Revisiting Urojahaaj

Can the ‘Lower-Class’ Dream?

Swapnanil Mukherjee & Satyaki Dasgupta

Many films talk about the deprivation of the material needs of the lower-class people but Urojahaaj underlines how the state and the society play an active role in the demolition of the dreams of the lower-class. In this 2018 film, director Buddhadeb Dasgupta explores some important philosophical aspects of lower-class people’s lives like dreams, ambitions, and desire to live. Urojahaaj does not just want to show the material domination of higher-class people over the lower ones, but also how rich people dominate the poor philosophically.

The protagonist Bacchu is a mechanic by profession. He finds an old war plane in the forest which triggers his desire to fly in the sky. Although he is a car mechanic, he dreams of flying the aircraft along with his family.To this end, he decorates it with his art, and asks his co-workers for help with this unrealistic task.While he is working on the aircraft, he fights with his insecurities.Dasgupta takes the help of the concept of spirits to portray them. Bacchu’s doubts, pain, and suffering were projected through the stories of those spirits. The problems related to some fundamental desires of humans- love, hunger, and sex - were explored in this magic realistic sequence. The conversation Bacchu had with those spirits reminded him of the necessity of staying alive and intensified his zeal to survive and keep dreaming.

Eventually, Bacchu becomes desperate to fly the plane. But the society does not see this ambition as normal, and felt the need to squash this dream. The educated Babus of Kolkata ridicules Bacchu for his desire to fly an aircraft. He is pushed around and humiliated when he went to Kolkata to look for a solution. When this does not deter him, the police intervene and take him away. He is suspected of being a spy because he was claiming Government’s property. Bacchu believes that the aircraft belongs to him because he discovered it and put a lot of effort to resurrect the plane. This altercation causes the police to physically assault Bacchu and eventually arrest him. The man who had ambitions to fly is cooped into a small police van and taken away.

Dasgupta, probably the last auteur of Bengali films,dabbles with magic realism in his later films.The political undertones were still strong and nuanced. The film directly links with the social and economic power structure of the society where in one-part internal contradictions were projected and in the other part external contradictions were explored. Both of these link to the larger political theme of the film. The upper class exercises its power over the lower class not only through material oppression but also by controlling the ambitions of the lower class. This control over the lower classes' dream is done implicitly by the babus and urban upper middle class and explicitly by the state through the police. There is a particular perception of lower-class people:how they should behave, how they should dress, and how big they should dream. Any time there is any deviation from this manufactured perception, the consequence can be disastrous for the lower class.

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Vol 56, No. 8, Aug 20 - 26, 2023