Monday, 26 October 2015

Movie Review: Chotushkone (Bengali)

This weekend, I happened to watch one of Srijit Mukherji's movie, Chotushkone. Even though the movie released last year, I just felt the need to review it for it's been long since I watched an Indian movie that breaks the conventional style of story-telling.

You know the movie is going to be gripping when the first scene of the movie begins with a woman writing a suicide-note stating that no one is responsible for her death and then scratching out the 'no one is responsible' part. The premise of the film seems simple at first: four directors are on their way to meet a producer who has agreed to make a film featuring four stories directed by them. Each of their stories, however, must represent 'death' as a theme in some way or the other. These four directors, Trina, Joy, Sakyo and Dipto are familiar with each other, and as the story progresses, their past is discussed and several disclosures come to light.

Even though 'chotushkone' actually means a quadrangle, I liked the way Mukherji deconstructs this structure, first, as a triangle, and revealing the fourth side only towards the end. I will take the risk of not saying anymore about the plot for I do not wish to give the story away. Chotushkone  takes the audience on a bumpy ride with constant flashbacks merging with the present day. The plot is extremely layered with many twists and turns, but one criticism that I do have is that I feel Mukherji gave the climax away a little, say about five to ten minutes, early. Also, some of the sub-plots could have been fleshed out more. Out of the stories of the four directors, I particularly enjoyed Trina's story the most.

The music is melodious and refreshing. I particularly loved the song Bawshonto Eshe Geche
The cinematography is brilliant with the film being shot in five different tones. Srijit Mukherji's brilliant story is supported by a stellar cast comprising of Aparna Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Goutam Ghosh and Chiranjit Chakraborty.

I would recommend this movie to everyone. It is an uplifting ode to Bengali cinema that breaks conventional styles of storytelling and is bound to keep you entertained. Looking forward to watching more movies from Srijit Mukherji. He is definitely one to watch out for!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Understanding

It was a crowded day at the mall. Two friends mercifully managed to get off work early in order to catch up.
"I couldn't wait to see you!" she exclaimed. "He finally proposed!"
"Oh, that's wonderful!" came the squeaky high-pitched response.
Both friends embraced each other - one to share her happiness, and the other to mask her state of confusion...

They chattered endlessly while eating dinner. In between bites, the friend spread out a piece of paper and scribbled earnestly. Lots of plans needed to be made. Apparently, an entire childhood had not been enough to fantasize about the dream wedding. The friend continued jotting down finer details of the wedding-dress and the guest-list. She drew out a neat timeline of the tentative flow of events. It gave her some sort of stability and comfort knowing that there was something solid and familiar amidst all the haphazard chaos.

Indeed, the amount of chaos in her mind was tremendous! She was still trying to process all the information. Everything was happening too soon and she could feel the wall that she had built around herself crumbling. From a distance, one could see two friends excitedly talking about the future. Only she knew the true reason behind her incessant babble. She knew if her mouth failed to do its job, her eyes would give away what she was so desperately trying to conceal.

She had always been the spare wheel. Time after time, she had seen her friends jump from one relationship to another until they had finally settled upon 'the one'. She had been with them in all their adversities, nursing them through rejections and break-ups, assuring them that things would be all right. And in the end, things had always fallen into place. Well, for them. Once they had settled in their newly-found haven, they conveniently left her behind.

She had never felt completely isolated for she was approachable and it was easy making new friends. Yet, she missed those who had let her go. Building relationships took time and it wasn't fair to have to build a new one all the time from scratch. Was she so easy to forget, she often wondered to herself. Why was she always just a filler? Surely, her existence had more meaning.

As she reflected on her past friendships, she realized no one had been by her side when her heart got broken. No one cleared their schedule to make time for her even during emergencies while she had always been just a phone call away. Perhaps, she was the problem. Not they. Perhaps, no one would give her a lot of importance until she started prioritizing herself.

Suddenly, she saw her friend staring at her.
"Penny for your thoughts?" remarked the friend. "Where have you drifted?"
"Nothing," she simply shrugged. "I was just thinking of work," she said. "Something funny had happened..."
"Oh, I will hear about that later!" dismissed her friend.
She knew this was the moment. It was up to her to seize it. "No," she snapped. "I would like to talk about it now because 'later' never comes. I am very happy for you. I genuinely am! But have you realized that in this entire while, not once have you asked me how I'm doing? Would you not like to know what is going on at my end?"
Her friend was surprised. Nevertheless, she decided to humour her. "Sure, tell me. Did someone ask you out?"  
The dismissive tone hurt. She realized that she could not expect to be treated the way she desired from her friend. It was her fault, she acknowledged, but there was no point in beating herself over it. It was time to rectify the mistake she had been committing for so many years. She had to respect herself in order to get that respect from others.
"I just remembered that I need to be somewhere," she said. "Sorry, but I really need to go."

