Sankhachil: Death of Aesthetics

Posted by Kaahon Desk On April 20, 2016

The latest film from Goutam Ghose is in news everywhere. One, it has bagged the national award in the Best Bengali Film category. Two it is an Indo–Bangladesh co-production released simultaneously in both the countries. Newsmakers see the second aspect as a new road to a larger market for Bengali films that is supposed to benefit both West Bengal and Bangladesh.

First the film; the story hovers around a family in Bangladesh who live just opposite to Taki on the Indian side. The countries divided by the river Icchamoti and patrolled by respective border forces on their speedboats. A father Badal played by Prosenjit Chatterjee is a righteous man and a loving father. And the mother Laila, played by Kusum Sikder is always supportive to her husband and daughter. The daughter Rupsha is the bone of contention in the story. She is an innocent girl of 12 who has a serious heart problem with nonfunctional valves. Rupsha is innocent to the core, her innocence being portrayed through her closeness to nature.  That’s the beginning and end of her character graph. Poor village girls are nothing but innocent and they only cling to nature and Tagore, even in 2016. This is clearly the cliché and hackneyed stereotype at its best. The plot moves with Rupsha’s health deteriorating and the couple takes her to India crossing over illegally. Here Badal and Laila, now survive as Hindus with false ID’s and face a series of stereotyped urban brutalities. And even after philanthropist supports Rupsha does not survive. Death of innocence sets free Rupsha’s loved bird Sankhachil across the barbed wires that separates the two countries while her body is brought back along the river.

The principal plot line where a poor and illegal immigrant family crosses over to India for availing medical facilities definitely had promise. But the film misses the poignant tales of survival, struggle and human spirit and ends up as an overdramatic TV soap on big screen. The problem is how the world is seen through the eyes of the director. In his world cliché pastoral innocence confronts the hackneyed dark urban meanness. Portrayals that are beyond any facets of realism, struggle for living or hope. When can the so called ‘serious’ and ‘alternative’ Bengali film come out of the unrealistic and filmic ‘stereotypes’? Perhaps never and at least not with Goutam Ghose. After a lifetime of filming a product called Sankhachil self evidently says so.

What is more outrageous is the respect shown to Ritwik Kumar Ghatak at the beginning of the film via titles. One wonders what Ritwikish is in this film that is anything but not Ritwik. If shooting in Bangladesh, usage of Tagore and folk songs and having drama as a tool is Ritwik, then one is forced to say that Mr. Ghose needs to revisit Ritwik very seriously. If Ritwik Ghatak is remembered, he is remembered for his powerful tales, hard hitting melodrama, stark visualization and thick sound tracks and most importantly Ritwik Kumar Ghatak wasn’t cliché. Perhaps Mr. Ghose was trying to earn more brownie points via names dropping. One cannot help but point out at least one aspect of Sankhachil that is so relevant here. The film that swears by Ritwik surpasses all in its sense of visualization. In this film Goutam Ghose unlike his other films rests the responsibility of cinematography on Ishan Ghose. The outcome is a random and erratic movement of cranes and jibs which lacks any sense of aesthetics. Added to this was the usage of more mobile digital cameras. The grand outcome is getting the visual experience completely helter-skelter. Ritwik!!! Oooops!!!

Coming back to the news making referred to at the beginning. The National Award Jury either had its own reasoning behind making Sankhachil the Best Bengali Film or Bengali films are deep dead aesthetics wise, thus making way for this bird. And to Bengali film business!! The reviewer could not watch the film on his first trial as the show was cancelled due to lack of minimum required footfalls. On the second effort he made it…

Uro Khoi

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