BACK TO HIS MOTHER. THE SHY BOY, AFRAID OF RESPONCIBILITIES AND PRESSURED BY EXPECTATIONS, GETS SHATTERED. FINALY THE TONE OF CALMNESS BREAKS WHEN SHUTU IS LET DOWN BY MIMI AND GATHERS A HORRIFYING TRANQUILITY. AFTER THE GUNSHOT, I THINK MOST OF US ARE CONFUSED WITH THE NEXT SCENE. YES, IT WAS SHUTU WHO KILLED HIMSELF TO PAINT HIS BLOOD ON THE FAMILY TREE. BUT FIGURE AT THE BACKSEAT IS THE MOST AMAZING SYMBOL WHICH HAS TO BE DECIPHERED. EVEN AFTER HIS DEATH SHUTU IS NON-EXISTING, LIKE HIS BODY HIS MEMORIES ARE ALSO TUCKED INSIDE THE TRUNK AND WILL NEVER BE OPENED AGAIN. THIS MOVIE HAS A MOTIF WHICH HAS TO BE THOUROUGHLY STUDIED AND REVISED.

AN AMAZING WORK OF ART.

Article by :- Srobona Choudhury.

GALPO HOLEO SOTTI – AN UNCANNY REVELATION

During 1966 Bengali film industry witnessed some milestone movie works. Over the decades, movies like Nayak, Atithi, Galpo holeo Sotti, have still remained as one of the most discussed films around the table. And these genius works preceded some even greater works to appear on silver screen and helped Bengali movies get recognized in a wider scale fraternity.
While Ray created a benchmark with the reels of Nayak, not just a mere story of the name but of fame and the struggle to retain the fame which comes with the name that follows; Galpa Holeo Sotti was a complete contrast with its household comedy. Apparently the movie have been watched over and over again as the story of a family with its deformed inner stress, where out of nowhere a strange young man appears to work as a servant. Throughout the film the identity of this man (Dhononjoy) remains a mystery. And it is to be revealed by the film how this man reforms the family by helping each one of them finding their happiness in togetherness and silently working as their inspiration for fulfillment.
The movie was written and directed by Tapan Sinha, and the major characters were played by famous contemporary actors like Ravi Ghosh(Dhononjoy), Chaya Devi(BoroBou), Prashad Mukhopadhyay(borokhoka), Bhanu Bandhopadhyay(chotokhoka), Chinmoy Roy(thief) etc. this movie stirred such a huge appreciation that later a Bollywood movie Bawarchi(1972) was adopted and produced from this story.
The joint family culture was typical of a Bengali household, and the main theme of the comedy is generated from the mess and internal tension of this Haldar family, where everyone is seen quarrelling over minimalistic things. Each relationship of this family are shown to be highly codependent yet all of them are in complete denial of it.
The segregated condition in each rooms of the house show them being miles away from each other inside this tiny little rooms. They do not have any regard for each other’s profession or beliefs. Their own works are more of a baggage than a responsibility as they fail to understand Dhononjoy’s rendition of Swami Vivekananda- “jar jekhane kaj, sekhanei tar mukti(one’s liberation through his works)”. The family is infested with differences. All of the members are called by their relations like- boro khoka, choto khoka, and baba and so on. Ironically they were too unaware to recognize the weight of the title they were called by. Some may also find the family as the symbolic portrayal of the nation in its socio-economic and political adversities during the post-independence era. But the real excellence of the plot is in showing how the problems and their solutions are closely knit.
From the very first appearance to the very last Dhononjoy emerged in and out from fog, which is fully symbolic of an unconscious mind coming in surface to the conscious mind. As he introduced himself to be coming from an Ashram where they provide happiness and settle a peaceful environment into a family through their service. A tinge of fishiness is added to the atmosphere as Dhononjoy starts working himself into the family revealing a startling side to the story. Apparently Dhononjoy seems as an angel, a working-class representative trying to fit in the conception of Tapan Sinha’s romantic reformist. Thus he prepares food, runs errands and coaxes the family to come together. But if analyzed closely the hue of Dhononjoy’s character can be recognized as an outcome figure of human’s subconscious. As if he came as an angel to grant them boons and filling their interpersonal emotional gaps with his honesty.
Before Dhononjoy’s arrival, no servants could stick with working in this family. They are highly inconsiderate of one’s ability and they pour their own frustration over the household maids. The scene where this one maid is protesting against their ritualistic inability to come to vantage point about her wage may seem pretty comical with all the hassle and bustle but it is a sheer reflection of their middle class moralities. The movie walks us through a marvelous experience of life, keeping us less aware of the fact that this could be a “golpo” (tale) yet “shotti” (truth).
The master screenplay helps to bring out the perfect works of all the legendary actors. It is indeed a startling scene when a child is singing a song, taught by Dhononjoy which says “shukh bole otho shari ghumayona ar … ejibon gele fire ashena abar”(life is only given to you once, wake up don’t stay asleep) and the elderly members are in an awe. One servant has changed their thoughts and beliefs which led come to an inner peace with themselves.
The climax arrives when the family is seen standing beside themselves both literally and metaphorically. The box of jewelry represents their old clinging to material obsession. And the way they toss it from one to another depicts that they have overcome their own shackles of possessiveness. Krishna gains her identity for the very first time. But as Dhononjoy fades away in the fog we are left to question ourselves why is he going? When will he come back? But soon the director proves his genius once again by keeping the man in the khaki as a mouthpiece- “amar ashar ar dorkar-I hobe na”(I don’t need to come back anymore). The renowned famous director Srijit Mukherji perceives the movie as “After Ray, Tapan Sinha is one of my favorite directors especially his music. I think it was a perfectly structured screenplay that was impeccably written.It had a fantastic performance by Rabi Ghosh and it’s the finest example of the road cinema in Bengal. It is story telling at its effortless best.” I watched the movie nearly 50 times and it still is like the first time I watched it. I give the movie 5/5 believing that more people of our generation watch it.