The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A special time for special sentiments

Durga puja is very important, not as a religious occasion, but for the enduring tradition it symbolises. Now, with so much killing in the name of religion, I normally stay away from any religious occasion. But for me, this is one puja that, at various levels, is not just religious.

For one, the puja is very dear to me, as it reminds me of my childhood, of so many days spent simply enjoying the entire occasion, of the experience as a whole. In those times, of course, the Pujas were very different.

Though there is a lot of talk about how the awards and the sharod sammans have changed the Pujas, I personally welcome the spirit of these initiatives, as they inspire organisers to strive for some kind of excellence or innovation or to further a cause.

The tradition of the Pujas is something that carries on, something that is anything but dead. In fact, it is one of the rare things that stays alive.

At another level, Durga puja is special here because it involves so many people — it is the source of livelihood for the idol-makers, the pandal-makers, the dhakis and so many more.

And the sentiment attached to this festival is unique. While the concept of Durga as the destroyer of evil is something that every Mahalaya reaffirms, we share a special relationship with Durga, the relative, returning to her baaper bari every year.

This imagery of the Devi as daughter, as a member of the family, is something I have not come across anywhere else and that is what makes it so special. There is so much personal sentiment and involvement in the puja, which is evident, say, during sindur khela, when you will find women crying, or at the time of immersion…

All this makes the Pujas such an essential part of Bengali life. And so, the imagery and the sentiment are reflected in our literature and our cinema. Ritwik Ghatak, of course, comes to mind. In Titas Ekti Nodir Naam, the image of the dead girl in the water has an immediate association with the Devi just after immersion.

In 36 Chowringhee Lane, I had used the sound of the dhak, symbolising immersion, when the ‘children’ leave the house. In Paroma, of course, there is an entire sequence during Durga puja. I used Raakhee and Goddess Durga in the same frame to show the woman with 10 hands, yet robbed of her strength.

I cannot recall any other obvious reference to the Devi or Shakti in my cinematic work, but there’s no saying that it will not crop up again.

The trinayani is another powerful association with the Pujas I have often used in Sananda. For Pushpanjali last year, we used just two eyes — those of my daughter Konkona, along with a third eye. This is a special time of the year, with special sentiments and special symbolism.

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