Indian movies that sparked the critic in me: Rituparno Ghosh’s Dahan is each lady’s story – Sourced

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After I noticed Dahan (1997), I knew that no matter where my career took me, I’d all the time write about movies.

(Editor’s Note: This is Part 5 of a sequence by movie critic and consulting editor, Anna M.M. Vetticad)

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I remained frozen in my seat for a number of minutes after I first watched Rituparno Ghosh’s Dahan. I had been a journalist for a number of years already by then, and I recollect being shaken to the core, considering: that felt like my story. The specifics of Romita and Jhinuk’s experiences in Dahan are unrelated to something I’ve been by way of, however in these years once I had just simply found that sexual predators aren’t confined to streets and Delhi Transport Corporation buses but in addition roam skilled areas where we count on to really feel secure, I might relate to the acute loneliness of their battles as in the event that they had been my very own.

A buddy wrote to me suggesting that I characteristic Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara on this sequence. Another proposed K.A. Abbas’ Saat Hindustani. So I need to begin this week’s essay by reminding readers that this isn’t a sequence on India’s biggest movies or my all-time favourites: this can be a choice of nice Indian movies that from my childhood as much as my early years as a journalist affected me personally in particular ways in which woke up the movie buff in me, and finally set me off on a path to turning into a movie critic. The ocean in Ramu Kariat’s Chemmeen – that I watched once I was maybe eight years previous – launched me to the influence that visuals can have on a viewer. Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar gave me my maiden sliver of a realisation of the feminist potential of cinema. I used to be deeply distressed whilst a toddler by the harmful energy of social ostracism portrayed in Chemmeen and moved by the opportunity of a person getting sensitised to the apprehension of a social group aside from his personal as showcased in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Namak Haraam. Jahnu Barua’s Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door opened a window to cinema as a method of journey for me. And after I noticed Dahan (1997), I knew that no matter where my career took me, I’d all the time write about movies.

Dahan relies on Suchitra Bhattacharya’s novel of the identical name that in flip was primarily based on a real-life incident reported in Kolkata within the early 1990s. The conflicts within the movie kick off when a middle-class stay-at-home spouse, Romita Chaudhury (Rituparna Sengupta), is molested by a bunch of males one night time close to a Metro station, and her husband Palash is overwhelmed unconscious when he tries to defend her. Passers-by keep away from intervening to avoid wasting themselves the difficulty, till a younger schoolteacher known as Srobona Sarkar (Indrani Halder) stops. She is harm however succeeds in stopping the ruffians from abducting Romita.

What follows initially is to be anticipated. Srobona, generally known as Jhinuk to her family, is lauded for her braveness by the press, family, colleagues and the group. Meanwhile, Romita nurses her accidents and her psychological trauma at house.

Then comes the sudden – or somewhat, Jhinuk and Romita couldn’t have predicted the following flip of occasions though it’s unsurprising to any shut observer of middle-class Bengali society or India at giant. (Spoiler alert) Romita’s in-laws’ and husband’s preliminary concern melts away rapidly and she or he turns into an object of suspicion inside these 4 partitions as family “honour” takes priority over her well-being when gossip spreads that she could have been raped, not molested. There is concept too that she was having an affair with a number of of her attackers sooner or later. Instead of denouncing wagging tongues, Palash questions Romita’s character. When she objects to his feedback, he beats her up and rapes her.

Jhinuk has her personal share of issues. Fulfilling her authorized obligations as a witness in Romita’s case turns into a headache, and shortly she faces stress from her boyfriend Tunir to retract her testimony. His career is at stake if she persists with the reality, since one of many ruffians belongs to an influential family with connections at his office. (Spoiler alert ends)

Indrani Halder (L) and Rituparna Sengupta on the night time of the assault in Dahan.

Ghosh’s matter-of-fact course, his screenplay, his empathy and the flawless, naturalistic performing by Sengupta, Halder and their co-stars lend themselves superbly to the style through which the ladies leads are shamed for the actions of males. Dahan is credible and efficient as a result of it’s shorn of melodrama. It is chilling as a result of its echoes will be heard every day in our lives, and since the ladies are humiliated most emphatically in areas that should assure them security however do exactly the other: Romita in her bed room and Jhinuk within the courtroom where she is badgered on the witness stand.

In a wonderful essay headlined “The Impossible Collective: A Review Of Rituparno Ghosh’s Dahan (1997)” printed on June 1, 2014, on the web site of the NGO TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues), Kolkata-based educational Trina Nileena Banerjee analyses the import of varied such areas in Dahan’s vocabulary: the balcony “poised precariously between the inside and the outside, the public and the private, freedom and confinement – that becomes one of the points of contention in the domestic strife between Romita and… Palash”, the street that Romita gazes down upon from that balcony, the street down which Jhinuk walks by herself within the finishing shot, the house for the aged where Jhinuk’s grandmother chooses to remain somewhat than together with her family.

“Romita stands sleepless all night in the balcony, ignoring Palash’s accusation that this is simply another attempt to draw sexual attention to herself,” Banerjee writes. “Romita’s access to any outside space has been taken away silently but firmly after the incident of molestation; she is disallowed from leaving the house for any reason but to see the doctor. This little space of the balcony, between the bedroom where she silently endures marital rape and the outside where she is seemingly in constant danger of assault, seems the only space where she might legitimately belong.”

