December 1, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): STHANIYA SAMBAAD is a 2010 Bengali Film directed by Moinak Biswas and Arjun Gourisaria starring Anirban Datta, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Bratya Basu, Nayana Palit, Manali, Ashok Banerjee and others. Read the complete movie review of STHANIYA SAMBAD at Calcutta Tube.
Cast and Crew:
- Producers: Anand K. Khaitan and Arjun Gourisaria
- Direction: Moinak Biswas and Arjun Gourisaria
- Story and script: Moinak Biswas
- Cinematographer: Tribhuvan Babu
- Editing: Arjun Gourisaria and James J. Valiakulathil
- Music arrangement: Debajyoti Misra and Arindrajit Saha
- Sound Design” Neeraj Gera
- Art Director: Amit Chatterjee
- Cast: Anirban Datta, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Bratya Basu, Nayana Palit, Manali, Ashok Banerjee, Kasturi Chatterjee, Sudip Ganguly, Shubendu Jha, Mrinal Ghosh, Dilip Sarkar, Anindya Banerjee and Suvankar Mitra
- Date of release: 26/11/10
- Rating: 5/10
Deshbandhu Colony, the underbelly of Park Street and an under-construction skyscraper in New Town (Rajarhat) are three pockets of a Kolkata and its growing suburbs that together form the setting for Sthaniya Sambaad. “Once a refugee, always a refugee” is the bottom line the script reminds us of, harking back to the Deshbandhu Colony we saw in Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara where uprooted migrants from East Bengal could never reach out to the world beyond. The few, who did, never came back.
Spring in the colony paints a detailed picture, warts and all, of a fictitious Deshbandhu Colony, a microcosm of hundreds of such ‘colonies’ dotting the many pockets of Kolkata, globalization and modernization notwithstanding. The word ‘colony’ sustains its socially and economically derogatory connotations. The inhabitants, spanning three generations including youngsters who were born here, try to make sense of their seemingly senseless life. Young girls rehearse for the Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival) dotted with popular spring songs of Tagore. Atin, our hero, wanders about aimlessly, trying to find a genuine reader for his poetry. He discovers a sort of mentor in Dipankar, the para intellectual who lends him a kindly ear and collects fonts and graphics from old texts. Four young boys, forever sitting on a perch offer another microcosm where jobless youngsters busy themselves changing the graphics on the wall behind, passing naïve comments at para girls or reading the daily English newspaper with the help of a pocket dictionary. The third layer explores the interaction between two old men, one who runs the local grocery store and the other, his retired friend. They are original refugees who came in 1947. The neighbour ‘do-gooder’ obviously funded by the promoter spreads the message of Paul and Paul, which has already acquired demolition rights from the powers-that-be to crush the colony and build a skyscraper in its place.
Ananya who Atin likes to imagine is his girlfriend goes missing after her plait is chopped off by two petty thieves while she is choosing a birthday gift. This triggers off a desperate search for Ananya by Atin and Dipankar leading them to the underbelly of the strobe-lit Park Street peopled by dirty eating houses run by a minority community, or a very secretive Anglo-Indian family that trades in stolen goods. The two thieves looking for a potential buyer so that they can get admission in Paul and Paul’s computer classes (that remain confined within the printed word on the yellow handbills and the big billboards) traverse the same route. The parallel searches lead to the same destination – the terrace of another skyscraper overlooking the city and the suited and booted Paul of Paul and Paul who loves to spout poetry. The only thing that surprises him is a manuscript containing Atin’s poetry the aspiring poet found among the discarded trash on the Colony grounds ear-marked for Paul’s skyscraper.
The narrative potential of the film is warped by the semi-narrative unfolding of varied layers making Spring in the Colony too niche a film for the masses and even classes. None of the stories reach a definite closure. The suspense of Ananya getting into a cab ends in an anti-climax when she steps into a parlour on Park Street getting a stylized cut in keeping with the lost plait. Atin and Dipankar return to the colony to find that the massive bulldozer has already crushed everything he grew up with, including the grocery store with its ware laying scattered all over the place. The families, including his are helplessly huddled on the platform where the spring festival was to take place, the banners a sad pointer to the programme that never happened.
The music ‘arrangement’ with notes of the rehearsal floating into the scenario before we see them rehearsing, sounds of passing cars, buses and taxis along the Park Street neighbourhood, the boy on the perch belting out a song when challenged by the local Dada, are sound and music motifs that enrich the texture of this very unusual film. The lighting by the cameraman to define the speeding traffic along Park Street, the mellow lighting in the room where the girls arShoma A. Chatterjie rehearsing, the somewhat flat lighting on the perch boys, the dimly lit grocery shop, the twinkling lights of the city captured in a top-angle long-shot from atop a terrace are both imaginative and aesthetically designed.
Like many first film directors, Biswas and Gourisaria carry a heavy baggage of filmmakers whose work has influenced them. Ritwik Ghatak is present not only through Deshbandhu Colony but also with a passing reference to a famous line from Subarnarekha. The dialogue in deadpan tones without tone or pitch is reminiscent of early Kumar Shahani and Mani Kaul films. The low angle shot of Paul caught in semi-silhouette is a postmodern throwback on a shot from Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible that aptly captures the satire and the timeless quality of power and absolute power woven into Paul portrayed brilliantly by Bratya Basu. The hangover in this case, fails to build the bits and pieces of an interesting collage into a cohesive, holistic picture. What if there is no cohesive, holistic picture? Well then, this is precisely why the film will probably distance itself from its mass audience.
Shoma A. Chatterji