Are you a Communist ?

What is the most outstanding and significant event of the last decade is a question posed to the protaganist in Ray’s movie Pratidwandi at a job interview during the turbulent sixties and early seventies.Was it Vietnam or Landing on the moon is still to be answered?But,that the job-seeker was a signature Communist has not changed,since.The four minute clip of the witty exchange,sharp but smart replies followed by a clipped and abrupt closure quite captures my childhood and adolescence with my family and friends,both at school and college and maybe my subsequent years in the Air Force to becoming a Veteran and even to this day.

I studied at an English medium school,played most games with claims to ability of no consequence,watched a few movies,was glued to radios for a BBC that rarely got thru for the infamously truant short waves and read mostly stolen(flicked)comics, borrowed sports magazines and a few on current affairs.Text books were the only books I had read in any language.Most of us friends

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had quite a similar journey.Our erotic impulses were more than satisfied by watching a Mumtaz or a Helen who co-starred with our parent authorised and parent-permitted favorite, Dara Singh on the silver screen.As for the school girls we had little time or were too shy.”Pocket-money” was a term we became familiar when it’s necessity had far exceeded its useful life.We were unusually well informed – though it was : each according to his ability and to each as per need . Not everyone had the same heroes and if they had a different sense of history or politics; Ah,well ! – we loved each other too much to scarcely notice the diversity.

If you are still with me and curiouser, be aware, that I was born into a political family of staunch Congressmen , my mother had been a proud part of the Indian Freedom struggle while my father, was a small-time Zemindar embroiled in bleeding litigation mostly, residents for over three generations at Cuttack, Odisha – a Bengali immigrant of sorts. Sheikh Mujibur’s Ghare Ghare Durgo Godhe tolo(Build citadels in Every Home) or the rallying cries of Aamar Nam, Tomaar Naam -Vietnam (My name,your Name, Vietnam) for Ho Chi Minh and Amaar Badi, Tomaar Badi – Naxal Badi in praise of Charu Majumdar ( My Place, Your Place_Naxalbari) as much as the undigested morsels of extreme subversion seen in the life and struggles of a Bhagat Singh or a Jangal Santhal excited and stirred – to boggle our infantile minds.Nehru and Gandhi hung unfavourably on our halloed, rebellious walls as against a Mao or a Fidel.These were my or our folk heroes.
Violent ways,shedding blood to gain any kind of freedom or Victory and irreconcilable hatred of anything British were important imperatives of our lives.Else why would one adore reading Ashok Mitra, almost salivating in savage glee, describing a Vivian Richards belt every ball of a Botham,Willis or a John Snow, as if in revenge of every whip-lash that his proud ancestors had been subjected to as black-slaves.We loved action and war movies and some Hollywood slapstick caricatures of revolution.Ours was a generation that identified with political protest and fraternal solidarity almost spontaneosly.Seamlessly.Or am I talking of a region that was still to become integrated with the idea of a nation-that was Bengali and chauvinistic- perhaps nihilistic?Or was it ceaselessly seeking a perfect world much ahead of its times?Remember, Siddharta Chowdury almost rhetorically thinking aloud in the Interview clip “Nation?

In time We, the Six,

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went our different ways to get into the business- of- earned- living : our political passions very private and quiet.While me and my broad-shouldered elder brother Lalloo chose the military,Pappu ,the ever persevering Bihari became a specialist doctor while Gopi, a large-hearted Marwari settled, quite literally in his father’s “Gaddi”to continue with the parental stock-in-trade -Business.The steady Tokon and macho-man Subuda, the two Bongs got into Accountancy and Medical sales.Tokon and Gopi remain bachelors while the rest of us went on to get married and have children.

