I personally feel ‘films about relationships’, or ‘somporker tanaporener chhobi’, have become a fraternity joke of sorts, a cliche. It’s a pity indeed that while misusing the term, we often tend to forget that almost all films, all stories told under the sun are about ‘relationships’, in one way or the other. Also, some of the best films in the history of cinema are films about relationships between individuals, unabashedly.
And so is Abosheshey by Aditi Roy. Only it avoids almost all the practices that make it a cliche. It moves beyond the ambit of hackneyed illicit affairs, and actually probes into the heart and the minds of not only the main players of the story but also that of the people who surround them. Good cinema is as much about creating an ambience as anything else. And that Abosheshey does, by trickling into the dingy lanes and streets of this beautiful city, her beauty oozing out of her dereliction, her melancholia. In the process, the story transcends from being confined to only three or four characters that we see on screen into one about many such Suchismitas, Soumyos, Nandinis or Amits — people who are perfectly ordinary in the way they come across but are exceptional because of the small choices they make, the lives they live, the deaths they die.
This is not a review. This is intended to be a jotting down of the way the film has made me feel. Despite the limitation that words impose on one’s expression, I’ll try my best.
This is also a thanksgiving, of sorts.
Firstly, I wish to thank director Aditi and writer Neel B. Mitra for redefining the genre of relationship films, which otherwise has become overburdened with glossy production design, superficial relationship portrayals, self-indulgent themes and soap-like heightened drama, thus turning it into a tiresome cliche.
Thanks to the creators for choosing a subject which has always been, and will remain, really close to my heart. I’ve been living with my mother since my birth. I know her but I don’t recognise her when she frequently gets overbearing and annoying, and ends up fighting with me. Whereas when I happen to bump into a new chapter from some past corner of her life, something that she wrote or thought or even did which was unthinkable in her times, I feel I recognise the person that she is, but I do not know her. Goes without saying, the latter is a happier feeling. Even after 30 years of my life, my journey in search of the woman who’s my mother is still on, and will be for the rest of it.
Unfortunately for Soumyo, the protagonist of Abosheshey (brilliantly essayed by Ankur Khanna), by the time he lands in Calcutta, his mother Suchismita (couldn’t be anyone but Roopa Ganguly) has already died in a car accident. He starts off on a rather official trail to round up formalities concerning his mother’s property but gradually, almost unwillingly, gets sucked into this unsuccumbing city. His official trip soon turns into a personal journey in search of his deceased mother, who had stayed back while his father left with him for foreign shores while he was still only an infant. Soumyo, now a young man, learns about his mother through her letters, all of which were addressed to him, and more importantly, through the set of people who surrounded her throughout her solitary life. By the time he learns who Suchismita Roy was and that she has waited all her life for him to return at least once, it’s a bit too late. He can only live with what he has recovered through what is left behind and can never meet with her for real.
Thanks again, for making me rest my faith in and fall in love once again with my city. As Suchismita in her letter describes, what makes this city work is its people, who in turn make this city possess a heart of its own. The pre-interval scene where Soumyo, on a drunken night out with some of his mother’s friends, lays his ears on the asphalt, criss-crossed by serpentine tram tracks, almost serves as an allegory for the way our individual lives are interconnected, and yet we follow our own paths.
It’s probably also the crossroads where Soumyo finally gives in to the subtle and melancholic magic of the city, and hence to the discovery of his forgotten mother’s realm. For outsiders, it might be the Victoria Memorial, the Howrah Bridge, the rosogolla or the Durga Puja which constitute their idea of Calcutta, but for us who live in this city, it’s the finer yet mundane nuances across a wide spectrum that make us celebrate the city. From the stream of home-bound cars in the evening on a sprawling flyover to a shanty book shop on College Street (our own equivalent of Shakespeare & Co) to the sleeping metal kettle in a roadside tea stall… these are the images because of which some of us, who despite having the opportunity, haven’t been able to leave and settle in some other more ‘developed’ city.
