Inside Lok Sabha, Arpita Ghosh is usually never short of words. But five days from now, at the Berlin film festival, the Trinamool Congress MP will be in search of a new language. That’s the character Ghosh is playing in her debut movie, Iye, a political satire directed by Debesh Chatterjee and scheduled for Saturday in the prestigious festival’s Market Screening segment. But for the Balurghat MP, the joy of a dream debut is tempered with the realisation that she won’t be able to make it.
“With Parliament in session, I have too much work here, I have no time. Meetings are on to finalise demands for supplementary grants,” says Ghosh, a theatre actor and director. Inspired by three short stories in German writer Peter Bichsel’s book Kindergarten Stories, Iye (Others) is about three people in search of their identities in an increasingly globalised world, amid attempts by the establishment and society to enforce conformity. Ghosh plays one of the protagonists — a woman stifled by the monotony of her life, who searches for a language with known words but new meanings.
“She refuses to speak any established language. She is eventually branded as mad and rounded up by the power that resents her quest for the new. It questions why she wants a different language,” she says. Another protagonist is a man in search of a number that does not exist on any computer. Intrigued by the fact that the Kolkata Metro does not list the number of stairs in its stations, he starts counting the stairs in the city.
Then, there’s a man who searches the bylanes of Kolkata for a new country. He participates in the “World Vagabond Conference” to reach America but realises that the country he wanted to visit no longer exists.
All the three are eventually rounded up by the “power” and tortured to understand their resistance to conformity and need for divergence. Chatterjee, the director, had earlier won accolades at home and abroad for his debut feature film Natoker Moto (Like a Play).
“Bichsel’s short stories are about the search for identity in a globalised word. My film is inspired by those short stories but the context is contemporary, political. It deals with the need of the current times and need of the powers-that-be to ensure homogeneity. All those people in my film who are subjecting the three people to various methods of torture to break the hegemony of their thought… in the current times, they are wearing saffron robes,” he says.