She picked up her bag, dished her share of the bill on the table and walked out without looking back even once. She knew she was leaving behind a rather perplexed friend, but her heart skipped with glee at the realization that she was also leaving behind her old inhibited self. The tables were turned and from that moment onward, everything would revolve not around the others but around her and her needs. She had embarked on a new journey and once again, life would become beautiful!

Monday, 12 October 2015

Moving Forward

They met yet again only to talk about work and other vacuities. Suddenly, he glanced at the clock and, with a nod and a smile, indicated that it was time for him to leave. She watched him walk away and wished he would stay a while longer, for the conversation was still not over. She could listen to him talking about things forever.

She loved him. She really did. She was drawn to him the way one's in love with their favourite bar of chocolate - it seems to be the best and one wants to eat it all the time but it's not really a healthy choice.

The love that she had for him consumed her, left her parched and begging for more even after it had dried out and left her for dead. Consumed by his love, she felt as if she was living a fairy-tale for she was obsessed with a love that was not real. She was in love with a love that did not exist.
She loved him more than she loved herself. She idealized him and put him on a pedestal. And, each time, he let her down, she ignored the shattering of her heart. "He's only human," she tried reasoning with herself. "Everyone makes mistakes." She believed he was not doing it on purpose. Love blinded her and she failed to see him for what he was - a self-destructive being that eviscerated every good thing that came his way. She found herself hopelessly devoted to him. She was there for him at every beck and call. Her life revolved around his happiness. Making him happy was no easy task. Sometimes, she messed up and had to face his wrath. But the storm always cleared after a while; and when the sea calmed, she relished in those brief moments of tranquility. For sporadic and fleeting periods of time, the waves stopped relentlessly crashing down her soul, and she found herself starting to trust him again completely.

But in her heart of hearts she knew what was amiss. Secretly, she knew she had become addicted to the pain.  She knew she had loved him more than she had loved herself but true love did not hurt. True love is not an addictive drug.

Finally, she knew it had to end. She had thought him to be her knight in shining armour. But, in reality, she was the one who had been saving him. With this realization, she knew she had to let him go. She had to let him go even though she knew that she could have him all to herself. She loved him and thought the world of him. Still, she had to let him go. She had to let him go because she could not see beyond her inadequacy of being with him.

As she saw him walk out of the door, she felt her heart crumble. She followed him outside and surprised him with a sudden hug. She held him close and felt at home. She felt love - that mysterious thing everyone seems to be indulging in the eternal search for ! She could not let him go. She did not want to! She could not see beyond her inadequacy of calling him - her own, having him all to herself.

But she let him go. She let him go - knowing he was finally home. She found happiness in the belief that he was where he belonged. She had lost her way and needed to find a place she could call home. Home was not where he was. Love did not reside where he did. She needed someone who loved her no matter what. She needed someone who made her feel free. Love always transpired between equals. She needed to find a man who deserved her as much as she deserved him. She needed a man who loved himself in the same manner as she had started loving herself.
In leaving him, she found herself. He was all she had. But she let him go knowing 'she' was all he had.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Absent Friend

Every morning as I rushed out of the house, I always saw her lying in her self-designated spot with eyes only half-open. She enjoyed a lazy morning and rarely stirred. Initially, as I passed her by, she would look up expectantly, hoping to be patted. On most days, she would face disappointment because I, usually running late to work, could not afford to waste an additional five seconds to pat her and go. On the few days that I did manage to find the time to pet her, she would get a wee bit more demanding and want to be stroked all over. She would then follow me till the end of the gate where she would stare at me with a forlorn gaze as I left her behind and headed towards the station.

She had been living in the compound for many years and had befriended all the small children and the watchmen. Everyone called her 'Bubbly'. Our compound has many dog-lovers and she was always well-fed. Every evening when I returned home, she would again be lying in the compound treating herself to a siesta after eating a heavy, hearty meal.

It was in the night-time that she was quite active. Whenever I returned home late, she would nicely be taking a stroll in the compound. Her presence made me feel safe.

