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Old city in new light

Striking visuals brought to life a story of love and longing in Subrata Acharya’s debut feature film, Ful Futuk Na Futuk Aaj Basanta (Spring in the air), screened at Studio 21 on Saturday.

A roomful of academicians, students and artists watched the 70-minute black- and-white production, which was selected for the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic this year.

The story revolves around an old man and a young girl who move into a decrepit locality near a river. The girl’s relationship with the man is mysterious as is their lifestyle. The local boys fall for the reclusive girl, including a shy adolescent named Bishu.

He loves reading romantic novels and draws a parallel between incidents in fiction and in his own life. He finds similarities between Bonobashi, the femme fatale in a novel he is reading, and the girl next door and identifies with one of Bonobashi’s silent lovers, Ramen.

The deft cinematography takes the minimal narrative forward, showing the building up of tension among the youths who surround the girl. Among the audience too, anticipation builds up though nothing really happens. Even at the end, many questions remain unanswered.

After the screening, Acharya took part in a discussion with Ashoke Vishwanathan, film-maker and the head of department of direction at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, and Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay, professor at the Jadavpur University film studies department.

“These days most films opt for sensationalism. Subrata has broken an order of sorts,” said Mukhopadhyay.

“This is a beautiful film mainly because it gives us a fantastic view of Calcutta. Subrata has portrayed the older parts of the city, its river and its narrow lanes well. It’s almost like a painting with light and we rediscover Calcutta afresh.”

The professor felt “seeing” constituted the essence of the film, “devoid of a concrete narrative”. “We are almost taken back to the 1950s,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Vishwanathan said Acharya had made an important film and he was particularly impressed by its rhythm. He also drew a parallel between Acharya’s work and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

“In Subrata’s film you discover new things every time you watch it. The people in the West did not fully understand Pather Panchali when they first saw it. But even then they were left with the sensation of having watched something great. There is a pain lurking somewhere in Subrata’s film too that is unmistakable, even if you don’t understand the whole of it,” he said.

Acharya admitted that he did not have a concrete script when he began shooting nearly a year and a half ago. “It is very difficult to visualise the whole film from the start. Art is often an unknown medium.”

Being an outsider in the film industry, Acharya never felt any pressure to perform or reach a milestone. “Digital technology has made film-making very easy. Anybody can make a film these days. I had doubts whether I would be able to complete mine as my film was not following any popular trend,” he said.

Acharya is now working on a documentary, The City of Saturn, and on his next feature film.