scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Saturday, September 18, 2021

Bengali indie film Runanubandha is a poetic take on memory, pursuit and a city

Independent filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya’s third feature film has been screening at Kolkata’s Nandan theatre for two weeks – no mean feat.

Written by Tanushree Ghosh | New Delhi |
Updated: September 9, 2021 10:31:35 pm
RunanubandhaRunanubandha is a daughter’s search – an arduous one – for her long-lost poet-father Michael Hemanta Biswas.

If the title bewilders, scratch the surface, dig deeper, the meaning lies just beneath. Spirituality isn’t far removed from life. It emanates from life and aids our understanding of it. Just like cinema. The symbiosis finds expression in Amartya Bhattacharyya’s films. It’s feral, it seeks no validation. It will exist, whether or not it’s accepted by those for whom it exists. And, yet, what’s the purpose of life if it isn’t touched by beauty – in philosophy and art? Visual and visceral, each cog of the gestalt Bhattacharyya presents inveigles us to places we have not been before, worlds we have not seen before. Even refamiliarises us with the known, the quotidian. Be patient, the ride is long, but rewarding. The imagery, stunning.

The camera pans over Kolkata, its flower market, the colourful strings of marigolds, and burgeoning humans juxtaposed with the sound of buzzing flies – a beautiful commentary on the hustle and bustle of a big city. Bhattacharyya excels in the documentary format, and that reflects in the documentary portions of Runanubandha (The He Without Him), too. With his third feature film – that has been running for two weeks at Nandan theatre (3.15 pm, till September 10), in Kolkata – Bhattacharyya returns to the city he grew up in, and to the city symphony genre. That an independent film, by a nonconformist, would get a fair play, and find reception among the masses is heartening.

Runanubandha photo A still from Runanubandha.

The film reminds of his 2016 National Award-winning fantasy documentary, Benaras – the Unexplored Attachments. The city is the beloved to whom a forlorn lover/stranger returns, to explore it deeply. His transitions between colour and black-and-white resurface in Runanubandha. Colour (action, the now, physical reality, the unseen) is the mnemonic that aids the greyscale (memory, familiarity, connections and quest). The gonzo lens looks at and with a woman in the big city.

Runanubandha is a daughter’s search – an arduous one – for her long-lost poet-father Michael Hemanta Biswas. Shatarupa recalls his voice – a physical memory of a person, someone intimate, she carries within her. In turn, with her memory, her father had created an imaginary daughter, his poetic muse, keeping him company in a strange city, giving his art fruition. Hence the film’s title. One day, she meets a stranger who sounds like him. But he’s a filmmaker who casts her in his film. The enterprise gets meta, as the film pivots to become a meditation on an auteur’s relationship/control over his story, his characters, who are no longer free to act, decide or feel the way they want – bereft of any agency. The protagonist and her actions, unlike Riley of the 2015 animation Inside Out, aren’t defined by the emotions naturally playing out in her mind, but those scripted, by the director of and in the film – Bhattacharyya in both roles.

Runanubandha pics Runanubandha has been produced by Swastik Choudhury, who plays a key role in the film.

Bhattacharyya, Godot-like, wields the lens and the characters to his liking. At key moments, Shatarupa looks into the camera and talks to us – the viewers, the voyeurs. The narrator is Bhattacharyya, voicing his own poetry. We don’t see him, but we hate what we hear. The director becomes overbearing, his actors impotent.

Had the Bengali film universe not had a Buddhadeb Dasgupta, who passed away this year, the master of lyricism as a cinematic idiom, there would not have been ingenious filmmakers like Aditya Vikram Sengupta and Pradipta Bhattacharya, bringing in a new kind of Bengali cinema, of possibilities and fresh departures. And widening the horizon for independent filmmakers like Bhattacharyya.

Runanubandha has been produced by Swastik Choudhury, who plays a key role in the film – also an outsider to the city like the protagonist, a puppet in the hands of the god-like auteur. Bhattacharyya puts in helpings of literature (Shakespeare), absurd theatre (Samuel Beckett), mythology (Brahma-Shatarupa track) and upends a Jungian theory. The lunatic as a loathsome soothsayer is a classic trope. And while the editing could have been a little more compact, the length a tad long, to quote Shakespeare, Bhattacharyya’s vision of “the lunatic, the lover and the poet” are “of imagination all compact”.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App.

  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement