ELAR CHAR ADHYAY – LOW KEY POTSHOTS AT ‘PATRIOTISM’
Shoma A. Chatterji
- Producer – Dreamz Movies and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.
- Director – Bappaditya Bandopadhyay
- Story: Rabindranath Tagore
- Cinematography – Rana Dasgupta
- Editor – Dipak Mandal
- Art Director – Gautam Basu
- Music – Gaurab Chatterjee
- Additional Music – Abhijit Basu
- Chamber Orchestra – Ebraham Majumder
- Art direction: Gautam Bose
- Cast – Paoli Dam, Indraneil Sengupta, Rudranil Ghosh, Arunima Ghosh, Dipankar Dey, Barun Chanda, Vikram Chatterjee, Nitya Ganguly, Sankar Dey and Kamalika Chanda.
- Rating: 07/10
Who is a true patriot? Is liberation to be achieved by rhetorical slogans, ascetic militarism, conformity and ruthless external discipline? How can one be true to one’s self in the making of a nation? These are questions Atin raises when he gets so deeply involved in the movement that his passionate love for Ela is relegated to secondary place. He does not leave the questions hanging in the air like a coward. He explains his ethnical dilemma through small incidents the group had initiated as part of their ‘struggle’ for independence that contradicted their ideology in action and in spirit. This motivates him to seek his own path without Ela.
The director’s determination and ability to stick to Tagore’s original story including the verbose and highly philosophical dialogue in the first half is in incredibly brilliant. He detracts in structuring the film as a flashback that opens and closes with Ela’s dead body, her eyes wide open, staring at nothing, lying in the midst of the fire consuming the old, decaying mansion where Indranath operated from, slowly burning down to cinders.
Is Elar Char Adhyay a political novel? Or is it a love story? Many of Tagore’s critics were angered by Tagore’s exposing of ‘patriotism’ preached by Indranath. So Tagore called Char Adhay a love story. The film explores both layers – the intense love between Ela and Atin that draws Atin into the movement because Ela is already in it; and the political angle as seen from different perspectives – the tea-corner owner (Nitya Ganguly), the tea shop actually a façade for hiding arms; Botu (Rudraneel Ghosh), whose attraction for Ela is rejected making him angry enough to betray the movement by conniving with the police to capture Atin from his hide-out; Indranath whose sense of ‘patriotism’ like Sandip’s in Ghare Baire is warped. He smokes expensive cigars and travels in lavish cars leaving his followers to indulge in cold-blooded violence, looting and feasting off the loot in the name of ‘patriotism.’ He rules out love between members of the group but does not take steps against Ela even when he knows that she is madly in love with Atin. For Atin, his rule changes, forcing the former to go into hiding.
Ela is the protagonist of Elar Char Adhyay. She makes her presence felt with silence, with her dignified body language, her decent way of dressing, her quiet way of asserting herself with her parents, her uncle and aunt and with Botu later. She is stunned when Atin tells her of the group having killed an old woman and then sharing the loot while the dead body lay beside them. They feasted on the loot after a hungry spell. But she is still passionately in love with Atin and is desperate to share a new life with him. “I cannot sleep” she says and his answer is, “this time, you will,” just like that.
Paoli Dam is brilliant as Ela from the beginning when she questions her mother about why she wants the Muslim Fakir out of the house through joining Indranath’s group to inducting Atin into it not hiding her passion for him at any point. The script however, fails to bring across the crackling erotic chemistry between Atin and Ela that was there in the original novel. Rudraneel as Botu gives a low-key, understated performance – shaky, nervous and timid. Vikram as Atin is very refreshing. His entry into the place where the group operates is beautifully scripted on a rain-leashed evening with his boat approaching the river banks and Ela teasing him. Indraneil as Indranath tries his best but still comes across a bit stiff and self-conscious. Nitya Ganguly as the tea-stall man is brilliant. Dipankar Dey, Sreelekha Mukherjee, Barun Chanda, Arunima Ghosh complement the rest like musical instruments in a classical orchestra.
The musical score by Gaurav Chatterjee takes care to reflect Tagore’s secular approach towards religion. There are three Tagore songs, one Baul-like number talking of Muslim philosophy and one English song belted in a party scene but which sounds like a Church song. Gautam Basu’s cinematography invests the film with a very realistic ‘period’ texture that reaches beyond its physical reality to reflect the decadence of the movement. The straw structure of the Durga idol lying forgotten and forlorn in the courtyard of the mansion is a beautiful visual metaphor that speaks through its silence. Rana Dasgupta’s cinematography is perhaps his career-best. The dungeon-like darkness in the interiors of the mansion, Ela walking alongside a brick wall with Bikram looking at her from behind, the contrast in the décor between Ela’s parental home and her Westernised uncle’s ‘modern’ home, the party scene that ends just when it should, Ela standing in front of a window frame, are pictures in a pure blend of serenity and aesthetic beauty that transcends the visual to step into the emotional, the cerebral and the philosophical.
The name had to be changed because the copyright has been acquired by someone else. There could not have been a better tribute to Tagore, albeit, minus the philosophical dialogue in the first half and the lack of chemistry between Ela and Atin in the second.