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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Asha Jaoar Majhe (Bengali) / Stunning to the core

Asha Jaoar Majhe is unique. It is set against the backdrop of contemporary Kolkata in terms of its geographical and cultural setting

Mumbai | Updated: December 5, 2014 1:00:43 am
Basabdatta Chatterjee in a still from Asha Jaoar Majhe Basabdatta Chatterjee in a still from Asha Jaoar Majhe

Producer: For Films and Sanjay Shah

Story, script, direction: Aditya Vikram Sengupta

Cinematography: Aditya Vikram Sengupta and Mahendra Shetty

Editing: Aditya Vikram Sengupta and Sanjay Shah

Cast: Rittwick Chakraborty and Basabdatta Chatterjee

Asha Jaoar Majhe is unique. It is set against the backdrop of contemporary Kolkata in terms of its geographical and cultural setting. In an economic sense, it catches the recession and its impact on the common man and woman in an urban Indian metro. The film opens on a narrow, low-middle-class street of Kolkata with the camera following a young woman walking away from the camera, perhaps to work. The camera cuts to a small room where a young man takes dried clothes off the clothesline. The ribbons at the bottom of the screen inform you about the spiraling recession sending prices high, increasing unemployment and generally making the common man’s life more problematic than it already is.
The director has refrained from labeling the man and woman with proper names. Yet, over the film, the two acquire distinctly individual identities of their own and also throw up the harmony and the symbiosis they share through a surrealistic dream sequence shot in Black-and-White. The film uses silence as a strategy, a method, and a ‘voice’ with multiple layers that underscore how visuals can tell a story without using dialogue. The silence is punctured with ambient sounds like old film songs floating across and into the lives of the couple, a music teacher teaching Rabindra Sangeet to a girl who sings off-note, hawkers crying their wares on the streets below, captured beyond the visual frame of the film.
Within this silent foreground, the story begins to tell itself out. The man is the husband and the woman is his wife. When she does the day shift at a bags factory, the husband busies himself with the daily chores and the other way round. He does night shift at an old printing press. So, they hardly meet except, perhaps, on a holiday or when they have some ‘together’ time between their respective shifts. There is no gender apartheid. What they share is silence that speaks a thousand words.
The camera moves at a grindingly slow pace, with panning shots that focus on apparently minor details about their daily chores. A symbiosis in a husband-wife relationship is established.
Rittwick Chakraborty and Basabdatta Chatterjee are amazing in their silence because for any actor, to emote and express without dialogue is really difficult. The ambient sound design by Anish John is stunning. The climax is shot in Black-and-White which returns to colour when the film returns to ground reality, the wife preparing to go out to work, completing the circular motion bringing it back to where the film began. The international accolades it is winning across festivals are well deserved. Please do watch the film to enjoy the beauty of silence in a world gone chaotic with cacophony.


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