An ‘extraordinary’ at the same time “unusual” film in the Indian intellectual perspective; especially the way it knobs the sensible strings like Cultural androgyny, gender, same–sex relationships, Bi-sexuality and several other exceptional alternatives. People stamped it as a mere film on delicate alternative issues but from my perspective “Arekti Premer Galpo” is neither a magnum opus in the mass of the stereotyped Gay cinema nor does it approves ‘just another love story’, in the truest sense of the phrase, it unfastens those stories rather “Galpos” yet unheard, yet untold.
Chapal Bhaduri, the first self-proclaimed Bengali veteran actor who was once celebrated for the depiction of female roles in Bengali folk (Jatra) theatre plays himself in the film. He resides in a ramshackle home in north Kolkata, torn with destitution. Deserted by the family, ignored by the neighbours, mortified by society he is still struggling with his life, this veteran actor embarks on his secret love-life with his past male lovers. Aar Ekti Premer Galpogyrates around the Delhi-based contemporary filmmaker Abhiroop Sen (Rituparno Ghoshhimself) who is hired by a UK based producer Dorothy (Charlotte Haywards) to put together a documentary film on Chapal Bhaduri. But shooting of the film in Kolkata is put on hold because of the conventional heteronormous media attention of the film. Abhiroop comes across coincidentally Uday, (Jisshu Sengupta) a young wild-life photographer who gives the proposal of his ancestral mansion in Hetampur, a small village in Birbhum district as an unconventional location for the shoot.
There is a Film-within-the-Film and the total flow of the story reveals the intricacies of relationship of Abhiroop with his cinematographer Basu (Indraneil Sengupta) who is a contentedly connubial man. Director Kaushik Ganguly imprisons with the detailing of the fact of a bisexual man who basically swings with the flow of the waves and loses the shore to get hold onto the illusive “balancing act” between his wife and his boyfriend.
The unconventional ways of dress, wearing make-ups and so called effeminate behaviour of Roop point out the essential discrepancies between the individualistic way of leading life of an ‘alternative-sexual’ person and the dreadful seclusion along with the social humiliation of Chapal Bhaduri has undergone all through his whole life. Astounding yet pertinent elements the issues with a very old cultural tradition of men playing female roles on the traditional Bengali opera and Chapal Bhaduri (in the age of 71), the then queen of Bengali theater is one among those androgynous men starts to describe the narrative of his love life and the tragic consequences in front of the camera. Abhiroop in some way starts to recognize with Chapal’s sense of alienation, eternal loneliness and dismal social rejection. The relationship between Abhiroop and Basudeb is full with the stimulating factors that one feels it can shatter at any time. Abhiroop’s emotional insecurity about Basu makes him call up his mother number of times and weep like a little boy whenever he feels helpless. His love for Basu has the significant other hovering in the backdrop that is his wife Rani (Churni Ganguly).
There are so many of layers of “Arekti Premer Galpo” and some of the facets are very hard to comprehend in terms of words. There are two parallel narratives start flowing alongside. The most important story of the director making a documentary on the queen of yesteryears is intertwined along with the fictional interpretations of the colourful life of Chapal. Roop and Chapal are celebrating their androgyny in all the possible way. Roop for the first time is having a conversation with Uday about the location of shoot. The glance of Krisna Temple stimulates some significant conversation with Uday where he explains about Chaitanya. He explains that Chatanya was basically the epitome of Cultural androgyny, Krishna and Radha combined in one corpus who stood against of all kinds of discrimination and seek for the liberation through Music and before 500 years back all these things happened so organically which is hard to believe. This entire interpretation gives a total different dimension to the whole film.
Roop once tells Basu “Someone is paying a price for our relationship”- This expands the span the other relationships within the film too, in the precedent and also in the present. Basu (Indraneil) comprises a larger part of the movie, the character of Basu is much shallow in my perspective, Much confused as a person as the Bi-sexual men basically are. He is not at all able to hold the depth and the finer details of Roop’s personality. Indranil Sengupta has marvelously represented Basu in all the visuals and reveals his credibility in terms of the demands of the character. Every time during the flashback with reference to the present Abhiroop and Basu sharing their moments of closeness, silence, conversation and the flashbacks perfectly resonates with the story of Chapal’s life which were all in the mind of Abhiroop who identifies the subject of the film with his life’s episodes. The transitions of frames and the cinematography in these shots are simply brilliant and the representations of these visuals are quite interesting and it also mystifies and underscores the uncertainty of the relationship. This intricate detail of subject matter configures boldness of the powerful shell of the filmmaker-within-the-film (Abhiroop). The entire film travels into the flashback to young and gorgeous Chapal Bhaduri, sometimes dressed in bridal ceremonial cloths, sometimes wearing much ordinary Sharees.
In the flow of the story Chapal started living with Tushar whom he met during the journey to Tarapith. Uday doubles up as Tushar. The representation of Tushar in the film-within-the-film in a very short span is much significant and the unconditional bonding of Chapal with Tushar gives the whole film a newer dimension all together. Even in the real front the interlude bonding between Uday and Abhiroop leaves several of the questions in our mind. Even the bonding between Gopa (Rani) and Chapal (Abhiroop) is something much difficult to comprehend rather that is something beyond our conventional interpretation as the ailing and bedridden Gopa, moves with the younger Chapal pulls her to a spur-of-the-moment dance, “Pran Bhoriye Trisha Hariye” in the backdrop. The musical score of Dibyajyoti creates a brilliant spark that successfully fuses the Chapal’s past with Abhiroop’s present.
Rituparno Ghosh is phenomenal in both of the screen representations, the filmmaker and the younger Chapal offering two utterly different facets though integrated to each other within him. Arekti Premer Golpo is more Rituparno’s directorial signature which makes its presence felt through the film than as the creative director and Koushik Ganguly as the director.
“Arekti Premer Galpo” leaves several of the unanswered questionnaires. Does Rani ask for the same if Abhiroop were a woman? Doesn’t Chapal deserve the company of Tushar and in the real front Abhiroop and Uday respectively? Does Abhiroop too, suffer from the sense of social ostracism which Chapal does? There are no Perfect answers possible to these questions as such.
Picture Source: tehelka.com