July 15 (Calcutta Tube): Ami Yasin Aar Amar Madhubala (The Voyeurs) is a 2010 Bengali film directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta starring Prosenjit, Amitav Bhattacharya and Sameera Reddy in lead roles. Read the CalcuttaTube review of the excellent Bengali movie.
Review: AMI YASIN AAR AMAR MADHUBALA (THE VOYEURS)
Cast and Crew:
- Banner: B.A.G. Films
- Producer: Anurradha Prasad
- Story, screenplay and direction: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
- Cinematography: Sunny Joseph
- Music: Biswadeb Dasgupta
- Editing: Amitabha Dasgupta
- Audiography: Anup Mukherjee
- Cast: Prosenjit, Amitav Bhattacharya and Sameera Reddy
- Rating: 7/10
Ami, Yasin Aar Amar Madhubala is the third of Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s three-part trilogy that marks a new phase in Dasgupta’s oeuvre. The last three films of Buddhadeb Dasgupta, namely Swapner Din, Kaalpurush and Ami Yasin Aar Amar Madhubala unfold a change in the way he uses the language of cinema to tell a story. These films have a definite storyline, true. But Dasgupta uses poetry and visual metaphors to get his message across, redefining the role of the auteur that carries the signature of the director on his film. They are miles apart from his immediately preceding films like Uttara and Mondo Meyer Upakhyan and that were strongly suggestive of the desire to market Oriental exotica to an Occidental audience. These three films form a new turning point for the filmmaker, in the sense that they tell the stories of very ordinary young men and women whose lives change dramatically over the course of the film. They also carry subtle yet strong messages on the uncertainty of life, relationships, love and death where nothing can ever be taken for granted and things may change before one even realises it.
The “Ami” in the film is Dilip (Prosenjit), a misnomer as the story is not from Dilip’s perspective but expresses the filmmaker’s point of view. Dilip is a young man who runs a small business in installing surveillance systems for his clients. Yasin (Amitav Bhattacharya) joins him in Kolkata, arriving from the small town they both lived in looking for a job as his family back home is in dire straits. They live in a ramshackle building in a narrow Kolkata bylane and order lunch and dinner from outside as the landlord does not permit cooking on the premises. Rekha (Sameera Reddy), a pretty young girl arrives as a tenant next door with dreams of entering films. The three get acquainted.
For the first time, Dilip turns his attention from the framed photograph of actress Madhubala on his wall, his only ‘friend’ who he can converse with to a real, flesh-and-blood woman he begins to care for. But he has forgotten the art of communicating with real people. He cannot express his feelings to real people anymore. He is the victim of the very technology that is his only source of livelihood. Ironically, he is also an abuser of the technology. As he cannot express his feelings, he indulges himself by intruding into the very private moments of Rekha in her room, without realizing what he is doing is a heinous crime. When Rekha discovers that the key to her room she had handed over in full faith one day to Dilip has been abused, she feels betrayed, deceived and raped. Having fixed a spy cam above her dressing table mirror, Dilip watches her on his monitor and even records what he sees.
Can a man rape a woman without touching her at all or even without being in the same room with her? Modern espionage and surveillance systems of technology say yes, he can. It is a crime but the perpetrator is not even aware of the criminal implications of his act, much less the violation of ethics in this act of deception and breach of good faith involved in such deliberate intrusion into a young woman’s intimate moments in the privacy of her room. It does not matter that he has not physically touched her. It does not matter that he switches off the monitor just when the young woman is about to unhook her bra. The damage to her dignity is done. Her humiliation is complete. So is the complete faith in fellow-humans she nurtured till then. She may never trust another man for the rest of her life. Even when the police are hot on his chase, Dilip does not realise the implications of his act and tries to call Rekha on her cell phone. It too late for both though Yasin is innocent. Just when they are running away, a terrorist attack in the city turns Yasin into an immediate suspect and Dilip as a possible associate Yasin is shot dead while trying to escape; Dilip is captured, tortured and then released for want of evidence; Rekha probably goes back because her brief encounter with Kolkata’s ugliness on the streets and also in her screen audition have made her disillusion complete.
The camera captures Rekha seated on the floor of her room, the door ajar, her feet drawn close, her sari having moved up a bit to reveal her ankles, with the expression on her face describing in graphic detail, the pain, anger and sense of betrayal of a girl who has just been raped. This is the most emotionally moving scene in the film. The storyline is slender. It gathers flesh as it subtly moves from one dramatic moment to another. Dilip and Yasin are out of town on business when the police detect the culprits. Just before they get home, the young tea-boy warns them that the police are hot on their chase setting them on an escape to eternity. The film would have stood its ground without injecting the ‘terrorist’ angle or the needless television interviews of Yasin’s family after his death. The ‘Bula-di’ episodes inserted to explore the sexual angst of Dilip are so uncalled for that they stick out like a bad wart on a beautiful face.
The narrative is punctured with lines from Dasgupta’s poetry. Dilip says, “I would love to wear her like a ring on my finger when I go to sleep.” This is a bit strange for a man who has lost the art of simple communication. A visual metaphor dots the cinematographic space showing four porters carrying an antique sofa set on their heads from place to place with a small boy lying on the big couch. In the last scene, the four put down the sofa set. This time, Dilip is lying on the big couch. He can no longer walk, say the porters. There are other surrealistic touches such as street side beggars climbing on to a stationery bus for fun. None of these visual metaphors link to the main story. They are like Dasgupta’s personal signature to signify visual poetry. Biswadeb Dasgupta’s musical score is enriched by the theme music of a Tagore song presented in a slightly varied form. Sunny Joseph’s cinematography takes one’s breath away with his ability to play around with the many shades that lie between darkness and light, capturing the line of tiffin carriers in a shed, soft-focus scenes of the beggars climbing on to the bus, the monitor showing Rekha break into a dance not knowing she is being watched and the semi-dark studio floors where she goes for her audition. The three main actors have done an excellent job of playing ordinary human beings with the effective natural-ness the characters demand.
Like the other two films in this trilogy, Ami, Yasin Aar Amar Madhubala is a very dark, sombre and brooding film. This film, like the other two, zeroes in on the uncertainty of the journey of life and on the extraordinariness of ordinary men and women. It also is one of the most scathing comments on the evils of technological surveillance strategies on lives, relationships, ideologies and ethics of the people who handle it. But not everyone will understand the inner layers of meaning it carries.
by Shoma A. Chatterji
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