Sunday, July 14, 2019
Notes on Ahaa Re (The Two Lovers) by Ranjan Ghosh, India: 2019
At the beginning, a boat is floating on a mighty river. Except a young couple, no one else is visible. It is the head chief Raja and his fiancée Shahida. They argue about how to coordinate their professional with their love life. Shahida went to Paris for professional reasons, Raja will now go to Kolkata for working in a restaurant. Both are from Bangladesh. It seems the spectator is on this boat on a sightseeing tour but suddenly distracted by this arguing couple. This is not only an introduction in the film´s story but as well into an idea about cinema. The boat and the couple is embedded in this mighty river landscape like this piece of fiction is embedded in the reality far beyond the film. From the first moment on, Ahaa Re is not only a film about relationships between family members, lovers or colleagues, it is as well a film about the relationship between the framed fictionalized piece of world and an idea of an equally present reality beyond it, outside of the frame and outside of fiction. If each shot is decision, it is here as well in contact with the whole world.
At the first sight, Ahaa Ree appears as a soft comedy about family and love relations and about the art of cooking, the sensual pleasure of food. But behind the more obvious themes, the film also reflects always about work. In this case it is not only about preparing dishes but picking up fresh ingredients from the market and always checking out new nuances of taste. And the work of cooking appears to me as well as a metaphor for film making. As the film often reveals working hands which select and compose it gives also a hint about the film as a result of searching and selecting itself. The film is not only about food but as well about very different kinds of persons and how they define their place in the world, their attitude about the world and from very different perspectives. It is also for example about perceptions of the world of a Muslim from Bangladesh and a Hindu widow from Kolkata.
As the story begins to be more branched, Raja meets Basundhara, a Hindu widow who runs the catering service of her father in law. Raja who begins to be interested in her makes friends with her brother and father in law. Basundhara does not talk much in this film. For a long time, all tries of Raja to propose her remain unanswered by her. Even though all other persons talk a lot about themselves, the film remains very economic with expressed emotions and therefore emotions are rather optional than directly revealed for most of the time.
Another example for Ranjan Ghosh´s dealing with fiction and reality are the moments when Raja alone, with Basundhara or with her father in law visits the market places for picking up fresh ingredients for his kitchen. It is like in the opening scene when the narrative and stylistic decisions visible in the frame stand in a context to a reality which is nearly untouched by the film´s fiction. It is like an open door where one can walk between these two dimensions, the things the film is focusing on and the perceptible world outside the frame. This enriches the film by a fresh breeze, a seeming lightness which reminds me in the films by Eric Rohmer, Yasujiro Ozu or Rudolf Thome.
Bashundara´s father in law watches the night sky and is rambling about the birth and the dead of the stars. It is again one of these moments, when the narration of the film pauses for a moment with a rather reflective moment and not only the characters but also the film seems to reflect about itself.
Rituparna Sengupta´s Basundhara is another example for the versatile options the film is offering. For a long time she hides her emotions behind a facial expression between fathomless melancholy and stoicism. For most of the time Sengupta acts restrained a bit like Shefali Shah in Kanwal Sethi´s Once again. But nearly the end of the film when her tragic story is revealed she has a fierce and unexpected emotional release. It is like a meteor strike on the quiet and sorted suface of this film. It also evokes in me memories in the incredible scenes of regrets and sadness of Setsuko Hara in Ozu´s Tokyo Monogatari and Supriya Choudhury in Ghatak´s Meghe Dhaka Tara.
There is a moment when Raja is watching at the window in his fancy apartment. At first the window emphasizes the natural limitation of cinema by the frame of the image. Later the whole screen shows the greyish clouded sky over Kolkata. And again the film has opened it´s door from it´s fiction to the universe of what it is a part of.
In another moment the house of Basundhara´s father in law is ridden by a heavy thunderstorm. The windows are still open and the house is totally exposed to this force of nature. For this short moment, human culture often evident in this film by apartments and living rooms becomes vulnerable.
The nearest thing which comes to my mind to describe the impact the film has on me, is a strolling through the paths, the rooms and places, the human landscapes the film reveals or through the versatile cinematic ideas, the film is offering.
The paths in the films are fixed but we are free to move and it is on us how we look around or how we explore the cinematic options the film has offered.
Ahaa Re by Ranjan Ghosh is another example for the vibrancy of contemporary Indian cinema outside the more and more commercialized film industry and which deserves much more attention by the international film community than it gets these days. And despite the future of cinema is threatened as an art form, there are especially some young filmmaker from India who gave me in very different ways confidence in the future of cinema, people like Rima Das, Pushpendra Singh, Konkona Sensharma, Kanwal Sethi or Anamika Bandopadhyay and there are probably even more to discover. And for sure, Ranjan Ghosh is one of them.