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Ghawre Bairey Aaj review: Aparna Sen's modern retelling loses the human drama amidst the politics

Release Date: 15 Nov 2019 / Rated: A / 02hr 27min

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Shriram Iyengar

Aparna Sen's take on the iconic story by Rabindranath Tagore is defeated by a disjointed screenplay that struggles to keep the balance between ideology and human drama.

Aparna Sen's latest film is a new take on something that was done by two icons of Bengali art and culture — Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Tagore's story Ghare Baire was adapted by Ray into a critically acclaimed film of the same name back in 1984. Ghawre Baire Aaj has a currency and political relevance that can only be attributed to Sen. But the film finds itself burdened by the heavy conflict between its political ideology and the human drama.

The original story by Tagore is a fairly straightforward battle between the ideals of nationalism and equality, with a woman caught in the centre. In Sen's film, that takes on layers of political, social and class conflicts. Brinda/Bimla (Tuhina Das), a tribal woman, ends up marrying Nikhilesh Chaudhary (Anirban Bhattacharya), whose caretaker was her grandmother. Educated, brave and independent, Brinda soon falls for the more radical and dashing Sandip Jha (Jisshu Sengupta), whose Hindu nationalism is all the rage today.

While Sandip and Nikhilesh are close friends, their ideologies put them at constant loggerheads. The conflict is also between a man who acts because the action is profitable (Sandip) and one who acts only when it is good (NIkhilesh). The political allegories, events and happenings in the film are constructed with pointed references to reality. From the battle over a hospital and a temple to protest marches, lynching and the radicalization of Hindu youths, Aparna Sen weaves reality into her narrative. 

The only trouble is when this reality collides with the human drama within the story. The crux of Tagore's story lay in Brinda's attraction for Sandip, born out of innocence and attraction for speech rather than action. In Ghawre Baire Aaj, it simply seems naive and hard to believe. Tuhina Das does extract the best out of her role, but it is too meagre to make an impact.

In contrast, both men receive a generous dose of overcompensation that adds to the viewer's sense of disbelief. Anirban Bhattacharya plays his rich socialist editor Nikhilesh with all the stereotypes of a Bengali bourgeoisie, including a pipe to smoke and a digestive problem. Jisshu Sengupta's Sandip is more complex, but is let down by his Hindi/Bihari accent that pops up every once in a while. The actor also seems to be ill-suited to play the machiavellian seducer that Tagore created.

There are moments that typify the wonderful writing that Sen is capable of. The scene of Brinda's observation of Sandip, wondering "if only Nikhilesh spoke as passionately", becomes an allegory on the current world seduced by leaders that are brash in speech and direct in action, often to distressing effect. Yet, on the screen, the scenes play on with staid effect, lacking dramatic tension at the right moments. 

Perhaps Aparna Sen would have done better to focus on the human drama and let the politics evolve through it.

Ghawrey Bairey Aaj was screened at the 10th Jagran Film Festival in Mumbai on 26 September 2019.

Related topics

Jagran Film Festival

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