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Hitting hard, lyrically
SHARP FOCUS

Faltu

Director: Anjan Das

Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Indrani Halder, Yash Pandit, Manjari Fadnis, Debesh Roy Chowdhury, Sumanta Mukherjee, Biplab Chatterjee, Masood Akhtar, Pradip Mukherjee, Nirmal Kumar, Chhanda Chatterjee

8/10

Director anjan das has by now well established his aesthetic preoccupation and sensibility with films like Saanjhbaatir Roopkathara and Iti Srikanta. And in Saanjhbaatir' especially, his content lends itself naturally to his poetic form. But what about a narrative that’s dark, brooding, even sinister, probing baser instincts which surface in circumstantial moral nadir' Das’ new film, Faltu, based on Syed Mustafa Siraj’s Ranirghater Brittanto becomes a cinematic oxymoron. Because it tells a story about gross human tendencies, but tells it with lyrical visual-sound imagery. And strangely, it’s this paradox of contrasting subject and treatment that works best in the film to bring out the grotesque lurking behind the supposedly ‘normal’.

In fact, what jars both stylistically and thematically are the more under-toned ‘realistic’ rape scenes because they’re too in-your-face male-gaze. And also too excessive. And surely in cinematic language/time/space, notion of regularity could be suggested without unnecessary repetition that only conveys titillation.

On a dark stormy evening a mad woman (Indrani Halder) wanders into a tranquil village by the riverbanks populated by a group of mostly male settlers. Mad woman takes shelter under thatched hayshack. Days pass. Night after night, these ‘decent’ men sneak up on her and rape her. And they keep this sordid fact to themselves in a kind of unspoken male-bonding, binding them in shameless lust and shameful secrecy. Mad woman becomes pregnant and bears a son ' christened Faltu and brought up collectively as community kid'

Technically speaking, Faltu is a rich audio-visual experience. Anup Mukherjee’s sound ' sparse, minimal yet dramatic effects. Sanjeeb Dutta’s editing ' unassuming but correct pace And, of course, Shirsha Ray’s cinematography. Beautiful, sensual images of riverine rural Bengal. Its lush landscape and copious waters depicted both minutely and expansively.

Years after mad woman’s death, question of Faltu’s paternity is raised when government officials arrive to collect census data. Faltu (Yash Pandit), now a young man, wants an answer from village elders. But the truth remains hidden in past, peering out from each old man’s guilt-ridden conscience.

At the core, Faltu is about being rootless, both biologically (illegitimate birth) and geographically (refugees). The film begins with a sort of mass exodus ' uprooted people walking, seeking new settlement. And the end juxtaposes this with Faltu’s bus travelling along a long and winding road possibly towards a new life. And finally, a sense of new hope.

But, alas, for us, the director decides to freeze-frame another ‘crazy woman’ in a visual epilogue that implies ‘nothing changes’. And thus contradicts himself.

Mandira Mitra

Faltu made me cry ' Syed Mustafa Siraj

Ranirghater Brittanto is one of the short stories closest to my heart. In fact, it’s not a ‘story’ in the true sense of the term. Rather, it’s a narrative which has multi-dimensional layers and it describes the relationship between man and nature. When Anjan Das came to me with a proposal to make a film based on it, I did have apprehensions. Yes, there is no doubt about it that I was hesitant: will he be able to transpose it successfully on celluloid'

But I am very touched after seeing the film. I am overwhelmed. I liked the film from shot one. And then, as it progressed, I realised that through each frame, camerawork and music, it is taking shape exactly the way I dreamt it up.

The first appearance [in the film] of Sureshwari Kshepi was synchronised with the structure of Devi. This imagination is fantastic, for this is the true reflection of Kshepi. The rape scenes, in my opinion, are artistically done. The scene of Alkap was like a masterly painting. And not only this, scene after scene expands one’s horizon of thought.

Anjan Das has definitely captured the essence of my story. I am 76 now. I started seeing films at a very young age. I have seen numerous films, but have never cried while watching one. Faltu made me cry. I think Anjan Das’ Faltu is the second masterpiece of Bengali film. The first one, obviously, is Pather Panchali.

(As told to

Manas Bhattacharya)

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