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Thursday, December 29, 2005

POSTERN OF FATE

The Assamese film called Aakashitoraar Kathare.( which means A Tale told a Thousand Times) has its leitmotif the eternal predicament of a woman caught up inextricably in a man’s world, swept up in the turn of events that test, taunt and tease her to accepting the very existence that she decried and even sought to rewrite.

The intelligent and articulate protagonist, Aakashitoraar is a Social Researcher, doing a Project on the status of women in various tribes of the land. On one of her visits, a middle-aged Raghab Chowdhury , Deputy Commissioner in one of the outposts, who asks for her hand in marriage and her conservative family gladly acquiesces. Her initial sunny disposition on marrying a progressive man quickly clouds over as an officious Raghab fixedly deters her high-spirited attempts to continue her career, travel and pursue her interests. Saddled into motherhood which she really doesn’t want, she finally dissolves in an ocean of disenchanted tears.

While it could have trodden the familiar path of an angst-ridden , the lady director Manju Bora scrupulously eschews dramatic flourishes and lets the viewer feel the pathos of the characters. Some soulful flute notes serve as an accompaniment as do the other “tribal” music strains that form the musical background of the film. The antipathy of the urban intellect towards an arguably primeval mode of living adopted and perpetuated by the tribals, a track touched upon by Ray’s Agantuk, finds voice in an earnest young spokesperson-cum-social activist, who Aakashitoraar meets on her sojourns and it is he who speaks with an optimistic familiarity and feeling about the Hudum puja rituals and their subsumed significance.

Some spellbinding cinematic moments are in the symbolic reversal of direction of the train on the same train journey that Aakashitoraar undertakes, to indicate the change that will come over her life after wedding Raghab. Forced to play the urbane sophisticated but ultimately trophy wife in one of Raghab’s stodgy and stuffy parties, the songs that plays in the background are Ace of Base’s It’s a Beautiful Life and I’m Alive by Celine Dion, and the poignancy cannot be missed. Another visual impression employed by the director is for the protagonist to look sideways away from the setting and into the camera almost inviting the viewer to share and sympathize.

In some way or other, I imagine most Indian educated women would face these tribulations at some stage and my long association with Army life only emboldens me to say that the implicit subjugation of and complicit admissions made by women married to “career” husbands is a truth easily suppressed, sanguinely ignored and perhaps best forgotten.
(Ed-You conveniently overlook the opportunities that may be glossed over and potential wasted by even those women who may not be “educated”!).

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