Well, I can’t help mention gleefully that this DVD happens to be the sole registered title on IMDb to which I have made a contribution, however insignificant (hell, I even have a cameo appearance hidden somewhere – okay, my parents couldn’t make out it was me until I told them, but nevertheless, there I was, in all the glory of an extra who carries out his part with dignity and elan). I had been quite content with this fact alone, until one day, like a gift from the heavens, the disc actually happened to reach my hands! Imagine my sheer ecstacy when I took it in my incredulous hand and ran my (other) hand lovingly over and over it, and later tucked it away in my backpack as a prized possession. And as a prized possession did I carry it around for some days, until I had a brainwave: why not actually check this out, on my new i3 processor? I followed through with the idea, on Sunday, 6th February, and have been itching to turn out a review ever since. Literally itching. There are scratch marks all over me, see?
DISCLAIMER: When I watched the DVD two days back, it was hours after I had succesfully baked a cake for the first time all by myself (well, not strictly, with the help of Chinmoy, but I called the plays, so it was my cake). It wasn’t delicious, but I loved its texture, and could see in it the budding confectioner in me. As such, I was on cloud number nine (to use a cliché which is so clichéd that it even got to Bryan Adams), and was prone to look down upon my fellow human beings as mere un-baking mortals. When I began writing this review, I had gone through my second attempt at a cake, and this time actually single-handedly. It was a disaster, and the finished product in no way resembled a cake, but it tasted like something right out of CCD’s kitchen. And right now, amidst all this confusion, I’m not really sure anymore how I view my fellow men. Anyway, if all this makes my exaggerations a bit too off-the-mark, pardon is sincerely begged.
So overcome am I by the cinematic experience provided to me by the DVD, that in planning this review, I’ve decided to break it down into chapters, and what’s more, use the exact same chapter names as the DVD uses. So here goes!
Chapter 1 – Bosontogatha (Arupratan Ghosh)
A fantastic choice of a first film. Be it the narrator who does the perfect imitation of having Gerd Mueller knocking head first into his solar plexus, or the equally praiseworthy visuals, no aspect of this film fails to amaze you. And then just when you were thinking a film couldn’t possibly offer you more, voila! there’s the chase-scene in the park, which is so moving I was almost in tears by the time he put the cigarette in her fingers. Literally.
Highlight: The two men bickering about Lenin – which for some reason is one of the shortest scenes in the film, shorter perhaps than the one in which we are treated to the exciting motion of the escalators.
Why one should watch this: Other than an acute shortage of sleeping pills, no idea really.
Chapter 2 – Secret Footage aka Jotugriho (Anamitra Roy, Snigdhendu Bhattacharya)
Ah, the one that took me to IMDb! Before I get carried away, I’ll put on a professional look, and get down to reviewing it. So this has basically two sub-parts, Anamitra’s The Voyage and Snigdhendu da’s The Encounter.
The Voyage: This is long drawn out, but quite harmless. You can watch it for a while, get up, take a piss, grab a coffee, and get back to the sofa, and still miss little (not that this doesn’t apply to almost all of them). Souradeepta goes about the city wearing the expression ‘I’ve to do this? I don’t get it, but okay, if you say so.’ Tucked in between is a survey, with some comments so outrageous that it takes your mind off the things people keep saying at other places. And then there’s the execution, reminding one of La Petit Soldat.
Highlight: The scene where a guy puts down a radio, and Souradeepta picks it up with a confused look, before setting it down again.
Why you should watch this: My cameo appearance, of course!
The Encounter: The only part in the whole DVD where any narrative line whatsover exists, however propagandaist in nature. This being the very last segment I watched, it was a relief in some way to find some narrative at last. This too has its fair share of smoking, coupled with booze passed around liberally. Throughout the movie, Yovik talks more meaningfully than the man opposite him, yet in the end we are asked to sympathize with the kidnapper duo. Coming in with a double appearance, debutante Srinka does well as the reporter when she’s required to keep her mouth shut and smile sweetly, but I wish the same could be said about the parts where she opens her mouth.
Highlight: The photo shoot, also after La Petit Soldat.
Why you should watch this: Because it’s short. And makes sense. In a way.
Chapter 3 - Memories_Alternate Cut (Abhishek Bhattacharya)
In this one we see the application of a rather ingenious device on part of the director – to shoot everything out of focus in order just to tell us that the narrator has lost his glasses. Well, that is understandable if the camera does not come with auto focus, and the cinematographer fails to locate the focusing ring, but otherwise one tends to feels a bitter taste in one’s mouth and the rattle of rebellion in one’s stomach at the sheer injustice to the viewing eye this strategy mets out. The narrator displays the same excellent quality that we experienced in Bosontogatha, except in the last scene comes a twist in the tail, when we come to know he’s eighty years of age (all along being fooled into thinking that he can’t be more than eighteen). Well, that’s an awfully old age to be hit in the solar plexus by Gerd, don’t you think?
Highlights: The one or two properly focused scenes left erroneously in the movie.
Why you should watch this: If you have lost your spectacles, and everything is out of focus anyway.
Chapter 4 – Chhobi Somporke Du-ek ta Kotha (Sriparna Dey)
This is a really enjoyable film to watch – especaially if you are a connoisseur of paintings, for you get to see a great many of them. This being the second film I watched (and the second I reviewed too; I just put them here in the order they appear in on the DVD), I discovered that having paintings all over the place is a welcome change from having shots all over the place. Debutant Maitreyo looks fairly comfortable on screen, and already seems to have mastered the art of lighting a cigarette. Indeed, the film is basically about how he lights seven or so of them and smokes them one by one, with intermittent relief sequences.
Highlight: The dream sequence in which the protagonist keeps looking from one side to the other for ten minutes of so, switching between a man with an expression set in stone deluded into thinking he’s jesus, and an old man who seems to have got something stuck between his teeth, which is giving him a rather hard time, while a spooky track plays in the background.
Why one should watch this: For the cameo appearances of the gifted Kamal Kumar Roy, as the man with something stuck in his teeth. Seriously, he’s one of the few reasons why one should get hold of the DVD.
In conclusion, and on a more serious note, I was disappointed to see the complete lack of imagination and any coherent cinematic vision displayed uniformly by all the directors. I think the baggage of the revolutionary red and marxist collectivism is seriously harming their art, if any. There’s more to cinema than throwing in some sentences from leftist poetry and party literature, and the fact that these are all done on extremely low budget is no excuse either, for these are resources enough to do excellent short fiction work. If they can come out of the dictum that the short film must be peppered with calls for revolution, I think their cinema can still be salvaged.
And if I sounded a little reactionary somewhere down the line, blame it all on the cake. And it’s still there, so I’ll go and grab a bite. Till next time then. So long.