Jan 23, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Aparajita Tumi is a 2012 Bengali movie directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury with Prosenjit, Padmapriya, Kamalinee, Kalyan Ray, Indraneil Sengupta, Chandan Roy Sanyal and others in the cast. Read the Bengali film review by National Award Winning film critic Shoma A. Chatterji at Calcutta Tube.
Banner: Rising Sun Films in association with Screenplay Films
Produced by: Shoojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri
Direction: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Story: Sunil Gangopadhyay
Cinematography: Ranjan Palit
Editing: Arghya Kamal Mitra
Music: Shantanu Moitra
Lyrics: Anindya Chattopadhyay and Chandril Bhattacharya
Cast: Prosenjit, Padmapriya, Kamalinee, Kalyan Ray, Indraneil Sengupta, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Tanushree Shankar and others
Date of release: January 20, 2012
APARAJITA TUMI –AMBIVALENCES WITHIN DISPLACEMENT
The words ‘displacement’ and ‘migration’ are linked directly to economic and sociological problems of people living in Third World countries. But Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Aparajita Tumi suggests that these terms could easily slip into the affluent, seemingly powerful and successful lives of diaspora Indians like Pradip (Prosenjit), a corporate honcho settled in the US for years, his wife Kuhu (Padmapriya) and their two kids. There are others like Ronojoy (Chandan Roy Sanyal) a self-made millionaire overfond of his drink and his beautiful wife Ushoshi (Kamalinee Mukherjee).
Theirs is a childless marriage. Ushoshi tries to drown the vacuum of an emotionally and physically barren life by cooking, cleaning, throwing lavish parties tinged with sad recollections of life as a talented danseuse back home. Kakamoni (Kalyan Ray), Kuhu’s uncle who lives with Kuhu’s parents in another city is slowly and steadily slipping into a time-space paradigm where his orientation gravitates back to the Durgapur Steel Plant in India because he hates living in the US. The kids however, are free of any feelings of emptiness and loneliness because, born and bred in the US, it is India that is a ‘foreign’ country for them.
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Aparajita Tumi explores the ‘displacement’ of emotions within, between and among people who have shared their loves but not their loneliness, if one could call it that. Aniruddha, without taking sides or making moral judgements, points out that this emotional vacuum just might get filled naturally, albeit temporarily through another relationship like the one that happens between Dipak and Ushoshi. The word ‘adultery’ does not exist in this world because, everything is ‘beyond right or wrong’ spelling out the basic ideology of the film.
Aparajita Tumi unfolds entirely in flashback mode with Kuhu sitting by the beach, allowing the waves to kiss her feet as she turn the pages of a book of Sudhindranath Dutta’s best poems gifted to her by Yusuf (Indraneil Sengupta) her college boyfriend. A note slips out of its pages, also penned by Yusuf for her to read. The film comes back to the same beach in the end, with Kuhu reading out the note, trying to cope with the new reality of her life, either with a very sick Pradip or without him. The film ends on this open note leaving the audience to draw its own conclusions.
In a few touching moments, Pradip who tries desperately to learn to play the piano, pokes his fingers into the air from his hospital bed, feeling the imaginary reeds while the piano in his living room plays out the same notes, the pages of the notations flying away in the sudden gush of breeze. Kuhu tries to pick them up as if she is trying to pick up the pieces of their fragmented lives to put them together again. It is Pradip’s way of coping with his dying moments, of getting back to the reality of his earlier life. The piano functions like a repeated metaphor reflecting the flux in the family and in the relationships among its members.
Ushoshi decides to go back home, her brief relationship with Dipak having made her realise that for her, playing the part of the perfect wife in a marriage that never was is over and done with. A very sick Pradip tells his wife to tell daughter Chandra that (like the drawing she gifted him with in which the sun was neither rising nor setting but had gone to sleep for a long time), he is going to sleep for a long time. Kakamoni, in a sudden fit, begins to pack his bags and rushes out of the house because his friend is waiting at Durgapur station and he must be there on time to join the Durgapur Steel Plant.
