December 25, 2010 (Kolkata/Tollywood): AAR EKTI PREMER GOLPO is a 2010 Bengali film directed by Kaushik Ganguly starring Rituparno Ghosh, Chapal Bhaduri, Indraneil Sengupta, Churni Ganguly, Raima Sen and others. Enjoy the complete Bengali movie review at Calcutta Tube.
Cast and Crew:
- Banner: Cinemawalla
- Producer: Tapan Biswas
- Direction: Koushik Ganguly
- Cinematography: Soumik Haldar
- Editor and Post-production Director: Moinak Bhaumik
- Art: Tanmoy Sengupta
- Music: Debajyoti Mishra
- Sound Design: Anirban Sengupta and Dipankar Chaki
- Screenplay associates: Madhuchhanda Karlekar and Moinak Bhaumik
- Cast: Rituparno Ghosh, Chapal Bhaduri, Indraneil Sengupta, Churni Ganguly, Raima Sen, Arindam Sil, Jisshu Sengupta and others.
- Language: English-Bengali
- Date of release: December 24, 2010
- Rating: 7/10
Review: AAR EKTI PREMER GOLPO
Aar Ekti Premer Golpo is too generously sprinkled with English to call it a Bengali language film. Chapal Bhaduri, who plays himself in the film, is a talented actor who was once famous for portraying female roles in folk theatre. He lives in a dilapidated room in north Kolkata, in penury. His life, shunned by family, ignored by neighbours and humiliated by society began when his secret love-life with a male lover came out in the open. Aar Ekti Premer Galpo revolves around a contemporary Delhi-based filmmaker Abhiroop Sen (Rituparno Ghosh) who is commissioned by a foreign producer Dorothy (Charlotte Haywards) to make a documentary film on Chapal Bhaduri and how the making of this film raises questions within himself about the acceptance and recognition of the gay identity. But shooting the film in Kolkata is shelved because of the wrong kind of media attention the film’s subject – Chapal Bhaduri – and the filmmaker Abhiroop draw. Uday, (Jisshu Sengupta) a wild-life photographer offers his ancestral mansion in a village in Birbhum district as alternative venue for the shoot.
The filmmaking process within the larger film reveals the complexity of relationships of. Abhiroop is himself gay and has an open, long-term relationship with his cinematographer Basu (Indraneil Sengupta), a happily married man. Abhiroop’s unconventional ways of dress, make-up and behaviour point out the difference between the openness of alternative sexual preferences today and the tragic isolation and social humiliation Chapal Bhaduri has suffered throughout his life. As Chapal begins to narrate the story of his love life and the tragic consequences thereof into the camera, Abhiroop somehow, begins to identify with Chapal’s sense of alienation, loneliness and social rejection. The relationship between Abhiroop and Basu is filled with an electric tension so strong that one feels it can snap at any moment, traced back to Abhiroop’s emotional insecurity that makes him call up his mother and weep like a little boy whenever he feels helpless and also because his love for Basu has a rival hovering in the background – his wife Rani (Churni Ganguly).
While Chapal narrates his tale into the camera, the film moves into flashback to a young and beautiful Chapal, always dressed in bridal finery, with his lover. We see Abhiroop as the young Chapal while Basu doubles up as Chapal’s young lover Kumar, who he shared a close relationship with for 20 years. 20 years later, Chapal finds work as a cook-cum-maid in Tushar, a villager’s home. Uday doubles up as Tushar. When Chapal goes back to Kumar’s home and works as free nurse-ayah-maid-cook as his wife Gopa is bedridden, it is Rani we see playing the sick Gopa. When Kumar brings Sheela, a much younger and prettier girl to live with, it is none other than Momo (Raima Sen), the production assistant for Abhiroop’s film. The strategy would have worked had it remained limited to Abhiroop because of the feelings, preferences and experience he shares with his subject – Chapal. But with everyone doubling up as someone else in the flashback, it becomes confusing and repetitive. Each flashback returns to the present with Abhiroop and Basu sharing moments of intimacy, conversation and silence, and we know that the flashbacks were all in the mind of Abhiroop who identifies with his subject. The editing and the cinematography is brilliant in these shots, dimly lit flashbacks with the love scenes specially dark to cut out the sleaze effect, and the present shot with a predominance of blue, to underscore the uncertainly of the relationship. These heavily underlined, almost literal point-of-view configurations indicate the powerful subjectivity of the filmmaker-within-the-film – Abhiroop.
