Churni Ganguly’s award winning film Nirbashito has been received in the public domain as a film on Taslima Nasrin while the director has been vehemently opposing the fact and stressing upon the themes of freedom and separation.
However, the film opens with the real Television footage of the riots in Kolkata in November 2007 when religious minorities resorted to extreme violence on streets demanding Nasrin’s expulsion from Kolkata and the protagonist is introduced as a woman with short hair in her middle ages who had earned acclaim and notoriety in equal measures for her literary work advocating secular humanism, freedom of thought, gender equality, and human rights. The character, unnamed throughout the film, is a former physician living in exile from her motherland Bangladesh since 1994. Her only companion is her cat Baaghini.
The first question that immediately strikes is that why the film blatantly adapts the biography of a renowned literary figure and then tries to take feeble attempts like not giving the protagonist a name or changing the name of the cat, in order to keep a safe distance from one of the most controversial figures of our times. The so-called aesthetic choice comes across as infuriatingly spineless, gimmicky and lacking in what was once known as the courage of conviction.
The lack of conviction becomes even more glaring as the narrative unfolds in a strange undulating emotional curve dwindling between bouts of extreme depression and melancholia and spells of slapstick comedy. As the protagonist is sent away to Sweden, her cat is left in the care of her friend Pratim (Saswata Chatterjee) who is married to Shayonti (Raima Sen). Shayonti sees the cat as a constant reminder of the woman who plays a significant role in Pratim’s life and an inevitable human-relationship-drama ensues. And now Pritam has to find a way to get rid of the cat. He enlists the help of his friend and colleague Jayanta (Kaushik Ganguly) and the audience is treated with a stretch of comedy a la Howard Hawks, lacking in the craft! And in the comfort zone of political oblivion, the drama unfolds in all its soap-opera glory!
Meanwhile, the writer yearns for home. Despite the warm welcome in Sweden where everyone is giving her jumpers, jackets, coats and woolens, she misses the warmth of her own mother tongue and the audience is made to feel that experience when Swedish security personnel are speaking without subtitles. Communication breakdown indeed! One of the major flaws in the film is the cinematography, which is not so much of poor quality as it is uninspired. Most of the frames look like they’ve been a choice out of convenience in terms of clear visibility instead of an aesthetic one where the filmmaker would choose to communicate through images. There is a steady flow of Television like mid shots throughout the film which fails to generate any sort of an affect or communicate the movement of emotions in the narrative. Even the interiors of Sweden are warmly lit and looking like a cozy Holiday Nest while the writer is supposed to experience a ‘cold’ aloofness despite their hospitality. And in the absence of meaningful images, there is an over-abundance of background score to highlight the prevailing mood. The film seriously suffers from a certain lack of reflective silence.
The film manages to gain certain respectability only for a few minutes towards the end when the writer is being shifted to a desolate island in the Baltic and her profound sense of loneliness and longing begin to come alive on screen with the sound of howling winds and turbulent waters crashing against the shore. No one speaks for a while. And for the first time in the evening silhouette we encounter a woman who decided to stick to her beliefs to discover how lonely she truly was.
Arup Ratan Samajdar
Previous Kaahon update on Nirbashito: