Saturday, February 12, 2011

PRATIDWANDI (Bengali) (1970)

After two years I’m back to Satyajit Ray film and the man of many arts this time not only moved me but strikes me showing disturbing time of volatile seventies. It’s time where political and social unrest, chaos and instability gave birth to bipolar class society that breeds either frustrated and directionless unemployed youth or naxalite rebels on streets. In both the cases it represents- the postcolonial lost generation sacrificed with struggling identities. Ray’s humanitarian vision of Apu Trilogy and other early cinema shifted with stark critical eye to the changing face of modern metro where class distinctions of two extremes sets the ground for moral corruption of society. It’s absolutely different Ray in so many grounds.

It begins with surreal like negative frames, a clue to audience much before the film begins that one has to watch closely this film to grasp its full potential and meaning. We witness the death of protagonist Siddharth Chaudhary’s father. With sudden and unexpected demise of his father, he has to leave his medical study midway and starts appearing for interviews. We’re led into one of the closer observation of his interview where his academic qualifications and near to perfect and intelligent answers weren’t suffice to get him job because his ideology seems to support what seems just for him. He was asked about ‘the most significant world event of the decade’ and his reply and explanation of ‘Vietnam War’ instead of the expected one- 'man landing on moon'. To this one of interviewers ask the burning question of Bengal- ‘Are you a communist?’ As if that’s the most significant matter to select a right candidate. Needless to say whether he got the job or not!

Contrast to Siddharth his young and beautiful sister got a quick job where her employer boss took certain advances from her. She doesn’t have any qualms about it as long as he gifts her precious things and hiking her salary. Siddharth is also contrast to his younger brother who’s wannabe Che Guerra and an ardent communist rebel who doesn’t think much rather believes in act. ‘There are two types of human beings. Thinkers who only think. Then there are doers who can only do’, said his rebel brother who’s more on second type unlike Siddharth who only think about the things which he won’t do. Siddharth is face of those directionless young and educated lost generation who didn’t follow a single path or ideology quite vehemently and lost in oblivion of alienation and adjustment in those shifting seventies.

After struggling for few years he gave up hope and accepted to embrace compromise to get back to something he get attached to. His accidental encounter with Keya makes him decide to join the job which is quite undeserving one and that too alienated from the city. Their first encounter portrayed so sublimely by Ray. (Kashyap-Verma pilfered the same in ‘Satya’) Along with progress of narrative, the flashback of Siddhartha’s childhood memories keep reflecting on screen including his longing for 'singing bird'- symbolic hope bridging the gap between sweet memory and hard reality, at last impersonified in his longing love for Keya. Though it represents the frustrating time, the second half is represented with hope and affirmation. Humanity and love always remain the hope of mankind in all time and Ray strongly believed that.

Ray used certain striking jump cuts including the last freezing frame so effectively. Apart of his early influence of Neo Realistic cinema of De Sica, here one can see the clear influence of French New Wave filmmakers like Godard and in certain scenes even influence of Luis Bunuel, the best cinematic critic of bourgeois society. Watch the scene where his imaginary shooting of his sister’s employer get jolted by reality as soon as the host enters and switches on of fan. The cool air not only comforts his sweat but boiling hatred too!!! Another where watching a modern damsel on road, we’re thrown into the mind of medical student studying female breast. The childhood reference of chicken and beheaded guillotine, skeletons waiting desperately for their turn outside the interview room and above all hallucinatory dream disjointed with haunting images of past and future seems more from Bunuel’s mind. Though I must say that Ray is genius filmmaker and influenced by many masters of the world cinema but his representation is more simple, direct and less ambiguous.

Compared to many of Ray films, this one of really unsettling and hard hitting film which compels me to think in many scenes. Watch that small scene of mob scuffle on the road. The effective use of contrast is visible with moving details (brilliant editing too). In one of the scene while enjoying his solitary smoke, Siddharth witness juxtaposed visions of poverty vs. foreign tourist embracing Indian culture. In another scene while watching that mandatory documentary before movie in which Indira Gandhi was depicted as progressive PM that leads the country towards more progress and prosperity and suddenly a bomb was explodes in cinema hall. One of his friend who’s collecting the fund for Red Cross stealing it in secret and took Siddhartha to prostitute and that’s another striking scene where we see the negative again when embarrassed Siddhartha lighting the cigarette for the prostitute in bra. Matching to striking scenes, the dialogues are punched with sarcasm. Some of them prove relevant even today. i.e. - ‘These days the weaker sex is the stronger sex’.

It’s quite injustice if I don’t mention the restrained act by Dhritiman Chatterjee, Bengali cinema’s one of the most gifted and natural actor who made Siddhartha hard to imagine if enacted by anybody else than him. He’s nicely supported by Krishna Bose, Debraj Roy and Joysree Roy as Keya, the sweetest, affirmative and full of life face in entire film. The film is regarded as the second film of Ray’s ‘Calcutta Trilogy’ and based on Sunil Ganguli’s novel by the same name. In one of his letter Ray too confessed that it was the most provocative film he had made till day and I fully corroborate it. Hope it’s not too early for me to jump on conclusion as many of his post 70’s films are long due for me.

Hope at least a few will read this mammoth post and/or watch this not so famous masterpiece by the filmmaker for whom Kurosawa once said- "Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon."


PS- A big thanks to one of dearest friend and fellow cinephile Abhishek Prasad for this recommendation and link with English subtitles.


Yashesh said...

Hiren can you post the same link as well?

HIREN DAVE said...

Here's link-

abhishek said...

u know what...i have noticed that when u like a movie, u have the ability to 'deliberately' write a 'perfect' 10/10 review. seriously, i couldn't expect a better analysis of this masterpiece. i really felt happy after reading your review. and i always say, i, kind of, start liking the movie more, and start seeing it with other perspectives aftr reading ur reviews. same is with Pratidwandi. it still gives me goosebumps.

Now, please answer my doubts:
what does the title means here? who is the pratidwandi here?

And is there any special meaning of the ending, where he just writes the letter and few men are taking a dead body to the burning ghat. it has confused me a lot because Ray never shows anything without any reason. please help me here... :)

Anwesha Chatterjee said...

Pratidwandi in the film,according to me means the adversary of alienation that the youth of 1970's Calcutta were facing, the adversary which prevented them from focussing on a path and kept them confused.
The last scene is like a full circle of the first scene, both showing processions of the dead but I think it meant that Siddhartha has no aspiration of finding a job in Calcutta, yet the letter to Keys signifies that he still has hope in his heart. :)