Wednesday, June 6, 2012

HERBERT (Bengali) (2005)

‘Small fish of the bath tub goes to the big sea.’

A very layered, moving and brilliantly executed existential drama that drives us into the life and time of a dimwit outsider protagonist named queerly as Herbert; no it’s not explained as in case of  Gogol in Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’. He is dealing with business of conversing with dead souls and challenged by authority of rationalist society. He commits suicide opening a case of riddle for police to claim him as anti social element or a mere mad man swindling his clients. What we follow is not just a personal film of an individual but also a shifting phase of socio-cultural-political Bengal from 50s to 90s. Based on Nabrun Bhattacharya’s Sahitya Academy novel, the film moves constantly back and forth in its narrative tapestry and leads us towards the various phases of Herbert’s life. He is orphan and raised by his relative’s family; growing under the tyrannical and exploiting cousin, good for nothing street friends and his preferred personal space on terrace where he reads, writes obscure notes on spirits, fly kites, watch pigeons and his first infatuation crush along with the world altogether from the height. Slowly and steadily the time keeps shifting his life parallel to the city.

Director Suman Mukhopadhyay in his debut independent movie projected a metaphor of man and city hard to explain in words. It is tale of an obscure man with breathing humanity, it’s also tale of rebellion youth wasted on leftist ideology victimized on authoritarian bullets and it’s also tale of transformation of time and space that leads to nothing but pendulum. The footage of Eisenstein’s Odessa steps sequence (Battleship Potemkin) keep reflecting like ghost to Herbert; quite a metaphor of haunted memories of power shooting bullets from one generation to another irrespective of time, space or cause. It’s intriguing to witness Herbert’s parents like Brechtian detached models filming his life story as spirits. With passage of time and left with absence of all the loved ones absence, the unfortunate recluse take solace in company of booze and street friends to get rid away of his haunting surrealist memories. Yes, ghosts do exist not in the other world but in this world occupied in deep crevices of our minds just like Herbert in form of memories, in form of past and we can’t get rid of them with any sort of mumbo-jumbo. Though initially what seems loud Subhashish Mukhopadhyay’s act of Herbert is one hell of consistent brilliant method act I’ve seen in regional cinema, I must say the film wouldn’t be same without his performance. The film won National Award for Best Bengali film for presenting a refreshingly cinematic idiom in form of protagonist of this urban existential tragicomedy veers between the thin line of real and surreal.


PS- Close to this film but different in approach I would also like to recommend Reha Erdem’s Turkish film ‘Kosmos’ which I found equally impressive and moving account of an obscure man. 

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