Very often in life the people whom we love the most let us down the most. Not so in art, though, where feelings can be fudged with telling lucidity without losing the authentic ambience of a world that exists outside the mundane.
In Shob Charitro Kalponik (SCK) that wizard of sensitive storytelling from Kolkata, Rituparno Ghosh takes his protagonist the unhappy wife Radhika on a journey that opens doors within her heart that she would have liked to remain closed.
Sach ka samna is not just a reality show. It’s also a reality that cannot be shown as cinema without a basic element of subterfuge. Ghosh occupies the two mutually exclusive yet inseparable world of art and reality with a fluency and effortlessness that takes his characters far beyond the cartel of prototypes.
We see Radhika, trapped in state of marital unhappiness, as not just woman struggling to keep her home and heart together, but also as an individual trying to find her identity against odds that are created mainly in her own mind.
Orson Welles style the ‘real’ personality of the dead poet emerges in fitful flashbacks which are more cursory than comprehensive. But then when has life ever offered complete solutions to the riddle of marriage that has puzzled man (and woman) for centuries?
Echoes that reach back to the very core of humanity reverberate across this miniature masterpiece on marriage and fidelity. Ghosh’s forte is the unspoken word. The bonds that form between Radhika and her maid and between Radhika and her colleague (Jisshu Sengupta) rely on resonances beyond the rhetorics of interactive art. The director creates room in cramped spaces.
Most of Ritu’s narrative are vibrant vignettes behind closed doors done up in deep shades of anguish and bitterness. The progression towards a mellower comprehension of the tenderness behind the seeming spousal insensitivity begins after the husband’s death. The irony of loving a spouse after he’s gone is far from lost.
Radhika’s tormented understanding of her dead poet -husband’s inner world is laced with luminous moments of revelatory tragedy, leading up to a finale that’s surreal and introspective. The hallucinogenic conclusion where Radhika enters her husband’s poetic world is charming controlled and yet frightening.
Ritu’s cinematographer Soumik Haldar shoots the interior of Radhika’s home as a manifestation of her innermost turmoil. She paces the bedroom , speaks to her dead husband, scolds and accuses him, as the family’s silently-observant maid tries to come to terms with the enormity of Radhika’s self-recrimination and loss.
SCK is a work suffused with longing for a world that has slipped out of the protagonist’s fingers while she was counting the money in her purse. It’s the illuminating story of a woman’s voyage into the dimmed light of a yesterday that she thought was wretched.
But it was just life.
Finally, the impact of the marital tale depends completely on the central performance. As the working wife who feels her husband has let down their marriage Bipasha Basu pulls out all stops to deliver her career’s best performance. Her moments of anguish before and after her screen-husband’s deaths are expressed in tones of cathartic conviction that we never knew existed within Bipasha.
In the scene where she shouts against her imaginary husband on his favourite chair Bipasha furnishes the proceedings with the anguished portrayal of bereavement that perhaps only a Shabana Azmi can equal.
This despite the fact that Bipasha’s voice has been dubbed by a woman who doesn’t really have a say in the character’s portrayal.
But then in an ironic way, isn’t that what the character is all about? The disembodied voice is a reminder of Radhika’s dissociation from her own identity.
Somewhere in finding the centre to her marriage, Radhika lost it. And loss, as we all know, is one helluva upper for art.
Savour the delicacy of Rituparno Ghosh’s poetic work. And never mind the spoken language. In a true work of art the sound is the least important component.
Listen carefully. You can hear the muffled sound of a broken heart in this film.