Film: 'Janala'; Cast: Indraneil Sengupta, Swastika Mukherjee, Tapas Pal, Manoj Mitra, Shankar Chakraborty; Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta; Producer: Big Pictures; Rating: ****
That Buddhadeb Dasgupta is a poet with several published works to his credit may not be common knowledge. But it is impossible to remain untouched by the lyrical allure of his cinema.
Regardless of the parallels with Spanish filmmakers Luis Bunuel and Pedro Almodovar, Dasgupta's masterly cinematic style prompts him to layer fantasy upon fact, surrealism upon truth, non-sequitur upon evidence, and imagery upon the quotidian, in an elegant narrative that is uniquely his own.
'Janala (The Window)' is yet another gem from his coruscating body of work.
Bimal (Indraneil Sengupta), a dedicated caregiver in an old age home in Purulia, is one of Dasgupta's 'ingenues'. He is deeply in love with Meera (Swastika Mukherjee, capable, controlled), a call centre executive, who is pregnant with his baby. The two are about to get married when Bimal happens to visit his alma mater, an old village school. It is in a dilapidated state and on an impulse, Bimal decides to gift it a window that had allowed him to look out of it and dream his many childhood dreams.
But it is a window - a metaphor for life's many dreams - he can ill afford. In scraping together the money to pay for it, he impoverishes the meagre joint bank account he shares with Meera without telling her and strains their relationship. And the school headmaster, in the throes of ground level politics and village intrigues, refuses to accept - let alone understand the significance of his noble gift.
Bimal is forced to embark upon a journey to relieve himself of the window.
'Janala' is an exploration of the many layers of dreams, memories and imagination, juxtaposed against realities laid on, thick and fast. An all-but-destroyed education system, a rotten health care scenario, problems of old age, village politics, an oppressive contractual labour structure that flouts basic human rights, unlawful obtaining of timbre for furniture manufacture, and even the global politics of racism and discrimination engage Dasgupta in this film.
But he touches upon them with great restraint - not to forget, a good deal of humour - never allowing the poetry of the narrative to decline to verbosity.
Talking of humour, the use of an elusive, ephemeral, funny crook, who makes an appearance at important junctures in the film and decides its course (old favourite Tapas Pal in an accomplished portrayal yet again) to disappear when his job is done, is a significant device. He is like the vagaries of fortune, coming and going as he pleases, wreaking havoc on his way.
'Janala' owes much to its outstanding cinematography. Sunny Joseph allows his lens to linger upon the poetry of nature, the old ramshackle school building, and the interiors of spaces that take on details and significances of their own.
An achingly beautiful film, 'Janala' is perhaps Dasgupta's strongest cinematic statement yet.