I spent my military life confused about the ideas of Partition,Indian National Army Nation,Patriotism,Pakistan and China as enemies of India.All my life,I had learnt about the love and unfailing bond of brotherhood of the peoples of the world and here was I confronted with the worst of contradictions.My sense of discipline must have faltered often for my peers and superiors saw in me a potential insubordinate.Many wondered of what use was my Masters in Political Science in my profession called soldiering – much like the smug Corporate honcho questioning the honest but naive hero of Pratidwandi. In bars or crew rooms light discussions frequently descended into verbal brawls.That said – I had still managed learning well the Chetwoodian Honour Code- that I came last and my subordinate – first and uppermost.My patriotism never got challenged though in the thick of battle for a war never happened in my time.At least, the regular one !Immodestly though,I must add – My men (those I am sworn to protect and care for) I believe,would have had no qualms, if ever, I was leading them into one.

After three scores and a quarter of our lives spent- We, the Six

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watch TV, movies and sports most of the time, if not,screaming at each other on our politics and compromises so far.It is now, more than ever, I get to know, for sure, on the questions of what is a nation,Freedom,state of the woman in India, Is the Muslim an equal partner,who and what is a Hindu,patriotism,development, equality, caste, religion and ways to go about it we think and feel so differently while we still sit and sup together.

Behind us,the TV has come alive with images of the young protesting ,singing hand- in- hand of no jobs ,unending hunger and the brutality of the police and the State repression right within the premises of the Jamia,Jadavpur,JNU and Aligarh Muslim University and many places else.What has changed after these many years? I ask. They fight bolder and stronger against the State in Free India comes the anguished cry.The same fire in the belly…

The march or the drum roll has not ceased…but,the Question still haunts deep and long – “Are you a Communist”?

Seven Minutes to Ecstacy

In the whole of seven minutes, there are a few seconds of human speech.Rest is all about sights and sounds of Nature.Almost like a whodunit that boringly lulls you into an unsuspecting daydream only to be awakened by the shrill cries of a murder is this debut speciale!That maybe, the construct of a linear, simple thriller.Cut to the laziness swirling around of yet, another hot day, in a rural setting of Bengal, the water insects carousing playfully and unseen over still waters and as Time seems to have stopped, the young

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Apu

looks up casually only to be innocently excited by the prospect of dark clouds and to shiver wet in the pouring rain.

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Durga

, the sister can dance for longer.She is elder and stronger, his silent sibling envy, perhaps!The wicked camera eye naughtily does not miss to eavesdrop on the rotund, middle aged priest as he opens his umbrella when a rain drop on his bald head rudely shakes him up from his afternoon doze. The camera pans

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Sarbojya

, the mother,as she tucks away a fallen coconut careful not to be seen.As the smiles of the audience are about to be heard as laughs, descend the rains like a much-awaited crescendo as a cathartic climax.The background track captures the movement, transition and speed: from a pregnant silence to the rhythmic patter on to the eerie whoosh of leaves and branches.The sharp and slanting sheet-like raindrops consumes the entire environs.Together,the cuts and edits morph into the architecture of a visual montage of black and white, light and shadows,love and anxiety, delight,humour encapsulated in the common routine of humanity:a pure expression of the beautiful.

 

Was it romanticising poverty or an “epiphany of wonder?”.

Satyajit Ray,the perfectionist, famously was never happy with the music of his early movies.Ravi Shanker and his kind were virtuosos, he had averred who seldom could adapt to the quick, short compositions reflecting the many and variable moods of the story and its crisp narration.Ray went on to make his own music.Subroto Mitra who caught on camera the seductive freshness of silent waters, heavy dark clouds,the muddy tracks and puddled pathways brought alive Bansi Chitragupt’s realistic stage-sets was a beginner and a Ray regular subsequently.He too had to make way for the master to do his own thing.These artistes were maestros of their craft but not good enough for this very special polymath called Ray.Never one to be easily satisfied,he believed the creator’s vision was unique and private which could only be translated adequately by that person alone.Easier said…
When asked about his boundless and enviable creativity and questioned about his craft,skill and talents, he had said, it was all there in Bibhuti Babu’s stories.He had only tried to present them with all fidelity as he could not have bettered the writer.This too, was also the paradoxical mix of humility and arrogance.

Watch this for new angles of amazement and to discover where after all is the Director?