Directed By– Tathagata Ghosh
Produced By- T-square Productions, Caspian Pictures, RGB Studios
Edited By- Souvik Basu Thakur
Cinematography- Rajdeep Mukherjee and Dipayan Saha
Main Cast- Sayantan Banerjee, Siddhartha Dey, Najrin Islam, Ranodeep Nandy, Gautam Siddharta Ghosh, Nupur Banerjee, Arindam Banerjee
Poster- Shuvam Bhattacharya
In this year’s Kolkata International Film Festival, out of a myriad of short films, one that practically caged my attention was ‘Manush Putul’ by Tathagata Ghosh. The 63 minute film enthralled the audience- receiving an honorary standing ovation at the end. Yes, it was that good.
Manush Putul is a drama revolving around two people- Bhaskar babu, a 70-something and Sulagna, in her ripe years of college. Bhaskar babu represents loneliness in the harshest form. He is not just a character. He is an episode of human life. There are people who try to be with him, help him out but there are also people who completely ridicule him. His loved ones have shut the door for him…they have made him feel like a mere stranger walking down the streets…but in Bhaskar babu, there is this strange fighting spirit…this strong self respect..THIS is praiseworthy. He does not want to live on people’s sympathy. He knows he can survive. No matter how big bad the world tries to be, he WILL get by…there is always a loophole or two in fate’s plan.
We do so much for our near and dear ones, but still, we do not always get our dues back at the end.
“Tora Nochiketa’r ‘Bidhashrom’ gaan sune chokher jol phelish ar gaan sesh hoe gele loker chokh e jol anish” [ You hear Nochiketa’s ‘Old Age Home’ and shed tears but as soon as the song ends, YOU bring tears to other’s eyes]
Even the journalists play with people’s emotions to a certain extent, trying to make a living out of public’s sympathy for the victims. Bhaskar babu’s character moves you. The selfish side of people around him, even around us in today’s society, is immaculately painted on screen. THIS selfish side makes you shudder…the humane feeling seems to be lost…Are we even fit to be called humans?
Sulagna. Sulagna’s world revolves around her father, Abinash- her lover, Anindya- her best friend and Bhaskar babu- her neighbor. As the film progresses, we get to see how her beliefs, her trust in people rusts. Our heart winces as we see her helpless, experiencing the pangs of pain along with her.
“Acha besh, amaye ekta putul diyo, amar jano toh putul-r khub sokh” [Well fine! Give me a doll then. You know, I have quite a fascination for them]
A simple line…but reflecting a mass of innocence. Sulagna, the mother-less girl gradually matures, carelessly moulded by her circumstances.
Abinash represents the artist’s ego and alter ego. As an artist, he feels that he is an actor, but is he good enough to portray the pathos and tragedies of this boy Arin? “Oi chokh duto” [Those eyes] haunt him. The darkness of the theatre halls seems to suffocate him. As an artist, he questions his artistic self.
Most people would be able to relate to Anindya– a student completely detached from politics. He is another simple character carefully embedded in the complexities of life.
‘Manush Putul’, the film is an extension of the human race, the journey people go through. It shows us that we have no control over where destiny takes us. The songs in the film are right there at the right place…tugging at our hearts…allowing emotions to weep along with the soft caresses of melody. A hats off to the young director for being just twenty and having a wide vision of life. Little did I know that he would be such a down-to-earth person, before sitting over cups of coffee and discussing life, love, music and ‘Manush Putul’ with him.
Me: Tathagata Da, the use of animation in short films…well, I have seen quite a few and I can’t say I have come across one before. So, what made you use it in yours?
TG: The scenes shown in animation, well, I couldn’t have shot them…because the budget was a shoe-string budget. When I came across the idea of animation, I was unsure about it…how can I execute that? I gave it a try- 2D Animation. I was aware that no one had used animation this way in a short film. I wanted to tell the story in a different way…by using music and visuals only…If it was properly shot, I would have needed a bigger budget. I wanted to make the story more interesting…to explore something that has not been done before. It was a challenge to make serious animation. The experimentation is the key word here. Dipayan Saha successfully did it. The credit goes to him.
Me: The Kanamachi (a game where one person is blind folded and has to catch the others) scene is remarkable in its own way. Would you like to shed some light on it?
TG: Our dreams are always haphazard. It is like a mosaic of feelings or random thoughts. It doesn’t come in a well clustered sequential manner like reality. Bhaskar babu’s dream is exactly like that. It seems like he is blindfolded amidst the crowd of the city with his bag- lost and all he can feel is the presence of those two(Sulagna and Ujjal babu). Then all of a sudden, the reality (The train being the metaphor here) seems to leave him behind. He is helpless. This is when he wakes up.
Me: It is a black and white film. So, why the addition of colour right at the end?
TG(smiles): Well, it was not decided that it would be a black and white film. That was decided after a while.
In the end, began a new chapter in Sulagna as well as Bhaskar babu’s life. If you notice the sound design carefully, the film started with the honking of a rickshaw. It ended on the same note with Bhaskar babu leaving and the similar honking of a rickshaw. This is obviously a symbolization- I wanted to achieve a closure.
A junction point is definitely the bag of dolls, which is why, it is highlighted. It is a symbol of Hope. THIS is similar to ‘Meghe Dhaka Tara’ by Kamaleswar Mukherjee. So, we decided to use black and white throughout and colour at the end. The bag of dolls was a medium of earning, a bag of hope and it represents the beginning of a new era in Sulagna’s life. This was more of a perspective. That was it.
‘Manush Putul’ has been executed flawlessly in all ways. It is a simple story which makes you question everyday life…your own being…It makes you seek deep into yourself and ask- Are we independent humans or are we mere puppets controlled by the imaginary Other?