Chorus of the Proletariat
“A king sat in his court and called the wise men. The King asked the wise men. Name a land without scarcity. The answer came promptly: No scarcity, no God. Providence keeps scarcity to keep the mortals devout. Gods are here, they are all creator of scarcity”.
The film begins like a fairy tale when Rabi Ghosh appears as a bard and sings these lines. Rabi Ghosh is the “shutrodhor” of the film who comes in at different points in the film in varied disguises to deliver a political message with respect to the condition projected in the film. He ends this song with, “Glory to the new gods who have descended the Earth.”
The chairman of the new gods, or the capitalists, concerned with the problem of scarcity arranges for one hundred jobs, but there are thousands waiting in queue to collect the forms to apply for the job. This leads to a mass agitation by the applicants. Among them, there is also a photographer who needs a scoop. Few of the applicants are then introduced to the viewers. The first applicant is a resident of a remote village Asmanpur who eventually failed to even collect the form for the job. Through him, we are introduced to Mandal Chacha, the village head who exploits the poor with his muscle power, and eventually joins the politics.
In another sub-plot Mr. Mukherjee is a worker in the same organization that has advertised this vacancy. Along with his fellow workers, he has been on a strike for six months demanding increment in their minimum wages and bonus. Consequently, Mukherjee has been reduced to the condition of penury.
Utpal Dutt’s character and his team are in the selection committee to choose a hundred names from the thirty thousand applicants. They receive a threat letter which warns them that the 30,000 are going to invade their office and dance amidst the ruins of the bosses. The “30,000” movement very soon gathers momentum and becomes a local phenomenon and a dream of the workers, the peasants, the proletarians as a whole. The “30,000” becomes a symbol of rebellion and uprising. There are pamphlets distributed in the name of the “30000” among the workers and the common middle class calling them to rise against the upper class. “30,000” becomes a spectre that haunts the “coat-pant clad gods.”
The agitation of the workers led by Mukherjee is soon joined by the peasants who extend their support to their comrade by supplying them with food and other essentials. Both the peasants and workers take part in the protest against the establishment. The chorus of the unemployed, the peasants and the workers break the back of the system which is symbolized by the character of Utpal Dutt. The ending sequence shows Utpal Dutt engulfed in a barbed wire and his system is unable to save him from the wrath of the discontented masses.
Chorus is not a subtle film. It is an out and out political film, one that delivers a communist message. The film predicts the rise of masses, rise of the oppressed 30000, and the capitalists will have to flee to escape their fury and they will become impotent in the face of the political upsurge that is about to happen. The film deals with the fear that the system has of the people they oppress. Mrinal Sen’s message through the film could be that the leaders, who make this system to protect themselves and oppress the masses, live in fear that the system will ultimately self-destruct bring down them with it.
Long after the film ends, the chorus of the peasants, workers, unemployed agitating mass which calls for unity among the proletariats still rings in the ears- Hum Bhookh se marne wale, Kya maut se darne wale?
Apr 13, 2017
Satyaki dasgupta may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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