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Will this film enter the Oscar race?

We just can’t make up our minds about the Bengali film Jaatishwar


By Editors

Bengali film Jaatishwar is in the running to be India’s entry to the Oscars in 2015 – it’s one of eight. We’d never heard of it and decided to watch the trailer to find out more. Unfortunately, aside from the single English dialogue “She’s Bengali with a vengeance” (because who doesn’t know what that’s like?), we still had no idea what it was about. Then we watched it with subtitles – nada, nothing. So we did some (always reliable) inferencing.

What we thought it was about:

A 19th century alcoholic Portuguese poet time-travels to the 21st century to meet his doppleganger, an alcoholic librarian.
A parallel, altogether unrelated plot, has the revengefully Bengali girl spurning the advances of a depressive boy whose kryptonite is chai during the rains, art deco churches and grief.

Ceaseless jugalbandis with clanging electric guitar interludes put you in a mind of Coke Studio – The Return of the Toupes version. In the end, the poet eschews his velvet and lace livery for somber whites to signal his return to sobriety. The librarian contracts the boy’s sadness, the boy channels his pain through performance art and the inordinately Bengali girl is only a former shadow of herself.

What it’s really about:

The musical stars Tollywood’s Rajnikant, Prosenjit Chatterjee, and has bagged four National Awards – none for its plot or direction, though. Hmm.
It revolves around Hensman Anthony – a 19th century Bengali-language poet of Portuguese origin and moves between then and the present day. We meet Rohit Gupta, a Gujarati from Kolkata, who’s sweet on Bengali-with-a-vengeance Mahamaya. But she won’t give him the time of day, not until he can write and sing a Bengali song (Um, go girl?)

Rohit decides to rise to the challenge but takes a short two-year detour for a student exhange programme in Portugal to study Colonial history. He uses the time to brush up on his Bengali with the help of his flatmate in Portugal, Bodhi. (This, when he could’ve just walked over to his neighbour’s house, back in Kolkata.) By the end of the programme, Rohit has zeroed in on the subject of his dissertation: Hensman Anthony.

Rohit comes right back to Kolkata for research, where he meets Kushawl (played by Prosenjit Chatterjee) – Kushawl’s visions have him convinced that he’s a reincarnation of Anthony. This is where we skip right back to 19th century Kolkata, and learn that Anthony rescued a widow, Saudamini, from becoming a sati. Through Saudamini, he immerses himself in Bengali culture, and eventually becomes the champion of kavigaans – 19th century equivalent of poetry slams.

Rohit promises to help Kushawl get treatment in exchange for dope on Anthony (Wikipedia is NOT reliable, we always say.) The psychiatrist deduces that the visions are the result of some unfinished business. Meanwhile, Rohit gears up to perform his song for now-RJ Mahamaya – at a competition (conveniently) organised by her company.

Kushawl’s heightened visions take him back to the Anthony’s last kavigaan. Anthony is set to host a Durga puja, which the villagers opposed on the grounds that he’s not a Hindu. While he’s away at the kavigaan, his house (and wife) are set on fire.

At the present day kavigaan competition Rohit impresses the pants off Mahamaya. Halfway into the song, Kushawl vanishes. When they find him he rants and rages against Rohit – at which point Rohit and Mahamaya leave, assuming Kushawl is beyond help. Turns out, Mahamaya is a reincarnation of Saudamini (though her brain is wiped clean), and Kushawl Anthony just wanted to apologise to Mahamaya Saudamini, for having left her alone to die. BOOM, no more visions, mental balance restored.