Thank you Aditi, for resting your faith in a style of filmmaking which is so cautiously and carefully simple. The film proves yet again that to make a good and grand film, you don’t need glitzy, high-tech making. What you do need is conviction in your craft and a grandeur in the basic content. The choice of simple, candid camera movements and a tad delayed cuts add to the film’s languid, poetic pace. The meandering between the past and the present is almost effortless. I have always been aware of the greatness of cinematographer Ranjan Palit, and I still wish that I get an opportunity to work with him some day. The best thing about Abosheshey’s cinematography is the fact that it blends in with the film so well that it doesn’t stick out like a separate department and, unlike in many other films, successfully becomes an integral part of the film.
That goes for the performances as well. Nobody shows off, no one is trying to outdo the other. It all fits in, in near perfect harmony. I can’t help but wonder why Roopadi got awarded for her singing and not her performance! Not that she hasn’t sung her two songs well! But her act of constantly balancing free-wheeling happiness and sadness as the leading lady Suchismita enriches the film like nothing else does.
Ankur’s Soumyo, I’ve already spoken about. Raima (Sen) as Nandini looks the part and adds to the film with her endearing presence. Her flashback sequences with Suchismita, her ‘Moni maa’, especially where they break into an impromptu Aaj bijon ghare together melts one’s heart. But a special mention needs to be made of the supporting cast, headed by Suman (Mukhopadhyay). There are actors, and then there are actors just a glimpse of who make you imagine the detailed nuances of the character, propels you to imagine stories pivoted on them. Sumanda definitely belongs to the second lot. His contribution as a director in Bengali cinema and on stage is beyond doubt, but here he (as Amit, a friend and silent admirer of Suchismita) through a subdued yet superlative performance emerges as a major character despite his role being a supporting one.
The simplistic elegance of the film is reflected in its music too. Prabuddha Dasgupta creates a sound that is purely acoustic, essentially minimal and completely international. Apart from the two Tagore songs rendered beautifully by Roopadi, Shera path sung by Dibyendu Mukherjee is a song that almost surmises the mood of the entire film. That trill of the mandolin, those sombre string lines will keep haunting me for years to come. Not only does it prove the mettle of the singer and the music director, but also that of the lyricist Srijato.
The degree to which I’ve been praising the film so far might give the readers a feeling that it’s a film bereft of even a single flaw. Although finding flaws in a film depends on individual tastes, and liking or disliking a piece of work is a relative matter, there sure are certain things that I found discrepant in Abosheshey.
When a woman, under circumstances, choses to spend her life on her own terms, all alone, she sure would have certain practicalities to take care of. Given that she has lovely friends and well-wishers surrounding her, she would still need a job or something to fend for herself. It would have been nice to see Suchismita, with a perennial glint of sadness in her eyes, juxtaposed against the mundane chores of her professional life. But all we see of her is either while she muses obsessively over the life and the family she once had, or surrounded by near and dear friends who fill up her vacuous life. This at times makes the film’s core crisis point look a tad hypothetical, if not superficial.
But more than that, the unexpected plot point towards the end of the film has bothered me more. I’m not going to give it away here, but I genuinely feel a pristine film like this did not need a twist of sorts, and that of a kind that doesn’t add anything to the film, in my judgement. The basic narrative of a son’s quest for the identity of his deceased mother was enough for the film to survive.
Having said that, I will sum up by saying that these are only minor blotches and they don’t manage to take much away from the innate quality of the film. I personally prefer to look at works in a holistic way and in totality, Abosheshey speaks of a sensibility that is subtle yet confident, subdued yet powerful and reminds one of European cinema.
Thank you Aditi, for making such an elegant film, the elegance rising from your love for cinema, love for your subject and, as I’ve said before, the conviction in your content and craft. Don’t bother if your film has taken too long to see the light of day, or if it’s not a ‘blockbuster’, you’ve made a ‘good’ film which is going to stay with people like us for a very, very long time.
Did you like/dislike Abosheshey? Tellt2@abp.in