In this trying times, we turned to Satyajit Ray’s films to see how he expressed life through the language of cinema.
The millennial population of the world grew up with stories of wars, lockdowns and curfews. One of my aunts told me how they used to turn the lights off at night during the liberation war lockdown. The stories of jamming the ventilators of the room with papers and secretly lighting candles for dinner were thrilling tales to listen to. But, was it really thrilling?
I always pondered over the question. And now, sadly, my generation has lived long enough to experience a lockdown themselves and find an answer to this question. Only this time, human beings are not fighting against each other. The war this time does not involve missiles or tanks, rather this war has the entire human race fighting one mutual nemesis - the pandemic Covid-19.
With all the wars the human race has found against each other, we have found several ways to conjure up a peace treaty. But how do we make a peace treaty with a virus? As the question remains unanswered, experts have advised the worldwide human population to lock up themselves inside their homes to avoid collision with the virus until a way out of the pandemic is devised.
While some are busy keeping themselves safeguarded from the virus, some are busy following internet trends or taking up new hobbies and online courses to develop new skills. Sadly, not everyone has a home suitable for taking shelter from this virus. These people come out in search of work, food and shelter everyday despite the shutdown measures implemented by the Bangladesh government.
My job keeps me updated on matters regarding both sides of human suffering caused by the pandemic. The discrepancies between the two worlds and an uncertain future hovering over our heads have started giving me anxiety attacks. Finding it hard to deal with the attacks, I turned to Satyajit Ray movies - giving cathartic release to my pent up emotions.
I was, once again, surprised at Ray's ability to express life, emotion and everyday crises through the language of cinema.
I started my venture into the purposeful world of Ray movies with Aranyer Dinratri to cope with the miserable feeling generated as my Baisakhi trip had to be called off. The movie depicts the story of four friends - Hari, played by Samit Banja; Asim, played by Soumitra Chatterjee; Sanjoy played by Subhendu Chatterjee; and Shekhar, played by Rabi Ghosh, who manage to steal time from their packed schedules and cut the ties from the monochromatic world to voyage to a serene place.
Upon reaching the destination, the quartet explore a tribal culture, which they had not come in contact with before. They end up becoming friends with Aparna, played by Sharmila Tagore, and Jaya, played by Kaberi Bose. One of them gets entangled in a short-term relationship with a tribal girl Dulu, played by Simi Agarwal.
While I was missing out on exploring new places and meeting new people, this movie made me keep my hopes up by thinking about the days when I will be able to do all of these things again.
My days now revolve around daydreaming of trips, which may or may not happen in the future, and working from home. I have started to spend more time on social media than ever and as a result, I have not missed out a single post from frauds who claim to have a cure to the deadly pandemic that has claimed the lives of almost 70,000 people globally.
Seeing those nonsensical posts, I had a good laugh and started watching Mahapurush.
The movie starts with Birinchi, played by Charuprakash Ghosh, posing as a saint who claims to cause the sun to rise every day. In one of the dialogues of the movie, Birinchi said that he has to wake the sun up every day.
Claiming to be an ageless man, he makes everyone listen to stories from his past life when he used to have arguments with Plato and co-invented the principle of mass-energy equivalence - the equation E=mc2, with Einstein. His followers kept on increasing and so did his michieves.
Birinchi, along with his assistant, played by Rabi Ghosh, keep on conning people with their acts.
Mahapurush is a movie that keeps your fingers crossed while hoping that a protagonist will arrive any moment to expose the frauds. And at the very end of the movie, Nirbana, played by Somen Bose, exposes Birinchi and his associate - after which the fraudster duo leave the territory.
These two movies kept me entertained for the first two days. But afterwards I started seeing reports on the increasing unemployment rates - how people are losing their jobs all over the world and the difficulty of finding another job amidst this chaos. I was trying my best to get rid of these thoughts, only to realise that I am locked up at home with just my thoughts accompanying me.
I started seeking shelter in a Ray movie when one of my friends suggested Pratidwandi. This movie is also based on a Sunil Gangopadhay novel and set in a time of the socio-political unrest of the Naxalite movement.
The movie stars Dhritiman Chatterjee as Siddhartha, the lower middle-class protagonist who is searching for a job in a rotten job market. He gets asked questions irrelevant to the job during interviews until one day he lashes out at the interviewers.
The crisis, the struggle and the character's coping mechanism kept me at peace for the time being, but I was looking for something more exquisite when I came across Mahanagar on YouTube.
The famous quote "Earning our daily bread has made us cowards" is from this film. Madhabi Mukherjee plays the role of a middle class woman, named Arati, who has to take up a job to cope with the financial crisis at home.
The story reaches climax with her husband being envious of her success. The charm lies in the disruptive end where she resigns from her job after engaging in a dispute with her boss. Arati does not compromise her ideologies and despite being fully aware of the financial crisis at home, she does not hesitate to resign.
All these were being too much serious and were triggering my depression. So I decided to watch something to lighten my mood.
I wrapped up my Ray exploration with my all-time favourite piece Heerak Rajar Deshe. The resemblance of movies with reality was tiring me out. I wanted an escape from the realities of life, so I decided to watch a fiction. Since I am tired of finding out resemblances between a movie and the world around us, I am leaving it up to you, the readers to find out similarities at your own risk.
For me, this is a movie that stars my childhood obsession Soumitra Chatterjee as Pundit, and legendary actor Utpal Datta as a fascist king.
And as always, I did not forget to enjoy the songs by Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne, who are, in other words, known as Tapen Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh.