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Review Bengali

Tarikh review: Complex ideas get lost in jarring cinematic experience

Release Date: 12 Apr 2019 / Rated: U/A

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Roushni Sarkar

Despite the engaging performances, the film tends to disturb you but hardly offers anything to ponder.

Some portions of Churni Ganguly’s Tarikh (A Timeline) leave an impact and some just depress the viewer. The film tends to highlight the positive outcomes of social media and also attempts to address issues of intellectualism, loneliness, and relationships. The theme is complex, and Tarikh fails to offer a wholesome cinematic experience.

When dealing with a complex subject, the tendency of a director to point out all the significances and messages often lessens the impact of the film. Instead, if issues are left open to be understood and analysed by the audience itself, the purpose is served better. Ganguly’s film does not choose the second path.

Dipankar Mitra (Kaushik Ganguly) returns home to London after a long time and opens his Facebook profile. He goes on to wish longtime friend Anirban Gupta (Saswata Chatterjee) on his birthday on his timeline and receives the shock of his life to see people posting messages remembering him on his death anniversary.

The film then unfolds Anirban’s story with incidents from his and wife Ira Mukherjee’s birthdays and anniversaries. Incidentally, Ira (Raima Sen) and Anirban’s close friend Rudrangshu (Ritwick Chakraborty) share a birthday which coincides with Ira and Anirban's anniversary.

On one birthday, on his wife’s insistence, Anirban, a professor (of what subject is not clear), opens a Facebook account. Anirban is loved by his students for his progressive thoughts on humanity and extensive knowledge of history and literature. Once he opens his account, he gets a platform to share his thoughts on various issues.

Ira is more materialistic — busy buying the right birthday gift for their daughter, or taking Anirban shopping. She, Rudrangshu and Anirban have a close friendship. Rudrangshu, who is single, is helplessly in love with Ira; however, he shares a genuine bond with childhood friend Anirban as well. While Ira loves to lead a simple life, watching puppy videos on Facebook, Anirban travels to London often for lectures.

Ira is aware of Anirban’s association with a woman named Georgina Abbot, but he never discusses her. From his Facebook chats, it is evident that they share some interests. Ira, on the other hand, loves Anirban but shares more interests with Rudrangshu. A part of every celebration, Rudrangshu goes all out to make Ira happy. Anirban doesn’t mind that but he feels more comfortable when he is away from the hullabaloo of celebration.

All this is revealed through several celebrations and Anirban’s posts on Facebook. After marriage, Anirban has made sure Ira doesn’t change her surname. On their anniversary two years before his death, when his daughter insists her surname is Mukherjee, Anirban feels proud and puts a status message on Facebook that he wants his daughter to break all shackles of patriarchy and become like Malala (Yousafzai) one day.

As time passes, Anirban is mentally distanced from his marital life and develops a certain aversion to Rudrangshu, who never seems to leave space for the couple. During the Holi celebration a year before his death, the three friends decide to open their hearts and speak candidly during a drinking session.

Equations change that night. Anirban tries hard to relocate to his own space — his family — till the tragedy strikes. Anirban’s death overwhelms Ira, Rudrangshu and everyone else around. Ira continues to look for the reasons for which, on the night of his birthday a year ago, Anirban had written, “I failed you, I am sorry!”

Anirban's death opens more channels to reveal the person that he was, struggling to place himself and settle down. He was fighting his own dilemmas, and for a girl who had accused another professor in the a university of molesting her. He wished for Ira to step out of her comfort zone and walk with him on his ‘pilgrimages’ to Westminster Abbey, where lie buried legends of literature and history. While he always wanted his life partner to share his ideologies, he could never go beyond what he read in the texts or implement them in his personal life. His relationship with Georgina remains a mystery till the end.

It appears that the director wished to project certain ideas about the significance of ideologies in a relationship, and about friendships and their value in life. She seems to have intended to tell the story of a man for whom ideologies become the reality rather than people of flesh and blood around him. However, the script is too chaotic at times and the climax is high-pitched. The plot jumps from one date to another, often puzzling the mind, before it can convey its ideas to the audience.

To emphasize the ‘timeline’ on social media, Ganguly chooses dates of celebration to tell the story. However, what happens the rest of the time is not touched upon. The director wanted to magnify the impact of Anirban’s death on his family, but the sequence of bringing his coffin is dragged too much and is unnecessarily depressing. The sequence of holding a memorial after his death also seems redundant.

Though Anirban’s ideologies seem pretentious, perhaps it was the director’s intention to project them that way. Apart from the conflicting dynamics between Anirban, Ira and Rudrangshu, the rest of the relationships don’t come out organically.

Saswata Chatterjee does justice to his character as he always appears quite rigid, lost, and trying hard to impress his family, with his ego always on guard. Ritwick Chakraborty is extremely convincing as the committed friend and lover, with a bit of envy for his dear friend Anirban, who, at the end of the day, is Ira’s husband. Raima Sen enacts the simplicity of her character with zeal and pronounces the changes in her life after Anirban’s death with zeal.

Gopi Bhagat’s camerawork and Surajit Singha’s editing add to the confusing experience of the to-and-fro plot progression. Raja Narayan Deb doesn’t use original songs. Instead he takes inspiration from Pink Floyd and Bangladeshi band Mohiner Ghoraguli to bring out the culture of college students in Bengal and their deep association with Bengali academics and intellectualism.

To channelize complex ideas, the medium needs to be smooth. Ganguly’s film is anything but. Despite the engaging performances, the film tends to disturb you but hardly offers anything to ponder.

Tarikh (A Timeline) was screened at the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) on 14 November 2018.

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