Kolkata, 06 May 2020 19:00 IST
The film is driven by powerful and spontaneous performances by the artistes.
Tathagata Ghosh’s Mangsho - The Meat is a disturbing yet engaging short film that poignantly reflects the director’s thoughts on hate-politics and the condition of migrant labourers during the lockdown.
Just a few days ago, the director shared that certain important issues, which have been haunting him recently, pushed him to make this film. Within the limitations imposed by the lockdown, Ghosh has cleverly chosen to focus on content rather than experimenting with technicalities while giving creative expression to his restless mind.
Featuring Bimal Giri, Soumya Majumdar, Payel Rakshit and Gautam Siddhartha, the film boldly points at the irresponsible attitude of the government towards migrant workers during the lockdown and the petty vote-bank politics surrounding it.
Ghosh had also said that that he was deeply affected by the rising instances of Islamophobia in the country. He has managed to effortlessly weave the issue of hate-politics into the narrative as well.
Ghosh does not take much time to get right to the point in the 19-minute film with archetypal characters. Though the characters seem predictable, the progress of the screenplay backed by powerful and spontaneous performances will keep viewers intrigued till the end.
The idea of conceptualising the entire film within the frame of a video call between two characters, has saved the director from worrying about cinematography. In these days of the lockdown, directors have to rely on actors to shoot their individual parts from their respective homes.
A Muslim couple (not stated whether they are married or not), from the not-so-privileged background, goes for a name change in order to find employment during the lockdown. While the woman, who changes her name to Payel (Rakshit), finds work as a domestic helper at a household, her partner Rizwan (Giri), a migrant labourer, posing as Ramen Dutta, gets help from Sahadev Chatterjee (Siddhartha). However, he is unaware of Chatterjee’s ulterior motive behind giving him shelter.
Rizwan and his partner’s concern for each other becomes apparent as they discuss their individual challenges. Their longing to see each other is also apparent, as well as the manner in which they strive to find work so as to be able to sail through the lockdown. Their relationship seems beautifully balanced with Rizwan mostly driven by idealistic emotions, while his partner seems to be the voice of reason. It is a challenge to convey so much through a video call, but the dialogues serve the purpose entirely.
Chatterjee’s character is also established from the first frame through his aggressive countenance more than the red tilak on his forehead. His petty intentions and egoistic attributes are stoked by the friend on video call, who evidently lives off sensations in life.
The friend's joy at making profit by helping migrant labourers and his hatred of Muslims, along with a callous and regressive attitude that easily objectifies women, contrasts well with Chatterjee’s hyper behaviour. This bond explains the general attitude of most people, who are easily brainwashed into hating certain communities.
Chatterjee’s evident pride at giving shelter to a migrant labourer is infused with more shades as he takes pride in his caste. He wants to reap political benefit through his charitable act, but at the same time defies the rules of physical distancing by hiring a domestic helper in the lockdown.
The story is woven with subtle twists that takes it towards an inevitable climax. The juxtaposition of the real-life sequence of a lion hunting a deer and the slaughtering of a pig, in relation to the friend’s sarcastic reference to Muslims smelling like pigs, establishes the climax without a graphic portrayal.
The director has definitely resorted to the most extreme consequence to directly convey his concern about the rising instances of Islamophobia in the country. Also, the contrast between Rizwan’s prayer to his Khuda, who he equates with his beloved, and his immediate and sudden tragic fate is the most disturbing and realistic aspect.
However, the final sequence seems to bring down the anxiety graph that is established in the climax. But the nonchalance on Payel’s face after Rizwan’s phone screen goes completely blank during the video call, following a commotion, doesn’t seem convincing.
The film is definitely performance driven. The actors are so spontaneous that it seems as if they are speaking to their close friends or relatives on a video call instead of shooting for a film.
The director's matter of fact approach makes it easier for the audience to either like or hate the film, depending on where they are standing in the spectrum of political ideologies.
Watch the film below.
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