Ami Aadu (2011)-Bengali Movie Review

Ami Aadu-Samadarshi Chatterjee, Debalina DuttaMarch 1, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Ami Aadu is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Somnath Gupta with Soumitra Chattopadhyay, Debalina Chatterjee, Samadarshi Dutta, Rudranil Ghosh and others in the cast. Read the film review at Calcutta Tube.

AMI AADU – THE SOUND OF LOVE

TENDER ROMANCE DELICATELY TOLD

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Story: Swapnamoy Chakraborty

Script and direction: Somnath Gupta

Music: Mayukh and Moinak

Cinematography: Soumik Haldar

Editing: Arghyakamal Mitra

Sound design: Sukanta Majumdar

Production design: Koushik and Barik

Cast: Debalina Chatterjee, Samadarshi Dutta, Biplab Chatterjee, Rudranil Ghosh, Mithu Chakraborty, Bidipta Chakraborty, Angana Basu, Pradip Mukherjee and Soumitra Chatterjee

Date of release: 25th February 2011

Rating: 07/10

A young girl, probably pregnant, wakes up in the middle of the night. She begins to write a letter in Bengali to the then-American President George Bush. She has stuck a cut-out of Bush in her scrap book. The narrative moves back and forth from and to this letter as the girl Aadu (Debalina Chatterjee) continues to write in a clear, childish hand, like an anchor holding the narrative together. The letter begins with two words “Ami Aadu” which becomes the film’s title. The story moves back and forth in time and space, spanning across the lush greens of Nature in Murshidabad, along the banks of the river Padma on the edge of the Murshidabad-Bangladesh border. The camera returns to this border, registering the evolution of Aadu from a very much in love young maiden to a mature, grown, married woman, trying to touch her missing husband through the river where they met in secret and abandoned themselves to the pure joys of love. We meet a younger and carefree Aadu meeting her lover, the handsome Suleman (Samadarshi Dutta) in secret, guilty about hiding the truth from her parents, yet cherishing stolen moments with the incurable dreamer Suleman. Aadu is the only child of a very traditional Brahmin household but wealthier than Suleman. He is the son of Moinuddin (Biplab Chatterjee) a poor share cropper who lives in very poor digs with wife (Angana Basu) and teenaged daughter.

 

Adu’s mother (Mithu Chakraborty) is livid about her daughter’s link with a Muslim boy. But her father (Pradip Mukherjee) adjusts. Adu and Suleman are married without any conflict. The pacifist way the film treats the union between a girl from an orthodox Brahmin family and a poor Muslim boy is a unique feature of Ami Aadu. It marks a departure from the expected fireworks one sees in any film depicting a Hindu-Muslim marriage. Aadu blends into the family and the two mothers of the two families also begin to bond.

 

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Suleman, who once dreamt of speaking very good English, is now obsessed about any job beyond Indian shores. Through a common friend (Rudranil Ghosh) who has made it good in Iraq, Suleman along with another Hindu boy, leaves for Iraq. He communicates with Aadu through letters but mostly through recorded tapes she listens to on the tape recorder he brought back on one of his trips back home. His father Moinuddin has his ears stuck to the transistor the son has gifted him, listening to songs from Dacca and Kolkata.

 

All hell breaks lose when America attacks Iraq. The three young men go missing when the city they work is bombed bringing down the dry fruit factory they worked in. Aadu discovers that a letter from Suleman is written with his left hand. She makes the connection – he has lost his right arm. The Iraq bombings and killings are flashed through television channels intercutting the narrative with modern forms of communication common in a village setting – the transistor, the tape recorder and the Black-and-White television screen. On one trip home, Suleman records sounds of their lovemaking to take back so that he can strip himself of loneliness on foreign soil with loving sounds of his wife. The tape is destroyed in the bombing. Suleman is left to cope with his loneliness and his crippled state, waiting for money to get back home. The pregnant Aadu gets back to writing her unfinished letter to the American President

 

Through the understated and touching story of the courage and the strength Aadu draws from within herself, the film provides insights into grim realities with small bytes. The neighbouring young wife (Bidipta Chakraborty) points out to Aadu’s mother that her arranged marriage to a Hindu did not last so what was wrong with Aadu choosing to marry a Muslim? When Aadu asks her why she wears the vermillion when she does not recognise her marriage, the housewife confesses that she wears it to console her mother-in-law she looks after. Aadu comparing Suleman’s earlier handwriting with his later one is shown in dimly lit scenes with a silent soundtrack. Aadu’s visit to a NGO office for help to locate her husband and bring him back, sarcastically touches on an English-speaking, snobbish social worker dressed in typical jeans and kurta shrugging them off with an air of a know-it-all. “If you can speak English very well, it can take you a long way,” is the comment of the housewife as they make their way back from the NGO office. “Do the Americans help us,” asks Aadu of the wife. “Yes, they do,” she pops back, listing the ways the country helps Indians. “But they also wage wars,” is Aadu’s cryptic comment. When Aadu’s worst fears about Suleman having lost his right arm are confirmed, she cuts into bits the picture of an American soldier and also of George Bush. Pressed for cash, Suleman’s father pawns off his favourite transistor to a willing buyer. Aadu retrieves it and hides it in a box, lest he sell it again.

 

The scenes of Suleman shouting out at a flying aircraft in the sky, trying to catch its attention and later, Aadu looking up to see a plane in flight to catch some information about her missing husband present opposite moods through the same images – an aircraft in flight. Suleman’s nature shows his love for freedom. But as one probes deeper, one realises that the freedom he seeks is not political, social or emotional, it is freedom from poverty that he is seeking and is determined to obtain. “Would your mother have opposed to a match had Shahrukh Khan proposed marriage to you?” he asks once, not expecting an answer.

 

The acting honours must be credited equally with special commendations to newcomer Debalina Chatterjee who makes her debut as Aadu and Samadarshi Dutta as the gay, happy, and incurable dreamer Suleman. Debolina does not burst out into tears or beat her chest at any point, demonstrating the restraint the director has injected into her performance. Her silences are more eloquent than her dialogue marred by the dubbed voice of Koushani Roy. Soumik Haldar’s magic camera catches their most romantic moments splashed with heavy showers. Suleman’s English learning book falls into the mush and the two roll out laughing. The romance is touched with the innocence of youth with a desire for something more peeping at fragmented moments only to get washed away in the rains again. The nights inside Suleman’s home, focussing on his sister working all night on the sewing machine, or, the bright sunshine that flows into a room in the daylight, or the kitsch decorated living room of Suleman’s affluent friend are images fit for the archive. The same applies to Koushik and Barik’s production design and Mayukh-Moinak’s memorable and moving music track. There are too many repetitions of the Padma river episode. Aadu’s mother-in-law has neatly plucked eyebrows the director seems to have missed out on.  Soumitra Chatterjee is completely wasted in a one-scene role and the scene itself is expendable.. Mithu Chakraborty as Aadu’s mother has a touching scene when she peeps sadly through a slit to watch her daughter getting married to a Muslim boy. Pradip Mukherjee keeps hiding and revealing his sacred thread according to the demands of the time and the place. Biplab as Suleman’s father hardly has much dialogue in the film and expresses his timidity born of poverty through his body language and his facial expression lucidly. The designedly structured editing is a challenge taken on very well by Arghya Kamal Mitra.

 

Ami Aadu is a love story without much excitement except the Iraq factor adding to the drama rightly in absentia. It is through his low-key handling of the narrative and his way of storytelling that has made director Somnath Gupta’s directorial debut Ami Aadu a memorable film.

Shoma A. Chatterji

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Soumitra Chatterjee in Ami Aadu Bengali Movie

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