25 years filmmagazine shomingeki!
shomingekiblog is a blog associated with my former print magazine shomingeki published in German language. This blog will focuse mostly on english texts, translations from German into English and in some exceptions french texts. The official home page is at the moment: www.shomingeki.org. The official page for the German language version of shomingeki is: www.shomingekionline.org
shomingeki is now after 24 printissues available online. Non-Profit.
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Notes on Aami ashbo Phirey (Coming back), by Anjan Dutt, India: 2018
Sometimes we know, sometimes we don't Sometimes we give, sometimes we won't Sometimes we're strong, sometimes we're wrong Sometimes we cry. (Sometimes we cry by Van Morrison)
The three film directors
whose films occupied my mind most in this decade are Terrence Malick,
Aparna Sen and Anjan Dutt. The films by Anjan Dutt or Aparna Sen are
not available in my country, not to mention on the big screen and
since some years even difficult or impossible to find even as an
Aami ashbo Phirey,
one of the most recent films by Anjan Dutt, I could see at my Bengali
friends home in Idaho at Amazon Prime (available only for British,
Indians and Americans). Ironically, the fact that the films by Aparna
Sen or Anjan Dutt are nearly unavailable in Germany and to watch them
on the big screen remains a dream – I always feel a strong
awareness that they are made for the big screen and I always like to
imagine them in a full packed theatre. This is a very strong feeling
like a longing for a home for these films which had such an impact on
Aami ashbo phirey
is one of Anjan Dutt´s more experimental films especially with the
narrative form but it has the same intensity like his Dutta Vs
I remember last year
during my last passage to India when Anjan Dutt told me about his
film and its synopsis and I even saw some excerpts which made me want
to see the whole film. One years later, when I saw it finally in
Idaho, it appeared to me as a kaleidoscope of different human stories
interwoven with 7 songs composed by Neel Dutt and with lyrics by
During watching this film
and now when I remember this film, the songs are like an echo of this
wonderful experience I had. I listened them often and used them like
a key to reconstruct the mood I was in when I saw the film.
First of all, Aami
ashbo Phirey is with his Hamlet-adaptation Hemanta, Dutt´s
most melancholic film and surprisingly with little humour. Despite
the thing Aparna Sen calls “Bengaliness” like others mentioned
about Ozu the “Japaneseness” or the typical French gestures in
the films by Jean Renoir, I felt a deep empathy with the characters.
Sometimes I even had the strange sensation of a very personal film
experience. And also there was this strange confidence in this film
that made me giving in because all what I am even my vulnerability is
with this film in good hands. It was a strange “Coming home” for
me to all what I love in cinema. With these films, it is bit like
with one of my favorite songs, Madame George by Van Morrison,
I listen for more than 40 years in so much different times of my life
that it almost became “my” song.
Anjan Dutts films often
begin with endangered families or family like constellations and the
endangerment can come from inside or outside. In any case familiar or
family-like security is in the process to vanish. And there are often
young people who struggle to try - despite the lack of security - to
find their place in the world, if the young Anglo-Indian in Bow
Barracks Forever, the young singer in Ranjana Amir Ashbo na
or the young Rono in his autobiographical inspired Dutta Vs.
Dutta. In Aami ashbo Phirey there are even several young
persons struggling. For example the girl Ranjana who is traumatized
after she was raped by a young man. But almost each character in this
film appears as vulnerable and their life is on the edges. The
disintegration of social security is tightened like in no other film
by Anjan Dutt. These moments, often dialogs between arguing people
causes a strange feeling of discomfort and it often reminds us in our
own uneasiness while confronted with the world as a single
individual. For a big part of the film we are very close to these
lonely and often desperate characters.
As Aami ashbo Phirey
is a kaleidoscope of so much different human feelings and moods,
often visible in facial expressions and gestures of the whole
excellent ensemble of actors. The stories always connected with
certain characters are both, very concrete, sometimes very
heartbreaking but at the same time the narrative style is an
accomplishment of cinematic abstraction. There is often a subliminal
connection between the characters and sometimes even a dialog between
different lifetimes. The narrative style is very brave and it avoids
focusing on only a few characters. It is among other things as well
an ensemble film with a huge number of main characters.
A try to find my own
orientation in this network of stories:
Rono is a failed musician.
His son is in prison because he raped a young woman.
Ranjana, the victim is
traumatized. She is refusing to leave her home.
Her lawyer , an ambitioned
woman wants to win the case but she is stuck because Ranjana refuses
to appear at the court. Her depressive daughter has a relationship
with an elder man.
Rono´s divorced wife has
a relationship with another man. She often argues with Rono about who
is to blame for the son´s crime, who failed as a parent.
A young musician and his
band who rented a room in Rono´s house for rehearsals is close to be
thrown out by Rono.
A narrative twist changes
radically the level of the film. Rono makes a deal with the young
musician. After he found in a box from his imprisoned son some
written songs, he frees the musician from rent arrears when he
records these songs. He finally distributes the songs to the
different characters of the film and these songs cause different
impacts on each character. These songs circle through the episodic
narration like the earrings in Max Ophül"s Madame de...
Of course between this
very rough sketch of the film´s narration there are other stories,
for example the mother of Rono´s ex wife who gets a stroke and dies
later in the film. The narrative structure is much tighter than it
For now and at the first
sight, all characters appear like prisoners of their grieve, loss,
fear , failure or guilt. Dutt reveals this with very intense chamber
scenes which bring together the intensity of the moments in Dutta
Vs Dutta which have as well a tendency to minimalism like in his
Hemanta which actually translated Shakespeare´s Hamlet
almost into a chamber piece.