Ranjan Palit plays around beautifully with the film’s centripetal quality of converging inward rather than spreading out which gives him the opportunity to shuttle back and forth between different locales (San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, and Pescadero in California) as well as between different areas within those locales (the coffee shop, the college exterior in the flashback-within-flashback where Kuhu and Yusuf meet for the first time, the cafeteria where they split for their communal schisms, in the local library visited by Kuhu, the darkened room in Ronojoy’s apartment where Ushoshie packs Pradip into bed and then seduces him with a wee glimpse into her cleavage, the e-mail in the laptop monitor Dipak reads sadly) plus the motorable highways with speeding cars under arched bridges taken in high angle shots that effectively capture the cultural, social and financial ambience of the US backdrop.
Much like the characters in the film, the camera is constantly on the move, turning pensive when it zeroes in on close-ups of Kuhu’s face with her hair running across one side, captured in perspective. There is the painful scene showing Kakamoni staring vacantly into space, not responding to questions or comments, trapped in a space of his own creation from where he does not seek escape. Images of characters bouncing back through reflective surfaces are evocations to memory, nostalgia and recall.
Arghya Kamal Mitra’s editing is vigorous, yet smooth and seamless, sustaining a sense both of off-balance disorientation in emotional moments and headlong forward propulsion. The spectator slowly warms up to new situations and locations. The rhythm is slow and lyrical, moving from a party scene spoilt by Kuhu’s negative comment on Ushoshi’s cooking, to back home with Dipak gently chiding his wife for her rudeness.
The characters are brilliantly etched by the actors never mind the significance of the role, the footage it covers within the film or the focus. Padmapriya needs to be given the top prize for holding the film on her able shoulders as she forms the locus of the narrative and the film. It is a dark character that offers little relief and this too is handled with expressive expertise. Kamalinee adds flesh and blood to Ushoshi’s pain, guilt, emotional and sexual emptiness, her trying to belong and failing as if she is Ushoshi and not an actress playing the character. With two ladies forming the two supporting pillars of this celluloid edifice, Prosenjit as Dipak gives an outstanding performance but is automatically marginalized. One wonders why even after the brain surgery, the hair on his head is still intact.
Chandan Roy Sanyal as Ronojoy, the most grounded character in the film is wonderful and leaves nothing wanting in the character. Equally good is Kalyan Ray’s two-scene performance as the disoriented Kakamoni. Indraneil Sengupta looks completely different as Yusuf in his new look and gives a convincing performance. But in retrospect, one wonders if this character needed to be there at all. The same sense of the superfluous comes across in the party scene thrown to felicitate Soumitra Chatterjee.
One must point out that at times, the pace of the film seems to be grindingly slow which appears slower within the US backdrop where people are known to lead jet-paced lives filled with extreme workaholism and in chasing the greenbacks exemplified by Ronojoy who does not even realise that there are other things to life than just making money and buying off firms. For all the technical brilliance, the film lacks the quality of infinity one could almost feel tangibly in Antaheen. Using death as a climactic resolution is becoming a tad too repetitive for Aniruddha. One wishes he reconsiders his stance next time round.
Aparajita Tumi carries the signature of Aniruddha’s film-making strategies that bear the distinctive pattern of mingling the directness of the mainstream film with the ambiguity of the off-mainstream film. He did it in his earlier films Anuranan and Antaheen based on his own story and scripts. This time, Sunil Gangopadhyay’s story forms the basic frame of reference where music, songs, visuals and sound effects are slapped together in a free and fluid manner with the songs sometimes linked to the images one watches on screen and sometimes, playing around freely on the soundtrack throwing up multiple perspectives.
This is made possible through Shantanu Moitra’s rich musical score, Anindyo and Chandril’s moving lyrics and the magic voice of Shreya Ghosal and her eminent peers. Phurphure ek roddurer jonmodin plays again and again like a common strand weaving the emotions within the story together but cannot be called a theme song in the accepted sense of the term. Take me Home is a lively number fused with a raga-based rendering that lifts the dark mood of the film while bola baron explores words left unsaid spelling out the universality of feelings suppressed, repressed, hidden, offering multiple readings from the perspectives of the main characters at different points of time.
Cultural theorists like Arjun Appadurai and Anthony Smith have asserted that diasporic communities remain local and provincial at heart even as they acquire transnational characteristics (Mary Mathew, Globalization and Diasporic Family Dynamics – Reconciling the Old and the New in The Indian Family in Transition, Sage, 2007:p.213). Aparajita Tumi shows how the same bicultural apex forms new relationships, aspirations and anxieties within these communities. Well done Aniruddha, really, despite the slow pace and the tiny scars.