Indian Panorama

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

With 29 new feature films, 57 new non-feature films, a North-East new Horizon, and a retrospective of Aribam Syam Sharma, the Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India (Goa, November 2015) blazed a trail across the Indian film landscape. The films have an unblinking gaze at difficult issues with rich layers of aesthetic meaning.

BuddhadeB Dasgupta
The opening sequence of Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s ‘‘Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa—Anwar’s Strange Story’’ (Hindi / Bengali, 2014, colour, 122 mins) has blurred certainties. A horse drawn carriage with milk cans trundles along a city street. Travelling players in costume run along. Three performers are on a cycle. A man, Anwar (Nawazuddin Siddique), dressed in a suit and hat follows a girl in modern dress. Anwar is a detective, working in a 40-year-old detective company. The girl (Ananya Chatterjee) is about to be betrothed, while having an affair with a Nikil Pandey. There are other girls also in a similar situation. Sleuths follow men and women in different cases, surreptitiously click photographs, and objections lead to clashes. Anwar visits clients for payments. He resides in a Muslim neighbourhood, and is proud that his community has a social discipline. While drinking, frequently he drifts into soliloquies. His companion is a dog, Fazu. He had a dream-girl, Ayesha (Niharika Singh), from a different background. Her parents married her off.

One day a girl, Sudha, invites detective Anwar to her residence. The girl lives alone in Kolkata. Her father who was residing in Jasidih (Bihar) is missing. Police suspect suicide. Enquiries in Jasidih by Anwar point to a gay relationship between the missing man and Anuj. There were threats of informing the missing man’s wife, Pushpa. Anwar is travelling in a bus in rural surroundings. He gets down on a bridge over a river, and tears up photos of the missing man. A young girl, Ayesha walks along. Anwar wants to start romance all over again. Ayesha kisses Anwar, and goes her way in the rural surrounding. Back in Kolkata, when Anwar informs Sudha that her father had relationship with another man, she drives out Anwar from her residence, as there was no proof.

On a busy Kolkata street, Anwar helps an old widow to cross the street. The old woman invites Anwar to her Bhowanipur residence and offers him sweets. She finds resemblance between Anwar, and her engineer son, who works in Dubai. Sometimes the lady travels to Dubai. There are photos of her son and husband on the walls. Everyday Anwar drinks tea at Gopal’s Tea Shop. The young Nafisa (Amrita Chattopadhyay), the neighbour’s daughter eavesdrops, when Anwar speaks to his dog. The girl’s father also eavesdrops, and condemns Anwar’s drinking. Neighbours threaten Anwar, denounce alcohol, and demand the dog be driven away. Baiju from Kishanganj visits Anwar’s office, with a plaint that his eleven-year-old son, has disappeared from the vegetable market. The elder son earlier was run over by a truck. Anwar surveys the house where the disappeared boy worked. Investigations reveal that Sudesh Kumar, the house owner was a criminal, who ran a song and dance entertainment network, with small boys and girls. There are cuts to rural surroundings, desolate fields and a river bank, where Anwar spots the disappeared man, Bharat Maity. Spotlight back in Kolkata, where a child going to school with his mother feels disturbed, watching a man jump to death on a road, from a high-rise. Another case of a disappeared husband, Amol crops up. Amol rings his family from different public booths. Nafisa visits Anwar, and states her fondness for detective novels. Anwar transfers his dog Fazu to an affluent man (Barun Chanda), without taking any money.

Open rural meadows return, with two drummers, a man carrying handicraft, and Baul folk singers. Anwar searches for a tailor’s job in a village. Ayesha, Anwar’s old muse, appears on a village path. Anwar visits an old school structure of dilapidated buildings, letters and old coins. A boy puts on a record, and a girl (Jaya Seal Ghosh) dances. Anwar dreams of his old school class room in session. Buddhadeb’s film falters on the spectrum of social realism, notwithstanding Diego Romero’s creative camera movements, without any artifices. The scripts by Buddhadeb is formulaic, but a long way from any feel good formula. The plot full of cliches has predictable turns, and fails to show a truer understanding of how life works. The one thing-after-another narrative is very watchable, but without any good, rewarding drama. Nawazuddin plays the lead role with philosophical soulfulness, though sometimes in the open fields he appears out of character. With flimsy themes and conceits, ‘‘Anwar ka Ajab Kissa’’ is a talkative photo shoot.

Vol. 48, No. 31, Feb 7 - 13, 2016