Near the opening there is
one of these arguments between Rono and his ex wife about their
failure as parents. Anjan Dutt as Rono acts in front of a blueish
empty wall. The dynamic of his acting is strangely running idle, his
character seems dithering in front of a nightmarish empty stage. It
left a strong visual impression on me like it is burnt in my memory.
Other chamber scenes evoke
a strange feeling for the vanishing of light. Rono again arguing with
his ex wife:.The shutter of the window is closed but a small shine of
street light from the nocturnal Kolkata is visible. Another small
lamp is on but the light seems to loose its fight against the
In several moments, Aami
ashbo Phirey has the darkness of Ozu´s nightmarish bleak but
masterfulTokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight). Among the many
moments which leaves us in a mood of heavy melancholy there are two
shots taking place in bathrooms. Rono under the shower, extremely
sad, I think he is even crying and in another shot we see the
traumatized Ranjana under the shower but still dressed. These two
little moments in one of the most intimate rooms we can imagine are
as well quite precise images for a vulnerability the film evokes in
us for the characters but as well for ourselves. If Rono retrieves
himself under the shower from all his trouble, for Ranjana even the
shower is not a hide way for her troubled soul and abused body.
The fact that the film is
full of different currents and counter currents is evident in its
changes of moods. One secret of the enormous richness of the film are
the seven songs which were written and composed before the screenplay
was written. They finally keep the promise of the Bob Marley
quotation from the beginning: “Music when it hits you you feel no
Despite Anjan and Neel
Dutt are passionate musicians, the songs are in Dutt´s films always
included with most accuracy and economical. The songs change the whole chemistry of
the film. They do not just reveal certain moods and feelings already
evoked through the images, they sometimes paraphrase it, sometimes
sad, sometimes slightly jaunty, but first of all they change our
vision of the film. The songs punctuate the dominating sadness of the
film with moments - if not happiness – than at least slight
moments hope. The mood I compared with Ozu´s darkest film is for
moments suspended. The songs do not really relativize the melancholy
of this film but they open the the door for a different perception,
an option of another look at life like, that includes the life as it
is revealed in the film.
The songs do not seem to
appear for a certain wanted effect but rather like an unexpected
The song texts like
translated in the subtitles and as far as I was able to write them
down are about hope after nightmares and often comforting. During ,
if I am not mistaken, the first song we see Rono alone walking
through the city, as sad and lost like the jew Cohen in Aparna Sen´s
Mr. And Mrs. Iyer. But the song actually is a slight
counter current of the lostness. Another song, an elegy is about “an
afternoon where the birds do not sing anymore” or about someone
“who does not see the dawn anymore”. There is also a song about
loneliness but it is not just an emphasis of the loneliness of the
characters but an abstraction, poetry formed out of human feelings.
Another song compares life with cigarettes, a rather light song but
which actually later evokes a strong feeling for mortality. The
feeling for mortality is always a shock especially in a medium like
film which embalms a piece of time in the sense of André Bazin for
the eternity. I think the song appears around the scene when an old
woman dies. As the song reminds us that “we all have to die one
day” it implied the strange dynamic of the film between very
rough and naked emotions and poetic abstraction. The songs finally
help the film through its movements between two aspects of film, the
realism the mirror of our social life and the poetry, an imaged of
the world but also how one can sing about the world. The songs and
how they are integrated into in the fiction of Aami ashbo Phirey
are from a dysfunctional person (the film leaves no doubt that the
young man will stay in prison for a long time) and probably they are
the only things he has to give to the world. At the end of the film,
a short epilogue tells about the stories of the characters continue.
Some of them are going on with their life, others disappear without a
Aami ashbo Phirey
is a film about pain and grieve which we can´t watch from a safe
place or as a voyeur without being affected. But it is also great
cinema between the recognition of what we call world and poetic
abstraction, between action and contemplation.
This is a film which has a
long “second life” in my memory long after I have watched it.
Sometimes I recall some of these different moods and emotions the
film evoked in my, sometimes I listen to the songs which sometimes
seem like a secret code to open doors to other memories of this film.
It is a film which
disappeared too fast from the public memory of the film world. That
is a sad thing with so much films I care for. But that films like
Dutta Vs. Dutta or Aami Ashbo Phirey (which has not even a DVD
release) disappeared almost without any international festival
screenings is a tragedy. While I am able to watch Dutta VS Dutta
as often on DVD like I want, this, my other favorite film by Anjan
Dutt Aami ashbo Phirey I have to entrust the film to my
fallible organic memory. I already miss watching this film.
I saw as well
last year in Idaho his most recent film, Finally Bhalobasha
from 2019, another film I would like to watch again and film about
that I am sure which will grow after watching it again. This film and
his Hemanta, an adaptation from Hamlet are available at the
streaming channel hoichoi. It would be interesting to compare Hemanta
with the American TV series Sons of Anarchy which is also
based on Shakespeare´s drama and which also focuses like Anjan
Dutt´s film on the destruction causes by revenge. But compared with
the TV show, Anjan Dutt created almost a chamber piece which
concentrates the intensity of the several seasons long TV series into
less then 150 film minutes. I have seen Hemanta only once and
without subtitles, but it left a strong impression on me.