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Review Bengali

Cinestaan Curates: Aurora Borealis is a poignant portrayal of a forgotten, fading star

Release Date: 03 Dec 2020


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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee plays an aged actor who reminisces about his life spent under the arc lights.

Written and directed by Manas Basu, the title of the Bengali short film Aurora Borealis refers to the northern lights, an extraordinary phenomenon that creates a dazzling display of lights across the Arctic sky. Basu makes this a reference to the shimmering, glamorous lives of stars who shine brilliantly on the screen, just to fade away into relative oblivion once their careers are over and forgotten.

Ratul (Soumitra Chatterjee) is an aged actor who reminisces about his life spent under the arc lights. His fame has faded and he no longer commands the respect he once did in the fickle world of cinema. Everyday actions trigger his memory as he becomes lost in the past, recollecting glorious moments lived on the screen.

The short film takes an incisive look at what happens when ageing actors encounter the harsh reality of everyday, mundane life. It’s also an exploration of the notion of stardom, the power and status enjoyed by a star juxtaposed with the loneliness of living a life aided by pills.

Although Ratul barely speaks in the film, Basu creates the mindscape of the character through little details that allow us to empathize with the old man. The photographs on the wall are silent reminders of a celebrated past, a phone call tells us about long overdue payments, a hurried conversation makes us think about the status of male stars, and all this takes place in the background, to create a subtle context for Ratul’s past glory and his present despair.

The cinematography evokes the state of Ratul’s mind and the clips from Pather Panchali (1955), Ashani Sanket (1973) and Ekti Jiban (1990) conjure up nostalgia for the lives lived on screen by artistes. Framed against them, Ratul is lost and forgotten. The music, however, especially in the first part of the film, is done with a heavy hand and superfluous.

Veteran Soumitra Chatterjee died just five days ago and the outpouring of praise, appreciation and love for the actor is a tribute to his stellar career in cinema. Watching this short film, one cannot help but wonder how much fiction mimics reality and the fact that these lines get blurred in the film is yet another testament to the powerhouse of talent that he was.

Aurora Borealis was the official selection at the Indian Film Festival of South Asia, Toronto, and has been screened at several international film festivals. The film is now available on the Cinemapreneur platform. Click here to view Aurora Borealis.

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