Kolkata, 16 Nov 2018 3:00 IST
Updated: 17 May 2019 2:40 IST
Kaushik Ganguly delivers what is easily the best performance of his career so far, almost singularly carrying the film on his shoulders and leaving a lasting imprint in the minds of the audience.
Music director-turned-filmmaker Indraadip Dasgupta’s debut film Kedara (Armchair) will find a special place in the viewer's heart. It is the kind of film that is bound to make you smile, feel nostalgic, and look into the corner of the soul that is still a child.
Kedara tells the story of a middle-aged man with the innocence of a child for whom life is about mischief, building a world of fantasies, and finding joy in certain discoveries about one's own.
Dasgupta has chosen an exceptional subject and tells his story with surreal execution. Ventriloquist Narasingha (Kaushik Ganguly) lives alone in a weary house full of old mementoes, masks and antiques. That he is a ventriloquist is revealed in most unexpected fashion. Narasingha does not only mimic sounds or voices; voices have their own entities for him and they live with him — they are his family.
In the film, the reason for Narasingha's separation from his wife (Bidipta Chakraborty) is never revealed, but it gradually becomes apparent that perhaps it was hard even for her to enter his space.
The windows and doors of Narasingha’s house remain mostly closed. Only a few slivers of sunlight slip through the window seals inside his dark rooms.
The loafers of the locality make fun of Narasingha's profession and his apparently abnormal nature. His maid doesn’t lose an opportunity to taunt him. One of his neighbours pays him visits only to remind him that he is a failure.
Narasingha bears everything in silence. He sometimes blames his joblessness. There is a locked room in his house that no one else is allowed to open. The locked room almost proves to be the protector of his lifeline — the core of all his fantasies.
Narasingha’s only confidante (Rudranil Ghosh) sells antiques opposite his house. He feels he is as useless as the old collection in his shop. Much like Narasingha, he, too, finds solace and a home amidst his collection.
One day, after being reminded yet again what a failure he is, Narasingha opens his heart to his friend. Touched, the friend asks him to take anything he likes from his collection. Narasingha casually requests him to bring him an armchair — a throne, to sit in his own ‘zamindari’. Though Narasingha forgets about the request, he is quite surprised when his friend brings him a royal wooden chair and a mirror.
With the arrival of the chair, Narasingha starts to have strange experiences, but, more than anything else, he starts feeling happy about himself. Though his new adventure excites him and his world becomes more colourful, Narasingha doesn’t quite understand what is happening. He wonders — does the chair have magical powers?
The way Dasgupta has created the world of Narasingha is magical. It is not that he brings in a lot of fantastic visuals. His vision in bringing narratives out of a ventriloquist’s talent or the voices he hears in his head, his room filled with the hide-and-seek of light and shadow, and his attachment to the things he loves madly is surprising, refreshing and soothing.
Cinematographer Subhankar Bhar and editor Sujoy Dutta Roy have a lot of contribution in making the film an ensemble experience. The close shots of Narasingha’s expressions are the most poignant moments on screen as the film is largely performance-based. A shot of pigeons playing in a ray of light that has peeked through in the dark room while Narasingha playfully feeds them offers the first glimpse into the heart of the man who is good for nothing in the eyes of the world.
There are countless such moments in the film that appear to have been composed by a mind that is relaxed and has a clear vision.
There is a sense of ‘storytelling’ in the camerawork throughout, which retains the intrigue around the story till the end. Since most of the incidents take place inside Narasingha's house, the colour tone of the film is mostly dark. However, not for a moment does the film appear grim. Rather, it shines like the coal ore that contains diamonds. It seems every little piece of furniture or belonging in Narasingha’s room has a story to tell.
The juxtaposition of Narasingha’s childhood with his adulthood magnifies the innocence in him. The director takes recourse to a flashback just once; yet the few glimpses of Narasingha's younger self doing the same activities he does in the present suggest how his life has been since childhood. Narasingha’s grandmother holds the most special place in his life, much like the locked room.
Arijit Singh’s background score is so minimal and in synch with every sequence that one has to pay special attention to analyse it separately. The entire cinematic experience proves that Dasgupta could transport his vision and perspective to each and every department of the film.
Kaushik Ganguly delivers what is easily the best performance of his career so far. Dasgupta was wise to cast the actor-director. He almost singularly carries the film on his shoulders and leaves a lasting imprint in the minds of the audience.
Each and every expression of Ganguly is so genuine, so nuanced and so dramatic that it is astonishing. The change in his avatar after he starts sitting on his 'throne' is not drastic but his wonder at his own transformation is palpable throughout the second half. Even the significance of his name grows so much after his transformation, from merely hinting at his size. Also, Ganguly has performed all the mimicry in the film himself, revealing a hitherto unseen talent.
It is good to see Rudranil Ghosh in a role very different from the stereotypical ones he usually gets. He plays a timid man with deep affection for Narasingha, whom he genuinely considers his big brother. He never tries to intrude in his big brother’s secret world, but he understands the beautiful soul Narasingha carefully guards from everybody.
Dasgupta’s script and Srijato Bandopadhyay’s dialogues help the film retain an organic flow till the end. Through Kedara, the director celebrates souls that only wish to be happy and are in tune with nature, like the song of birds or the flow of rivers.
For the same reason, Narasingha is more scared when the sky, which is full of dreams for him, turns chaotic with the sounds of plane crashes and war than he is of death, which only marks the beginning of a new journey of celebration. Much like the world of Narasingha, Kedara offers an experience that the audience finds hard to let go of.
Kedara was screened at the Kolkata International Film Festival on 14 November 2018. Kedara will be screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on 18 May 2019 at 1:30 pm.
Related topicsKolkata International Film Festival Habitat Film Festival
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