SONG SUNG TRUE: The iconic Ei poth jodi na shesh hoy sequence in Saptapadi
Uttam as Othello and Suchitra as Desdemona in Saptapadi
She smoked and she drank. She sat astride as she rode pillion and cooed “tumi bolo” into her boyfriend’s ears. She saved lives and swore at god. Rina Brown, who rushed in where even vamps feared to tread in prim-and-propah 1961, managed to waltz into Bengali hearts like no other.
Now, Suchitra Sen’s iconic Anglo-Indian character in Ajoy Kar’s Saptapadi will be reassessed by film-makers Rituparno Ghosh and Mainak Bhaumik at CIMA Gallery’s In Search of a Context, the month-long exhibition-workshop that seeks to “re-intellectualise old cultural themes”.
The five-minute video, made in the form of a mega theatrical trailer with scenes interspersed with texts, will be shown on a 21-inch TV at the Sunny Park gallery, from December 9. “It’s an interesting study of various social complexities in a mainstream format,” explains Rituparno, steering the art project titled Saptapadi: 7 Steps to Shattering Stereotypes.
“It’s a fun and interesting look at what is considered a landmark in Bengali culture, worth historical value if taken out of context and seen as a film in today’s social and cultural set-up,” adds Rituparno.
Viewers at the art exhibition will be able to engage in reinterpreting and finding new meanings in the 48-year-old film starring Suchitra and Uttam Kumar.
“They’re not just scenes and images but elements and aspects that have been compiled to show how stereotypes were being broken at that time. These stereotypes related to feminism and religion are still very relevant today with people and the nation grappling with them,” says Pratiti Sarkar of CIMA.
The experimental collage by two filmmakers of two different generations and schools of filmmaking includes the famous motorcycle song and the Othello scene to draw parallels and highlight the use of disparate voices.
“The film that’s primarily known for the song Ei poth jodi na shesh hoy has a very popular Othello excerpt dubbed by Jennifer Kendal and Utpal Dutt. It’s two different voices fusing into one character. It’s something that’s done often today but in this film it works seamlessly,” explains Mainak, the maker of Aamra, touted as Tollywood’s first sex comedy.
Apart from highlighting Saptapadi as the first Bengali film to celebrate the minority community of Anglo-Indians, Rituparno and Mainak also dwell on Rina Brown’s character of “a promiscuous and violent heroine” who goes on to become one of our most memorable celluloid characters.
“It’s interesting to see how an English-speaking, cigarette-smoking, female protagonist in pants is not made out to be a vamp in a film of that era,” reveals Mainak.
But how did a mainstream Tollywood film make it to an an exhibition at the art gallery? “We were brainstorming and thinking of all the artistes we could include in the exhibition when we thought of having someone from cinema because Bengal is all about cinema. We contacted Rituparno. He was very keen and accepted the offer immediately,” says Pratiti Sarkar.