Confused Gautam Ghosh’s ‘Act Zero’ With Outstanding Cinematography and Smart Direction
We are watching Gautam Ghosh since his “Ma Bhumi”. From “Ma Bhumi” to “Act Zero” (Shunya Anka) a circle seems to be completed. As in every circle inevitably there must be some notches and some break ups, so were in “Ma Bhumi” and also there in Act Zero as well. Incidentally those notches are a little bit more in Act Zero than those were in “Ma Bhumi”. The fact resides in the text. Ma Bhumi was based on a past and closed political chapter. But in Act Zero it is very much contemporary dealing with the state and with its people.
And thus the film depicts a social structure where a corporate life is in the axis. The life where, the wife Jhilik (Priyanka Basu) not having her rat racing husband Agni Bose alias AB (Priyanshu Chaterjii) for any emotional moment, behaves sometimes in a ridiculous manner. Along with enormous single molt whisky, she watches Fellini. Following that old man of the film shouting “I want a woman” from a tree top, she being intoxicated climbs on the top of their water reservoir and mimicries that old man shouting dangerously “I want a man”. Jhilik is being rescued by the fire brigade people and at bed for publicly begging for “man”, she is punished by her husband AB who virtually raped her at night. Though later we experienced their musical and lyrical intercourse time and again.
This corporate AB for his survival or emancipation encroaches as a top executive of Juganta (Vedanta Resources PLC) in Bauxite rich Bidhangiri (Niyamgiri) mountains, which is very much within Red corridor or Mao corridor or MOU corridor at Orissa. Virtually it is Gandoanaland. This survival of the fittest circle is drawn then with Raka (Kankana SenSharma), the young journalist of a national house “Indian Times”, then comes the tribal community, supporting them enter the Maoists and finally the circle is being completed with the state mercenaries killing the Maoists and giving open room for the bauxite diggers.
Again amidst this circle there is a notch or you may call it a break. The corporate AB, suffering from a dilemma, seeks a fortnight leave from his CEO and to pass time with his Jhilik, comes to a Muslim family consisting of a retired scientist Dr. Kabir Chowdhury (Soumitra Chatterji) and her spouse Layla (Lolita Chatterji) who is a regimented rigid Muslim. Dr. Chowdhury on the other hand believing in composite culture is a secular being. He is a strong follower of Dara Shuko, Lalan Fakir and Rabindranath. Here also comes the question of state terror by which their only son Dara, a string journalist, was shot dead by the security forces at Kashmir. Layla believes that this happened as because her son was a Muslim. To stop war Kabir is in search of an Utopian planning to hack all the web sites of the war mongers and so he want to start from zero which took its start from this sub continent with Aryabhatta.
This film of Gutam Ghosh (story along with Samaresh Majumder, screenplay, music, cinematography and direction) time and again reminds me of Arundhati Roy for her ‘’Walking With The Comrades’’ published in Outlook 29 March,2010. There are lots of sequences which seems to be sprouted from Arundhuti’s memorable article where she really spent time in the terrain of Janatana Sarcar of Maoists at Chattishgarh. Even in the phonic conversation Raka once uttered that she is ‘walking with the comrades’. The dialogue, where Raka is saying that, SP of Dantewara once told her that with police or military these Maoist movement could never be suppressed, instead, if television set is given to each and every family in Dantewara, then only this movement could have been managed, is a dialogue between Arundhati and that SP as mentioned in “Walking With The Comrades”. Even standing at Bidhangiri (alias Niyamgiri at Orissa) Raka virtually translates Arundhati’s line- “Across the Indravati River, in the area controlled by the Maoists, is the place the police call ‘Pakistan’.
Raka has been shown to be killed by real encounter. No journalist of any big house so far has been killed by Indian forces in any encounter with the Maoists, be it real or fake. In Adilabad in 2009 Maoist PB member Azad was killed in a fake encounter along with a journalist of a small magazine. I’m not going to say that the murder of a small magazine’s journalist is to be ignored. But so far it is learnt that a journalist of a corporate house moves with his/her assignment from the respective corporate house. And if assigned to a Maoists’ terrain like area, the house arranges for its journalist’s protection. On the other hand if the “revolutionaries” consider the respective journalist as their friend then, at any cost they offer protection to that journalist . Thus John Reed moved around Bolshevik Terrain and Edgar Snow moved around the
terrain area of the then fighting CPC under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung in the forties. Not really comparable, but Arundhati Roy too walked with the Maoists ‘comrades’ in their terrain area of Janatana Sarcar for a couple of days.
But we understand that Gautam Ghosh had no other way but to kill Raka. At the same time I do not understand why Arundhati’s name has never been mentioned in anywhere in the film.
Besides Raka, who accompanied by Arjun Munda (Arijit Mitra) first encountered with AB at ‘Bidhangiri” and later became a fiancé of AB, the character Jhilik is also very difficult to accept. Have you ever seen such an accomplished air hostess who seldom sings difficult songs of Rabindranath, sings classical songs in full throttled voice, watches Fellini, recites and adores modern verses and never utters a single line of Hindi film? Have you ever seen any corporate boss who has been assigned to execute in excavating bauxite worth 4 trillion US dollar (Samarendra Das & Felix Padel; Out Of This Earth: East Indian Adibasis And Aluminium Cartel), being moved from his vow by a couple of interactions with a mere journalist? So the axis of the film consisting of mainly AB, his surroundings – wife Jhilik and fiancé Raka is plainly illogical.
But still the film deserves to be popular for its outstanding world class cinematography, extremely smart editing (though his philander with snow ridden Manali, does go along within this film comfortably, but this could be a plus point for the audience too), powerful acting of specially Soumitra Chatterji, Kankana SenSharma, Priyanka Basu and in a short spell of Barun Chanda and Arijit Mitra, and startling voice of Ajoy Chakraborty, Rashid Khan, Kaushiki Chakraborty Deshican, Rupankar Bagchi and Anupam Ray.
All those with lots of intellectual discourse will definitely attract audience to make Act Zero produced by Gautam Kundu and directed by Gautam Ghosh a grand success.
Producer: Gautam Kundu
Cinematography, Music, Direction: Goutam Ghose
Story: Goutam Ghose, Samaresh Majumder
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Konkona Sen Sharma Priyanshu Chatterjee Priyanka Bose, Lalita Chatterjee, Barun Chanda, Arijit Mitra
Playback: Ustad Rashid Khan, Rupankar Bagchi, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, Kaushiki Chakrabarty Deshican, Anupam Ray.
– Pachu Ray