Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Notes on Binisutoy (Without Strings), by Atanu Ghosh, India: 2019


 

The impression Binisutoy left on me reminds me a bit in the strange dreams I have sometimes. In these dreams everything seems real almost like I lived in another identity. On the other hand, the film has (and not only because of its unorthodox narrative style) an almost dreamlike quality. It is as well one of those films which makes you reflect about the very special perception of a film the interaction between concentrated contemplation and all the moods, memories thoughts and feelings you have during watching a film.

When I wrote about Ghoshs´s previous films Mayuraskshi and Robibaar, I called these film sober “anywhere between Edward Yang and Michelangelo Antonioni”. Binisutoy appears to me during watching very close to the imagination the previous films evoked in me.

Two strangers meet by accident at bright daylight. In the first moment it is hard to make out any fiction. The light is bright and unaffected. They meet at an audition for a reality TV-show. They eventually fail the casting. The woman Shraboni falls and hurt herself slightly. The man Kajal brings her to a medical practice. Their return to their homes is further postponed because of strong rainfall and they have to spend some hours at a guest house. Fiction seems in Atanu Ghosh´s films literally grow on the concrete of the streets or buildings of Indian urban reality. As the two protagonists have to kill time they exchange stories about themselves. A little later we will learn that all these stories are invented. For now all what we learn about the characters is what they pretend to be. And for now the characters do the same like the actors Jaya Ahsan and Ritwick Chakraborty do, they perform. There is as well a Hitchockian quality in this film. Even though Binisutoy is not a thriller Ghosh uses this great art to keep the audience busy and herewith always attentive. In the guest house, Kajal searches secretly Shraboni´s handbag which includes a big amount of money. That is like one of these right and wrong little tracks. Small things and small actions are often important for pure cinematic storytelling.

The second part of the film is like a resetting. The two strangers are now visible in their certain social and professional environment. Shraboni appears as a director of a tea company and lives in a fancy apartment. As she seemed in the first part like an impoverished and careworn middle class woman, she appears now as an eloquent and wealthy lady. Opposite to his stories Kajal appears as a married man with a son. The marriage is not in the best state. He has not enough time for his son who has problems in school with only good marks in Bengali and English. His bad function as a learner is in contrast with his love for storytelling.

They are at home. Warm colours are dominating the interiors of apartments or office buildings. The lightning has a strange, almost painful beauty like in a film by Ozu where the contrast of beauty and the loneliness of the characters is heartbreaking.

Shraboni and Kajal meet once in Shraboni´s office. He found out about her identity at Facebook and visits her unexpected. It is a small but strangely moving scene. They appear like melancholic lost souls tired from the enmeshment of the invented stories they created. It is a strange almost ghostly double presence of the actors and the characters they embody. And it is a fascinating pause in the films narration and it is a bit like the breath of the great Irish singer Van Morrison between the wonderful songs of one of his finest albums Astral Weeks. This kind of scenes which evoke in me the feeling to stand very close to the blast fumace of cinema reminds me among others in the mysterious double presence of actors and the characters they embody in films like Aparna Sen´s Mr. And Mrs. Iyer with Sensharma/Meenakshi and Raja/Bose.

Near the end of the film Shraboni and Kajal will meet again. For now I do not want to give too much away but it is interesting that they will face an event which has a big impact on them. For a moment they seem what they are and not what they pretend to be in their stories. The film seems much more divided like in music pieces in movements than chapters. The sad straying souls and the film itself find themselves again before this fascinating and inspiring film does its last breath.

The first image shows a big tree wee see from the tree trunk to its finest branching. In restrospekt the first image seems to me as well as a good image for the whole film but as well for the art of Atanu Ghosh. His films are like the mighty tree trunk and the first still strong branches. The finer branches we usually do not see but they will appear in our imagination. There is for example the narrative ramification. For example the story of Shraboni´s rebellious cousin who is fired by the tea company by Shraboni´s uncle (the company was once founded by her family). Some of these narrative ramifications we see, others we can only sense.

In a sense the film seems to be something like a multiverse. The true and the invented stories, they all finally sum up as different options and decisions a human life is finally made of. A film like Binisutoy is as well a good occasion to philosophize about cinema. During the Covid crisis, The film faced like a lot of films a delayed and limited release. As I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to watch this film on a streamer, I wish to watch it in a theatre on a big screen in its full Cinemascope-format and if possible in the first row.

Rüdiger Tomczak



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