Janala (2011)-Bengali Movie Review

Indraneel Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee-Janala Bengali MovieMarch 1, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Janala is a 2011 Bengali movie directed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta with Indraneil Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee, Tapas Pal, Manoj Mitra and others in the cast. Read the film review at CalcuttaTube.

JANALA – WINDOWS TO A DIFFERENT WORLD

Producer: Reliance Big Pictures

Story, screenplay and direction: Buddhadeb Dasgupta

Music: Biswadeb Dasgupta

Cinematographer: Sunny Joseph

Editor: Amitabh Dasgupta

Production design: Indraneel Ghosh

Cast: Indraneil Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee, Tapas Pal, Manoj Mitra, Shankar Chakraborty

Date of release: 27th February 2011

Rating: 07/10

Janala maps the journey of a newly constructed, elaborately designed window. Bimal, (Indraneil Sengupta) who orders it as a tribute to the wonderful memories he experienced as a student of Jhumurpur Boys High School. On an impulsive visit to his old school, he discovers that the window of a classroom he visualised the world from did not exist any more. He decides to gift the school a window with the same designed grill of two birds looking skywards. He orders the window without the slightest clue about how he will pay the astronomical sum of Rs.25, 000 the furniture dealer (Manoj Mitra) asks, overcharging the poor man who knows nothing about the price of furniture. The film also traces Bimal’s journey from the point when he suddenly decides to go to Jhumurpur to the point when he discovers with shock that his relationship with his window has destroyed all his other relationships, personal and professional. The window stands forlorn, rejected and alone, under a tree. The crazy thief (Tapas Pal) who stole it failed to sell it off at the weekly haat because there were no takers. The camera pans on a long distance shot of villagers trucking back home with the stolen goods they had bought from the crazy thief. By then, Bimal has lost his job with the men’s old age home. His live-in fiancée Mira (Swastika Mukherjee) breaks up with him for breaching her trust and his life comes to a stasis as the film comes to an end.

 

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The film reaches far beyond the physical existence of a window to open many invisible windows for the audience in general and for Bimal in particular. For Bimal, the window symbolises nostalgia for a lost childhood, tribute to beautiful memories and his deep love for his school he was not even aware of, without feeling any guilt about having cheated Mira by secretly withdrawing money from their joint account to pay for the window. For Bimal, this is a tussle between his love for the past – his school, his classroom and his boyhood, and his love for the future – Mira, their unborn child and the dreams they have shared about their future.

 

Dasgupta’s point of view narration  opens other hidden windows for the audience.These are scathing but understated comments on contemporary social reality that exists through our journey with Bimal and his window. Mira, who works in a call centre, is constantly harassed by White customers who either want to make a pass at her or abuse her roundly on her Indian identity with racist comments. One inmate of the men’s old age home sadly announces that this year too, his NRI son will not come to visit as he has decided to go somewhere to Africa on a holiday. The exploitative nature of the furniture trader, the friendly attitude of the truck driver (Shankar Chakraborty), the totally hostile ways of the school headmaster who interprets Bimal’s gift of a window as an affront to his super ego. The school board rejects the gift with the excuse that some cash donation would have helped in developing some new centre for the school boys, of course, for reasons not far to seek. There are other small bytes too. The truck driver suggests Bimal give the window away to the local health centre. The windows of the centre are often smashed by angry families of patients who die out of negligence or wrong treatment or both! When they arrive at the health centre, they are forced to run for their lives as a dead patient’s family is already smashing the glass in the windows. A young couple, trapeze artists in a visiting circus, is chased for their lives by the master and his goons when they say they wish to quit as the girl is pregnant! Bimal and his truck driver friend help them escape. When the window finds its final resting place under the tree on the borders of a forest, we witness a coiled snake making its way somewhere. The villagers who are buying at the haat say they cannot buy the window even at a throwaway price because “we do not have enough room even to live by ourselves so where will we keep the window?” they ask.

 

The poetic metaphors Dasgupta is noted for come across in the brief flashbacks into Bimal’s boyhood. In one scene, as the teacher is teaching geography, elaborating on rivers and oceans. Bimal wanders off into another world. He looks out of the window to admire the  dream-like vision about waves from the see flowing through the window and into the room, wetting his sandals. The character of the crazy thief, portrayed well by Tapas Pal, is another metaphor on the randomness of life, even when one is a thief who impulsively gives away most of the things he steals and tries to pawn off the rest. But somehow, this does not jell well with the rest of the film. A couple of comic touches add relief without missing on the message hidden in them. One of the old men in the home flicks through the pages of a scrap book filled with pin-ups of scantily clad girls. The other oldies crowd around to have a closer look.  The school committee members rebuke the headmaster for constantly referring to his bowel movements. Dasgupta uncharacteristically closes in on some intimate scenes between Bimal and Mira portrayed beautifully specially by Swastika.

 

The cinematography converts the part-arid, part-tree lined zones of Purulia beautifully to a beautiful landscape as the camera journeys to a village named Dordi, about 23 kilometers away from Purulia town. Dordi village has taken the fictitious name of Jhumurpur in the film. The colourful truck on the move with the window perched on top adds dynamism to the otherwise placid narrative treated with extreme subtlety by Dasgupta. The shot of the sea waves flowing into the classroom is mind-blowing poetry in motion. Indraneil as Bimal enriches the character with a blend of the man’s impulsive and irresponsible nature filled with a naïve innocence that strips him completely of any sense of guilt towards his job and towards his pregnant girlfriend. By the time his dream crashes around him, so does his real world. Shankar Chakraborty is brilliant as the truck driver but Manoj Mitra is wasted in an itsy bitsy role. Shankar’s accented Bengali suddenly gets urban along the way. Kuchil Mukherjee as the headmaster is outstanding.

 

Biswadeb Dasgupta’s ambient music track fits into the flitting moods of the film. The editing is seamless, the cutting back and forth between Bimal and Mira and also between his shots as a boy and as an adult takes the cinematographic and narrative space onto another plane. Janala is a film that opens many windows while narrating the story of one.

– Shoma A. Chatterji

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