Rituparno Ghosh usually spoke of Satyajit Ray’s affect on him. One commonality between his works and Ray’s filmography is the fixed acknowledgement of girls as allies of girls. Public conversations about patriarchy are likely to give attention to ladies who act as enablers within the denial of rights to different ladies and de-emphasise ladies who stand by ladies – each units exist, but one is highlighted; Ray, and later, Ghosh, defied the tide. Like Arati in Mahanagar who stands as much as her boss for making judgemental remarks about his Anglo-Indian Christian lady worker, right here in Dahan the heroines’ feminine allies are underlined and careworn excess of the ladies who undermine them.

Rituparna Sengupta as Romita Chaudhury in a still from Dahan.

The most blatant of those woman-woman equations in Dahan is Jhinuk’s assist for Romita. The approach the latter’s family ensures that they by no means meet or converse after the assault (within the courtroom they don’t work together in any respect) is an ideal illustration of patriarchy’s dread of feminine solidarity.

There are different ladies that the protagonists get to lean on. Romita has her sister-in-law (Mamata Shankar) who continues to are likely to her after everybody turns towards her. She additionally finds solace within the letters she writes to her sister. And Jhinuk’s bond with Tunir is overshadowed within the narrative by her rapport together with her grandmother.

On the sidelines is the unstated solidarity with Romita and Jhinuk of one other lady within the story. It comes within the type of her revulsion for one of many molesters, a person she is engaged to marry.

Much has been product of the truth that a majority of Ghosh’s movies had been centred round ladies. The working thread of feminine camaraderie in them deserves a separate dialogue. In Unishe April (1994) – winner of the National Award for Best Feature Film – with which he shot into the limelight, a daughter (performed by Debashree Roy) has spent a lifetime resenting her mom (Aparna Sen) for prioritising her career as a dancer over her marriage and motherhood, however in the long run, she arrives at a tough understanding of that very same mom, of a lady’s right to her passions and of compatibility inside marriage. A number of years later in Titli (2002), Sen and her real-life daughter, Konkona Sensharma, performed a mother-child duo who’re exceedingly comfy with one another till {the teenager} begins to view her lovely mom as a rival in love; in the long run although, the lady evolves and is ready to see her mom as a person past her position as a mum or dad.

Barring that temporary interlude, Urmila and Tilottama a.k.a. Titli in Titli are blissful collectively. Not so the ladies of Unishe April and Dahan. Ghosh himself drew a hyperlink between the latter two movies in an interview within the 1990s, recorded when Dahan was chosen for the Indian Panorama part of the International Film Festival of India. “Every creative artist…has some amount of loneliness and I think that is a basic trait which is present in both my films, Unishe April and Dahan,” he stated. “I have dealt with the subject of loneliness where they, the mother and the daughter (in Unishe April) are lonely and they finally, either they accept their loneliness, they’re coming to terms with their loneliness or they get together… Here also my film (Dahan)…I like the story because I thought it was a communication between two women who meet in the film just once, and never do they meet again, but there is a constant interaction between these two lonely women and how finally they become two very lonely individuals in the system.”

My takeaway from Unishe April was not loneliness however a long-overdue articulation of affection. The older lady within the story, Sarojini, has not been lonely within the typical sense: she is surrounded by college students, followers and a boyfriend, if one may name him that, who she has chosen to not marry since she sees no cause for it. Her loneliness arises from her daughter Aditi’s undisguised hostility in the direction of her. Aditi, for her part, has been desolate whereas wallowing in her bitterness in the direction of Sarojini and romanticising her lifeless father. The climax, nevertheless, is one among acceptance between the 2. And perhaps companionship?

Indrani Halder as Srobona Sarkar a.k.a. Jhinuk in a still from Dahan.

Dahan concludes although on a observe of each loneliness and hope – neither Romita nor Jhinuk is proven taking an overtly rebellious stand about their respective relationships, however the finale stays open-ended and therefore, optimistic on that entrance for viewers who’re averse to fatalism.

The Bengali phrase “dahan” interprets to “combustion” or “burning”. The title is an apt signifier of the blazing loneliness within the two ladies’s persevering with struggles – regardless of the backing they get from particular quarters – and the flickering flame of hope that they could but triumph, each of which the movie leaves us with.

Ghosh deservedly received a National Award for Best Screenplay for Dahan, whereas Sengupta and Halder shared the National Award for Best Actress that yr. Ghosh was not all the time as sensible as he was in Dahan. In truth, in later years, he turned terribly inconsistent, swinging wildly from the abysmal pretentiousness of the English movie The Last Lear (2008) starring Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah and Jisshu Sengupta, to the heat and old-world atmospherics of the Bengali movie Noukadubi (2011) starring Raima Sen, Sengupta, Riya Sen, Dhritiman Chatterjee and Prosenjit. His admirers would disagree, after all. Either approach, together with his greatest works – Dahan being on prime of that record – he earned his place amongst Indian cinema’s greats.


Indian movies that sparked the critic in me: Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar is the definitive feminist basic

Indian movies that sparked the critic in me: Ramu Kariat’s Chemmeen stays misunderstood and misrepresented – even by its admirers

Indian movies that sparked the critic in me: Jahnu Barua’s Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door is an indictment of cold-hearted growth

Indian movies that sparked the critic in me: Was Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Namak Haraam a closeted homosexual romance?

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