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Thursday, January 27, 2011

* Criterion!

My research article titled "The Spiritual Sense of Alienation in Diasporic Life: Reading Anita Desai, Bharati Mukherjee, Sunetra Gupta and Jhumpa Lahiri" has been published in The Criterion: An International Journal in English (ISSN 0976-8165) Vol. I. Issue III (December 2010), Ed. Dr. Vishwanath Bite.
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Arekti Premer Golpo! Where it fails?

Is Arekti Premer Golpo a good movie? Yes. Is Arekti Premer Golpo above criticism? No. So, to criticize or not to criticize? – That is the question. The film in question has been basically running a one horse race in the field of films exploring the third space in gender with success (pun intended). Obviously there have been serious films earlier like Fire, Darmiyan, etc. of this third space (and here I don’t take into account non-Indian films like Boys Don’t Cry etc.) but those movies came at a time when the cognizable Indian society was still in the phase of denial and anger at such portrayal. Since the decriminalisation of homosexuality the Indian society has entered the phase of acceptance (though not without a snigger). In fact the film’s name itself vouches for this acceptance phase. So, Arekti Premer Golpo’s focus has to be rather different from the other films and no doubt it is so. But the focus has to give some latitude for extrapolation and it is here that the film fails. I saw the film about a month ago. When I came out of the movie hall I overheard a couple of youngsters – a boy telling a girl that the message of the film is that any relationship with people of the third sex is bound to be unsuccessful and cause pain. I at once felt that the film has failed to convey the right message to the lay person, though it has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of acceptance where such issues can be discussed. In the postmodern world it is the celebratory aspect of the third space that facilitates critical communication with the people at large and it is this celebratory aspect that Arekti Premer Golpo lacks in its content (though not in its production or marketing).

In academics the third space is used as an instrument of deconstruction where binaries like colonizer / colonized, white / black, male / female, etc. are destabilized by inverting the hierarchy of the privileged first term. Does Arekti Premer Golpo destabilize the accepted gender hierarchy? Not very strongly I must say. Basu’s bisexuality appears in as negative light compared to Abhiroop’s homosexuality. Uday’s matter-of-fact liberalism is linked to his Western locale. Abhiroop’s mother-fixation appears and disappears too conveniently. Chapal Bhaduri’s pangs gets too distracted in the cacophonic digressions. The bonding between Rani and Abhiroop could have been so even without Basu’s malevolence. And for the umpteenth time I find a director portrayed in a film typically as manipulative and saddled with a smoking, drinking and constantly English-speaking immediate assistants. One does not need to necessarily complicate matters to problematize an issue especially when the exploration of the third space of gender in films is at a nascent stage and does not have a queer theory background as is present in academics. I may be accused of taking a too critical view of the film but when the credit titles give Rituparno Ghosh’s name as the creative director then I cannot help but have very high expectations from the celluloid treatment. Perhaps the credit only exploited the commercial value of Ghosh’s name and not its critical value.

Sometime back I have been discussing Arekti Premer Golpo with a young friend of mine who said that earlier she had quite a prejudiced opinion about the third sex. But in Arekti Premer Golpo she can sympathize with Abhiroop and Chapal. It was then that I realised that I had grown up at a privileged time – watching films from Dersu Uzala to Amelie on Doordarshan (and not to forget the regional language festival films) and had attained adulthood watching English, August – that freed me of any perceptive biases. Whereas the generations who are still in the process of being initiated did not have such privileges and find themselves baffled by multiple television channels and multiplexes. What came to me by default has now been lost in a gamut of choices presented by the forces of commerce and the newer generations have to make their own wise decisions in choosing. In such a situation if one wants to watch a good film one has only reviews to depend on for guidance. And if a good film gets any kind of criticism, especially from a celebrity reviewer, it becomes a strong discouragement for the potential viewer. Not even the director’s reputation can guarantee a film staying on the screen for more than a week in the face of adverse publicity. The case of Dev Benegal’s Road Movie is a prime example. Maybe that is why Anjan Dutt and Bani Basu have fallen just short of making any incisive criticism of Arekti Premer Golpo in The Telegraph, which may have proved detrimental to the viewership of a good film. Moreover, the film released at a time when Gautam Ghose’s Moner Manush (a movie that explores the third space of society and religion) was running with critical acclaim and commercial success. So there was competition too in the so-called prize-winning film category. Hence the film, finding no safety net (not even of Nandan), had to exploit commercial marketing strategies to the hilt. It seems that the third space created between popular cinema and art-house cinema by off-beat films, where good films could be criticized and still watched, is somehow lost. So, why have I made public my rather unflattering opinions about this good film that might influence people? Primarily, because I am not deluded to think that my opinion counts for much and can have wide influence. Secondarily, since the film already has had a well-deserved commercial success, I find no reason to refrain from making my opinions public any further. 

1 comment:

Vineet said...

Hey there Amit Shankar Saha, Long time, how you been? IndiBlogger is coming back to our favorite city Kolkata after a long time Its been 2 years. We hope to catch up again at the meet!Did you sign up for Kolkata IndiBlogger Meet If you haven't already, do sign up today, Only 200 seats available. Entry is free with loads of fun. Cheers,
Vineet
IndiBlogger Team