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Friday, December 06, 2019

Ghawre Bairey Aaj movie review: An important contemporary adaptation of Tagore’s text

Aparna Sen's new film is a critique of extremist Hindu nationalism intertwined with the complexities of interpersonal relationships.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Written by Shanoli Debnath | Published: November 19, 2019 11:15:38 am
Ghawre Bairey Aaj movie review Ghawre Bairey Aaj is a contemporary adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Ghare Baire.

Ghawre Bairey Aaj movie cast: Tuhina Das, Jisshu Sengupta, Anirban Bhattacharya, Sreenanda Shankar, Rwitobroto Mukherjee, Anjan Dutt, Sohag Sen
Ghawre Bairey Aaj director: Aparna Sen
Ghawre Bairey Aaj rating: 4 stars

At a time when India is reflecting on the Ayodhya verdict and pondering its future impact, the release of Ghawre Bairey Aaj, a contemporary adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Ghare Baire (The Home and the World, 1916), seems extremely significant. Like the text itself, this screen adaptation is a critique of extreme nationalist Hindu polarisation in politics.

Satyajit Ray’s screen adaptation of the novel Ghare Baire (1984) was an exact period recreation of the text with reference to the Swadeshi movement, the rise of Hindu nationalism, the initial impact of Bengali genteel women coming out of Purdah and embracing modern education in the early 20th century. Aparna Sen’s contemporary interpretation of the text takes the viewers through a time they have grown up and a time they are living now, experiencing a gradual saffronisation of the country’s political landscape.

Unlike many contemporary filmmakers of her age, who have limited their cinematic efforts to creating marvellous pieces of grandeur only, Sen has always been very vocal about socio-political incidents. Memories of her signing an open letter to the PM supporting Anurag Kashyap or joining the rally protesting attack on NRS Medical College junior doctors are still fresh. She has always been very firm in her opinion on women’s issues, human footprints in environmental degradation and religion in politics that reflected in her previous films like Parama, Paromitar Ekdin, Juganto, Mr and Mrs Iyer and Goinar Baksho.

In her latest release, Ghawre Bairey Aaj, she has eloquently dealt with two most relevant issues of our time– aggressive political expressions of Hindu nationalism and rural welfare activism of urban intellectuals driven by a leftist notion to eradicate inequality. The director has added a Dalit perspective to these two simultaneus discourses which not only completes the triangle but also stays loyal to the original interpersonal equation of the three principal characters of Tagore’s text.

Nikhilesh Chowdhury (Anirban Bhattacharya), chief editor of a digital news organisation marries a Dalit girl Vimla (renamed as Vrinda in the film), raised by his family, who has left behind her tribal ancestry and happily embraced the virtues of urbanisation, including formal mainstream education. This very reconstruction of Tagore’s Bimala provides a significant edge to the film. In addition, Aparna Sen has consciously grafted a journey of this character which is cumulative of the evolution of women’s position in Indian society. Tagore’s Bimala is perceived by readers as a mere catalyst in the novel’s storyline, getting involved in an extra-marital relationship and accentuating the ideological conflict between Nikhilesh and Sandip (Jisshu Sengupta).

Sen’s Vrinda (Tuhina Das) not only accentuated the rift between two friends who once shared the same political ideology but her actions in the climax also deliver a subtle political statement which was absent in Tagore’s text. This very reconstruction of the character, set in contemporary times, strongly argues in favour of the significance of the film.

In Tagore’s text and also in Ray’s film, Sandip leaves an impression of a scheming individual with the highest political ambition, absolutely devoid of empathy. In Sen’s film, Sandip is seen as an extreme leftist converted to an extreme rightist with residual feelings for his lost comrades. He takes time to decide on his concrete political enmity against Nikhilesh. His bonding with Vrinda, although triggered from lust, increases his hunger for a fulfilling relationship.

Read the review in Bengali

Jisshu Sengupta, Anirban Bhattacharya and Tuhina Das portray their respective characters well, and so does the supporting cast of Sreenanda Shankar, Anjan Dutt, Sohag Sen and Rwitobroto Mukherjee. Renowned editor Ravi Ranjan Moitra and cinematographer Soumik Halder also lend able support to Sen.

Ghawre Bairey Aj is an aesthetic movie that deals with some of the burning and compelling socio-political issues in contemporary India, even if those are viewed from an urban privileged class perspective.

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