Rituparno Ghosh marvels in both the personas – the director and the younger Chapal offering two completely distanced facets of the actor in him – the effeminate, arrogant and self-indulgent face of an openly gay man who is proud of his male identity, and as the younger Chapal, the woman trapped in a man’s body always dressed in beautiful Benarasi saris with her secret lover. The others give him solid backing led by Indraneel who displays the confusion, the tension and the final parting with the right dose of credibility the character demands. Raima is very good both as Momo and Sheela while Jisshu Sengupta offers two faces within a brief role beautifully. Arindam Sil and Arindam Bagchi as Prasanta touch their characters with just the right degree of confusion and puzzlement in dealing with the complex and whimsical director Abhiroop. Churni as Rani is shocked to discover her husband’s relationship with his director. Yet, instead of demonstrating jealousy, she is apologetic about separating them when she comes to Abhiroop to pour her heart out. On hindsight however, this could be interpreted as part of her diabolic cunning, if this has been suggested earlier when she discloses her pregnancy to her husband in front of Abhiroop. As the ailing and bedridden Gopa, there is one moving scene where the younger Chapal pulls her to an impromptu dance.
But it is Chapal Bhaduri who steals the show. He appears as his natural self, neither overawed by the media attention suddenly hyped on him, nor scared of the overbearing director who is soft towards him, nor bought over by the extra cheque the foreign producer gives him as ‘bribe’ to ‘reveal more dirty secrets into the camera’ as he tells Abhiroop, leaving the cheque behind. The pain of a life spent in enforced isolation is brought out beautifully as he narrates his life into the camera without being dramatic about it at any point.
Dibyajyoti’s musical score is another bright spark that effectively fuses the past with the present, blending the Chandipath and the Shitala sthobs with contemporary music in the soundtrack. There is one line Momo tells Basu once in the film. She wonders whether Abhiroop is making the film to peg his own story onto the personal pains of Chapal Bhaduri. One would tend to agree with her because as the filmmaking unfolds, Chapal is only talking about his love life and not about his career as a noted actress. The bottom line is about the quid pro quo that exists in all human interaction and relationships – personal, professional, or any other. “Someone is paying a price for our relationship,” says Abhiroop to Basu once. This extends to span the other relationships in the film too, in the past and the present, excepting Momo’s, the balancing character in her own unobtrusive way. Beginning with the TV journalist who thrusts the mike at an angry Abhiroop and closing with that beautiful dance scene that shows the bonding between Chapal and Gopa, the quid pro quo story runs like a strong undercurrent.
Does the openness of Abhiroop define the social acceptance of the gay persona in contemporary Indian society? Or does he too, suffer from the sense of social ostracism Chapal does, cleverly disguised under the veil of his fame and charisma as a successful filmmaker? Is his flashy style of dress and make-up actually a way of hiding his insecurity? Or is he trying desperately to make a point as wild-life photographer Uday asks him once? These questions are left open.
Aar Ekti Premer Golpo is a very unusual film about the selfishness that forms the foundation of human relationships. This is shown through two beautifully interwoven love stories between two men spanning two generations. The delicate bonding, emotional and physical, is handled with the sensitivity it demands minus the sensationalism it could have succumbed to. But it is more Rituparno’s directorial signature that makes its presence felt through the film as creative director than Koushik Ganguly’s as director.
Shoma A. Chatterji