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Deep Jele Jai: Representation Of The Physically And Mentally Challenged

October 4, 2012 | By

Deep Jele Jai has survived the onslaughts of time, technology and evolution to remain one of the best films directed by Asit Sen marking Suchitra Sen in one of her unforgettable performances in a heroine-oriented film.

Revisiting Deep Jele Jai

(Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon India, Flipkart, Infibeam and Snapdeal)

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

Deep Jele Jai has survived the onslaughts of time, technology and evolution to remain one of the best films directed by Asit Sen

Deep Jele Jai is based on a Bengali story Nurse Mitra by Asutosh Mukherjee. Radha Mitra (Suchitra Sen) is a London-trained psychiatric nurse who works in a mental hospital in Kolkata.

She is dedicated to her work and is a favourite of the chief medical officer, the Colonel (Pahari Sanyal) for her ability to cure a patient of any kind of depressive state linked to a love affair gone sour.

He tells her to pretend to fall in love with him till he begins to depend on her emotionally and morally. The film opens with a patient being discharged from the mental home after a complete cure. This patient is soon replaced by a new admission. The Colonel assigns the case to Radha. She refuses to accept the case papers saying “I cannot act,” because she is just a nurse.

Circumstances force her to take the case of Tapas (Basanta Chowdhury) suffering from deep depression that has driven him over the edge prone to extremely violent behaviour.

With Radha’s kind and patient supervision, Tapas begins to depend on her. When Radha persuades his girlfriend Sulekha (Kajari Guha) to approach him, he turns violent and tries to throttle her.

Radha saves him in the nick of time from being administered electric shock. This makes Tapas even more dependent on Radha. But Radha is no longer the fresh, optimistic and efficient psychiatric nurse she was.

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

This play-acting of pretending to having fallen in love with Tapas has taken a heavy toll on Radha

This play-acting of pretending to having fallen in love with Tapas has taken a heavy toll on her. She requests the Colonel to keep Tapas away from her before he leaves the nursing home, now cured.

But Tapas is desperate to meet her one last time to ask her whether she was really putting on an act or whether she has fallen in love with him. Radha does not open the door. The saddened Tapas goes away.

In the end, we find Radha reduced to a ghost of her balanced self, a mental patient in the same nursing home. “Why did I not realise that there was a woman behind that nurse’s uniform?’ the Colonel keeps asking himself as he stokes his pipe with tobacco and the chief matron (Chandrabati Devi) wipes off a tear when she calls out Radha’s number. Some of her former colleagues escort her to the same cabin Tapas has just vacated.

Analysis

We see Radha reading her diary with a voice-over mentioning Debashish, the patient who just went away, cured, back to his girlfriend, prepared to marry her.

Cut to a roll call of the inmates with a nurse calling outnumbers – a telling suggestion of human beings reduced to simple numbers without name, face or identity. One patient (Anil Chatterjee) approaches Radha and laments that his son had to go without food even that day. It sets the ambience within the nursing home. One patient takes a cheque book out of his pocket and writes out cheques to everyone.

Another sits quietly at a table in front of a chess board. A fourth keeps writing postcards. In the women’s wing, a giggling young woman imagines the approaching doctor to be her lover.

The climax rounds up the beginning – a roll call by the matron calling out numbers of women patients. At the end of the queue, we see a distraught, mentally imbalanced Radha, not able to walk, her hair disheveled, her sari trailing any which way, deep black circles under her eyes being escorted by two colleagues.

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

A distraught, mentally imbalanced Radha, not able to walk, her hair disheveled, her sari trailing any which way, deep black circles under her eyes

The Colonel is a ruthless scientist who is more interested in the subjects of his ‘research’ than in the mental health of his paramedical staff. Radha points this out in one scene. He narrates an anecdote of his war backdrop to cite what commitment meant to a war-time nurse. Chandrabati Devi as the matron almost without any dialogue fleshes out the seriousness in a few scenes.

Basanta Chowdhury is uneven – good when he is sane but unconvincing when he is not. Kajari Guha as Tapas’s girlfriend is artificial and crude, perhaps by design. Anil Chatterjee has a wonderful song sequence when he wants a peg and Radha pours water from a jug into his empty bottle and he drinks and sings in his ‘tipsy’ state! The song carries references to the legendary Devdas-Parvati story.

Tulsi Chakraborty is brilliant in a well-fleshed-out cameo as Tapas’ sympathetic friend from the mess he stayed in. The character offers an insight into the social reality that existed in the late 1950s where even mess colleagues bonded with warmth and concern.

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

The theme song of Deep Jele Jai “ei raat tomar amar” has survived most competitions with its haunting, eerie effect

One of the most outstanding features of the film is its musical score by Hemanta Mukherjee. The theme song “ei raat tomar amar” on the soundtrack is said to have placed Mukherjee with problems of copyright from some foreign tune.

But over time, it has survived most competitions with its haunting, eerie effect complemented with the brilliant cinematography. Bijoy Bose’s art direction and Tarun Dutta’s editing offer solid complement to the rest. There are repeated references to Tagore through his entire collection of poems Sanchayita, Radha falls back on and even gifts to a patient on his wedding.

Deep Jele Jai was made when cinema was mostly shot in Black-and-White. Jyoti Laha and Anil Gupta’s cinematography reveals a beautiful encapsulation of this technical mode that generates an ideal balancing act between Suchitra Sen’s magnificent close-ups and the shot-breaks that span everything from very slow panning shots to silhouetted shots to shots taken in semi-darkness, to long-angle shots and even an overhead crane shot in the opening frame of the film.

