Darpan prompted me to reflect.
Reflect on my roots; on the sound of passenger train chugging past my childhood in Midnapore; on the smell of wet grass next to the rice fields; on my instincts which caught unaware grasshoppers aplenty; on Anandabazaar Patrika’s gossip provocation capabilities; on the “hole-in-the wall” next door shop which sells the world’s best jilapi & singhara.
It’s true that the Bengali in me is a decade older than me, and as is, likely to perish off sooner, than what I imagine. Such a shame. I never bothered teaching “mother tongue” to my kids – “learn english, learn mandarin – they will dictate the world for coming centuries” …have often argued…with same zeal as normally demonstrated by members of my community.
My visits to Calcutta (that’s the way I last know) are no more than transit halts. Visit to my roots or relatives are now restricted to marriage ceremonies (and even there I look for excuses) and the only people I speak in my local dialect with, aside my wife, are ones with whom I have no other medium to communicate.
Such a shame.
But Darpan prompted me to reflect. Because aside food, if there has been one connect constantly alive in me. Its in our movies.
This may sound laughable, because Tollywood isn’t a rage in her own kingdom. Notice the domination of Bollywood songs blaring from loudspeakers during festivals or occasions – amply reflected in most Bengali movies, including Chaplin (which was in Darpan last year).
Much of the current depressive state of the Bengali in me is due to a resignation that Calcutta, or even Kolkata, will just continue to disintegrate. In an age where cities are growing in as superpowers of their own (even Bollywood has movie titled ‘Shanghai’), I can’t think of any other modern city which has fallen apart so much. From a city which was a capital of a land stretching from Ceylon to Burma, it’s importance is now even below the Hyderabads and Punes. And it continues.
But while everything about the city has stagnated, Bengali cinema continues to evolve.
Again. this may sound laughable. The standards set by the first person to have put Indian movies on global map, Satyajit Ray, and the baton carried by Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Shyam Benegal, Tapan Sinha, Gautam Ghose and their ilk would possibly look insurmountable.
That hasn’t been the case. Bengali cinema is one rare industry, globally (mind you) where within budgets and in the ‘parallel cinema’ genre they have constantly manufactured highly acclaimed movies (in popular terminology 4stars-4.5stars/5 movies) year on year.
The reason, and the only reason, behind this is the uniqueness in storylines, plots which this inventory brings. It is said that when some of your senses start weakening, all energies get diverted to your strongest sense. The analogy may be working for Kolkata - with everything else falling apart, all energies have gone in harvesting the intellect even further.
A foley artist (person who reproduces sounds in films, video games, televison) seeking for perfection; A small time mimic artist risking a lifetime opportunity to celebrate his son’s birthday; An army of ghosts protecting their only abode; An aged rock musician’s tryst with alcoholism and young women; A suspended cop’s way to get back at his department – these are storylines which seldom hit you.
Darpan had one such lineup last year, and it prompted me to reflect; to keep aside the jalebi and the samosa.