New Delhi, 15 Mar 2018 12:02 IST
The 14th Asian Women’s Film Festival concluded with filmmaker Debalina Majumder‘s poignant Aabar Jadi Iccha Karo which asserts its fictitiousness as it sets out to imagine the possible future of two queer suicide victims.
In 2013, Indian filmmaker, writer, producer and cinematographer, Debalina Majumder released a documentary “… ebang bewrarish…” (“… and the Unclaimed”) which questioned the social stigma and taboo around same-sex relationships that led to the suicide of two lovers, Swapna and Sucheta, in a rural district of West Bengal. The couple left behind a suicide note narrating their ordeal and their choice to end their lives rather than face separation or further persecution at the hands of their homophobic families, neighbours and society.
Their letter transformed into a totemic text of their love, memories, hopes, desire and defeat. It is this totemic je ne sais quoi that becomes the exposition for the events of this film which begins with the writing of the letter as the film declares its fictitiousness through the disclaimer, “Only this much is fact in this film… the rest is fiction.”
Aabar Jadi Iccha Karo (If You Dare Desire) imagines an alternative future where Swapna and Sucheta do not commit suicide, instead eloping to Kolkata and attempting to create a life that their unaccepting and unforgiving society wanted to stifle out of them. The narrative follows the girls as they traverse the city trying to find a small space of acceptance and love in the sprawling cityscape of cosmopolitan Kolkata. As they live on little mercies of sympathetic strangers, moving across communities searching for a place to stay that doesn’t eventually turn unwelcome due to heteronormative expectations, they evaluate their own expectations and desires.
Taking on aliases Aparna-Kajlee, Moyna-Bandana and creating fictions of their own lives to tell strangers since truth appears too polarizing to confide, they look for harbour and safe spaces as identities morph and coalesce, and the future gets further riddled with uncertainties. The film casts subtle references to real-life incidents. Their aliases are other queer couples from Bongaoon and Purulia who have committed suicide like Swapna-Sucheta. Their stories are everyday tales of struggles that women face, the all too familiar narratives of injustice and violence that leave women stranded and suffering.
Majumder calls it a fantasy tale of possibility and hope, confessing that “their narrative haunts me even now.”
Aabar Jadi Iccha Karo is a defiant act of writing that dares to hope of a future where there was none. The film draws fiction to relate the myriad of ways in which women live and die as they try to reclaim their bodies and their desires. They resist and subvert the shackles that forced identities bind them with. The women in this film turn into flâneurs of the city, their reality, the identities they forge, and the desires they embrace. The film is a rewriting of the present and an exposition for the future.
It is a political act of cinematic writing, an inscription on the reality of our society left by the totemic suicide letter, a haunting for everyone, and a rupture in the skein of the normative so that new roads may be constructed, alliances forged, and the transformative cry to desire becomes a rallying point for women everywhere.