There were occasions when she did venture outside to meet some of her other friends. There was a black and white dog who often visited her, but she was very possessive when it came to the sharing of attention! I remember playing with her black-and-white friend on a couple of occasions but if I dared to first pet her friend rather than her, the jealous dog would snarl, growl and chase her friend away!

Once, the watchmen had adopted a small kitten that had been abandoned by its mother, and they were looking after her. The poor kitten was missing one leg and half a tail. I had always heard that cats and dogs can never be friends but Bubbly, to my surprise, welcomed the little one and had no qualms in sharing her relaxation-spot with her. Of course, the only time she threw tantrums was if I ended up playing with the kitten before greeting her. Oh, how she would sulk!

On some particular nights, Bubbly would allow me to feed her biscuits. Such times were rare as she used to be usually full. But it was funny to see her jumping to eat those biscuits just because she knew that if she refused, I would offer them to the kitten who I had affectionately named Beraal!

Bubbly had been missing for quite some days. There had been episodes in the past where she went into hiding for quite a while and suddenly resurfaced so I did not read much into her disappearance. But, after a while, her absence became more pronounced. It had been more than ten days since I saw Bubbly. Finally, after a conversation with a watchman, I remembered how dogs run away from their homes when they know that their end is near; and I realized, with a lump in my throat, that my Bubbles was no more.

I knew she was quite old, but I wish she had been around longer. Whenever I felt upset, I would just take a walk down my building and play with her. She was intuitive and seemed to know when something was bothering me - on those occasions, she would be more playful than normal; and spending time with her caused my troubles to evaporate for that brief moment. I miss her. I wish I had got a chance to say a proper good-bye. After all, she was the pet I never had. I just hope my memories are enough to keep her alive...

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Meeting

Note: This entry is a sequel to a former entry "With...Without...". Do re-visit the post if you wish.

Morning arrived the way it always did. She pressed the 'snooze' button and hoped to catch an extra ten minutes of sleep. It had been more than two days since she had gone to work. She could not be absent yet another day. What would she say? She wasn't allowed to call in to work depressed. Mustering all her strength, she dragged her feet out of bed and into the bathroom.

As she stared at her reflection in the mirror while brushing her teeth, she noticed how she seemed to have aged. She noticed her wrinkles and dark spots and wondered if she should try getting her hands on the popular anti-ageing cream she remembering seeing in an advertisement. Chuckling at that thought, she said out loud, "You are too old to be influenced by advertisements! Get a grip of yourself!" The reflection glared back at her. In each other's reflections, they just became uglier.

Work was mundane, as usual. She managed to wrap her work on time, and headed for the bridge overlooking the river...the spot where they had last met. She hadn't visited that place in a while. It looked deserted and forlorn. No one seemed to have come there in quite some time. Weeds were overgrown and the benches were covered with dry leaves of the autumn. She dusted a spot and made herself as comfortable as was possible.

Life had not been easy since he had gone, she reflected. She knew she had built a huge wall around herself which no one was able to break and enter. She had ignored every phone call she possibly could from her social circle of friends, because even though they had been calling the right number, she was no more the person they were looking for. Without him, she was not her old self anymore.

He crossed familiar hills and jaded pathways on his way back. No road was new to him - he had travelled through them all. Yet he seemed to be lost. Was it possible to be lost on the same path one was walking? Was retracing steps a good idea? It had to be! Even if he was lost, he was still walking down his own path - and surely only that could lead him to his destiny. Perhaps, being lost could be holy as well. It gave him time not only to find a completely new life in the cracks, but also to rediscover the old life and see it from a completely new perspective.

He had begun his walk a long time ago and he had no idea when he became utterly lost. He just hoped, as he walked down the recognizable path, his beloved would find him.

Both could not believe the sight that greeted their eye. She saw his silhouette at a distance, and gasped as the figure approached nearer and nearer in view. He had grown a beard and he looked scraggly, but his eyes still had that merry twinkle that always made her go weak at the knee. He stared at her and couldn't believe his eyes! She still looked beautiful. Just the way he remembered her.

"I can't believe you are really here!" she screamed.
"Neither can I," he winked.
"So, is it love, or is it a habit?" she mused.
"I think it's a good habit! One that I'd like to keep," he answered cheekily.

She still found it hard to believe he was back. Was his quest over? "So, you found God finally?" she managed to ask.
"Ah, no! God found me," he said and stared at her intently.
"...And I trust Him more not to leave," she finished his thought, and put an end to all possible dialogue by sealing his lips with a much-awaited kiss and enveloping herself in his arms for a much-needed embrace.