Tarikh shows how the social media can create an alternative world for a person who is able to shut out the mainstream world. A Silhouette Review by Shoma A Chatterji.
Social Media has created a world of virtual reality where we make friends we may never meet and create new bondings with friends and even family members we live with. Do such friendships reach beyond the death of a virtual friend? Yes, says Rituparno Ghosh in Memories of March where the dead hero’s mother asks someone to close his Facebook account. What happens if and when the account is not closed? Some of these questions are raised, and answered in Churni Ganguly’s unusual viewpoint on how relationships and friendships are influenced by their communication through social media and also, how social media cannot control these relationships as they grow, evolve and die.
The film is Tarikh, the second directorial film by actress-turned-director Churni Ganguly where she creates a narrative around some milestone dates in the lives of a married couple and interweaves this with their involvement with the social media. That is why the film is called Tarikh. The film also sets an example of how social media notwithstanding, dates which are symbolic, man-made expressions of time trapped in boxes control our past, present and future in different ways and for different persons. For Anirban, his wife Ira and their close friend Rudrangshu, along with the little daughter Niharika or Ninni, four or five dates are significant to send their lives haywire. Anirban (Saswata Chatterjee), teaches English literature at a University well-known for its students’ intellectualism and activism. But he is often called to England to deliver lectures at Oxford. Ira (Raima Sen) is a social media addict and laments her husband’s frequent absences using Rudrangshu’s (Rittwik Chakraborty) ready shoulders to lean on and cry upon.
Rudrangshu does not believe in Facebook and does not have an account. Anirban is a recent account holder and he uses his timeline to raise questions among his students and to converse with a friend Gladys Abbot who disturbs the married happiness of Ira and Anirban does not dispel her doubts. The film flows smoothly across dates flashing backwards, forwards, in-between these characters and their families fleshing out the significance of trapped nostalgia both among the characters and the director. Let us take a closer look.
26th April 2017 marks the sudden death of Anirban in his sleep in faraway London. 25th December happens to be Ninni’s birthday and by the time her father dies, she is five plus. 7th November is the wedding anniversary of Anirban and Ira and also Rudrangshu’s birthday. Holi, the festival of colours and joy and bonhomie, is a date that appears twice in the film with two different significances. The film zeroes in on Anirban’s first death anniversary, 26th April, 2018
The first time during Holi, Anirban’s students sing and dance and smear each other with a riot of colours while the extended family of Anirban which includes his widowed mother and Ira’s parents, paints the picture of a happy and harmonious upper-middle-class Bengali family who celebrate birthdays with decorous cakes, dot their conversations with impeccable English and show how no one is old enough not to play Holi together. There is another Holi celebration in Shanti Niketan where Anirban, Ira and Rudrangshu, tipsy with their drinks, play their devised version of Truth Or Dare where the player’s ‘truths’ and “dares” are brought across at three different times.
The ambience changes dramatically when Ira is informed of Anirban’s death in London in his sleep. The informer is the evasive Gladys Abott who she is very uncomfortable with but has never met or spoken with. The director details Ira’s shock beautifully helped greatly by Raima Sen’s eloquent facial expressions and body language. In fact, it is as if Raima has opened herself after a long time following Rituparno Ghosh’s death who knew how to take the best out of her. Her escape into her Facebook conversations to kill the loneliness during Anirban’s long absences is understated and subtly handled. Is Ira in love with Rudra, a bachelor and a successful businessman? Not really but there is this underpinning of something more than friendship but less than any physical intimacies.
Anirban confesses that his unhappiness in his marriage lies in the intellectual incompatibility he feels with his wife Ira. With this single utterance, Anirban, who “allowed” his working wife to retain her maiden surname, reveals his patriarchal mindset despite his intellectual scholarship because happiness in any marriage is never determined by intellectual compatibility. One feels that this has been intentional by the director to invest her characters with different shades in terms of values and opinions. The molestation charge against a professor is backed strongly by Anirban and this does not quite go with his apparently neutral and apolitical stand on things around him. Nor does molestation belong quite to the narrative. He is quite the systematic house-husband who does the shopping, keeps accounts of medicines and stuff during his absence so that Ira is not needlessly burdened. But he is quiet about his Facebook friend Gladys, an intriguing relationship that gets revealed much after his death. These are tiny glimpses into the prism called Life that Ganguly is able to shed light on smoothly and naturally.
The body remains in the coffin and Ganguly spares her audience the gory-ness of having it opened. The large portrait his students bring in, hangs right there, the benign smile giving Anirban the throbbing of life while the garland and the incense sticks lit in front of it contradicts this “life” and reminds Ira that he is no more.
It is little Ninni (Niharika) who enriches the tapestry of the narrative with her naiveté and her childish innocence adults do not possess. The soundtrack is often filled with her chatter, her fondness for crayons and for chocolates, her toys, her wide-eyed wonder when she finds her mother break into tears in Rudra’s arms and also, when she innocently asks, “Will Rudy be my father now?” stunning the adults. Saswata is very good in a layered role but his overwhelming fondness for Westminster Abbey is a bit over-the-top as he himself says he has not written a word though he has read the best in literature. Gladys Abbot after all, is no metaphor but a real person and does not genuinely belong to the script. Ritwik Chakraborty as Rudra with his Bohemian attitude, his deceptive happy-go-lucky stance hides a spirit that is as egoistic as his friend Anirban’s and he beats a quiet retreat before he is manipulated into a second hand role in Ira’s and Ninni’s lives. A sparkling performance throbbing with dynamism and life.
The cinematography is wonderful though the editing seems to be a bit shaky at points. The music charms you especially with the Bondhu song sung in chorus by the students. Tarikh shows how the social media can create an alternative world for a person who is able to shut out the mainstream world while chatting or arguing in this virtual world and yet, cannot bring these two different worlds together even by trying to release the grip times and dates and minutes and seconds have on our lives and our deaths. The social media mainly offers us to raise questions about the Self rather than raise questions of others who, on that computer screen or on the cell monitor, become our “virtual” friends. Tarikh is a very unusual perspective of life in a global world comes through and one comes to terms with the award bestowed on it for the Best Feature Film at the KIFF last year. Above everything, this film proves once again that Churni Ganguly, the director, is her own person and is not haunted by the ghost of other directors, including that of her husband Kaushik Ganguly.
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