The introductory voice-over of the hero Nakul in Ajob Prem Ebong Ekti Bus-er Golpo immediately reminds the viewer, in a slightly different way, of Ritwik Ghatak’s Ajantrik. Ajantrik (1958) based on an unusual story by Subodh Ghosh, was one of the few films to win critical acclaim abroad. Georges Sadoul of France praised it as a ‘landmark in world cinema.’ Henry Langlois wished to have a print of the film for the French film archive.
Ajantrik stands out as a masterpiece in cinema because it establishes through cinema for the first time perhaps, a new relationship between man and machine. Ajantrik rejects all associations of machine with monstrosity and therefore, unable of emotional communication with a human being. The film tellingly brings out the relationship between the animate and the inanimate exemplifying the unification of the ‘conflict of images’ and the pathos that goes with it. The film humanizes Jagaddal, a Chevrolet reduced to a jalopy, thus christened by its master, yet draws attention to the fallacy of investing an inanimate or natural object with human feelings.
Padmanabha Dasgupta has woven a different story placing Munni, a bright yellow bus as the protagonist to establish its relationship with Nakul, a young man who dreams of owning Munni, the bus and driving into distant lands with ‘her’. But there are other parties interested in the bus. “Yes, Ghatak’s film was certainly an inspiration but this film is different in storyline, characterisation, treatment, approach and style,” says Padmanabha.
One is pleasantly surprised with the way in which director Arindam De uses the simple opening to comment on various manifestations of human life – relationships, mindsets, love, desire, greed, education, politics, marriage, widowhood, grief and so on. The bus in this film is an inanimate vehicle of modern-day transport. But it acquires a life of its own through the different characters each of who is interested in the bus for completely different reasons. “Nakul is a character I have never played before and I accepted the role because it offered me scope to emote differently,” says Rahul who does the role with conviction.
The physical and geographical canvas of Ajob Prem Ebong Ekti Bus-er Golpo is wide and open because the film has been shot entirely on location in Bolpur within Birbhum district that invests the film, the story and the characters the mobility and fluidity it demands with Munni, the bus, at the centre. The film recovers after every sentimental lapse and gets going like Munni, the yellow bus Nakul loves so dearly. Agreed, that the comparison with Ghatak’s Ajantrik might seem like an exaggeration. But the fact remains that this small-budget film with tender-sweet love stories interwoven into it, juxtaposed against big-budget mainstream Bangla films shot across the world does touch a chore in one’s heart and has an aura of freshness and innocence about it.