Some shots show Suchitra Sen in backlight with the halo her screen image was famous for. There is one moving scene where she imagines herself with a bindi, in a coloured sari and jewellery.

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

The Colonel is a ruthless scientist who is more interested in the subjects of his ‘research’ than in the mental health of his paramedical staff.

Deep Jele Jai has survived the onslaughts of time, technology and evolution to remain one of the best films directed by Asit Sen marking Suchitra Sen in one of her unforgettable performances in a heroine-oriented film.

Deep Jele Jai stands out because the main grouse of nurses in India – responsibility sans power’ comes across lucidly and movingly in the film. The Colonel forces her to take on the responsibility of being personal nurse to Tapas, the new patient who steps in place of the earlier one, Debashish, who she fell in love with during the treatment.

She tries to persuade him not to burden her with difficult cases but he insists. An experienced war-time doctor, he misses out on the stress she is under. He does not even try to find our why she is refusing the case. This is emotional blackmail that takes advantage of her dedication to her profession and her patient.

The film uncovers the sad truth of how a woman totally dedicated to her profession can, wittingly or unwittingly, be stripped of her right to a normal life filled with love for a man, marriage and a happy family life.

Radha never thinks about a normal family life till she falls in love first with Debashish and then with Tapas. The woman in her is suppressed under the duty-bound nurse Radha who conditions herself to believe that for her, the patient comes first.

The self-conditioning is so extreme that she breaks under pressure and becomes a patient in the same hospital where she has cured many. Her love is genuine, not ‘manufactured’ or ‘manipulated’ for professional reasons. She is not an actress she keeps insisting. But no one is listening.

Deep Jele Jai belongs to a phase in Suchitra Sen’s career where she made her powerful presence felt without her constant screen companion Uttam Kumar. The film was a box office hit without a romantic hero.

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

Deep Jele Jai is a tender love story set against the backdrop of a psychiatric nursing home

It is a tender love story set against the backdrop of a psychiatric nursing home. It is perhaps one major film with a female protagonist did not offer a feminist slant on the film, the story or the character.

There is a pre-titles prologue that opens with an overhead shot of someone getting into a car that cuts to a close-up of Radha looking down as the car slowly drives towards the gates of National Psycho-analytical Clinic.

There is an undertone of truth in a psychiatric nurse getting emotionally involved with her patient/patients that is shown in Deep Jele Jai. A comparative study of the perceptions of British mental health nurses and psychiatrists of their work environment (Journal of Advanced Nursing, Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 36–43, January 1999), by Janie Dallender, Peter Nolan, Joaquim Soares, Sarah Thomsen, and Bengt Arnetz proves this. This study was undertaken in the West Midlands in England.

The aim was to ascertain the extent to which the environment in which mental health professionals’ work impacts on their personal mental and physical well-being. Seventy-four psychiatrists and 301 mental health nurses responded to a postal questionnaire.

Analysis of data indicated that significant differences exist between nurses and psychiatrists in their physical working environment, their sources of support with a work-related problem, and the effects of their work on their own mental and physical health.

The main recommendation derived from this study was to improve communication between mental health professionals and their managers by giving more structured feedback and guidance about one’s work performance. This may help alleviate the mental strain many mental health professionals experience in their work.

Conclusion

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon

Deep Jele Jai is enriched by Sen’s unforgettable performance, the chiaroscuro cinematography and the haunting musical score.

Deep Jele Jai marks a milestone performance in Suchitra Sen’s career. It takes full advantage of her camera-friendly, sensuous beauty as much as she gives to it her best in histrionics. If she seems a little melodramatic in a few fractional moments, it is due to the demands of the script, the time and the fact that this is a mainstream film.

She brings out the two dimensions of her character extremely well. One needs her to depict a woman silently pining for love knowing that for her, the story will always be a tragic one. The other shows her as an efficient, low-profile but warm nurse who has a kind word for every patient.

She lives out her mentor the Colonel’s belief that it is rapport between the curing and the to-be-cured that carries the magic of cure in every mental case. In order to fulfill her mission, she can be diabolic at times.

She literally blackmails Tapas’ girlfriend with her old love letters sent to him to force her to come and visit him at the mental home at once. She threatens Sulekha’s two boyfriends when they warn her about complaining to the police.

It is the delicate play of hide-and-seek between ‘acting’ and ‘not acting’,  between ‘pretending’ to fall in love as a therapeutic measure and ‘actually’ falling in love  in real life somewhere along the way that enriches the humane realism in Radha’s character.

The film is enriched by Sen’s unforgettable performance, the chiaroscuro cinematography, the haunting musical score and small touches of Nature like the diaphanous white curtains in Radha’s room swaying in the breeze as she sits on an easy chair, refusing to respond to Tapas, captured in a top-angle long shot.

Radha’s is a slow and steady regression into a depressive mental state. Her regression is due to the very radical and unorthodox form of treatment that has no basis in psychiatry or in the treatment of mental illness her doctor-mentor adopts. He uses her wrongly as ‘agency’ to attain his ‘object.’ He does not think even once what the consequences of such action might be on her mental state. In this lies a moral lesson for all psychiatrists everywhere.

Ei raat tomar amar 

Deep Jele Jai is available on Amazon India, Flipkart, Infibeam and Snapdeal

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Dr. Shoma A Chatterji is a freelance journalist, film scholar and author based in Kolkata. Her focus of interest lies in Indian cinema, human rights, media, gender and child rights. She has authored 24 books mainly on Indian cinema and on gender and has been jury at several film festivals in India and abroad. She has won two National Awards - for Best Film Critic in 1991 and for Best Book on cinema in 2002. She has also won four fellowships over the past 10 years.
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