Iti…. a cinematic experience.
Cinema is always an experience. From the greek days any performance has been a projection, an identification and a catharsis. I had the wonderful opportunity that ought to be described as fortunate, to watch a film that made me yearn to see it again, go to my library and pull out dust laden old books, and keep talking about it not only on facebook and buzz, but in real time too..
I am writing about the film ‘iti mrinalini’ by Aparna Sen. Years ago, I was stunned at 36 Chowringee lane, her first film which I happened to see, when my exposure to world cinema had not even been with VHS tapes. Now, in the luxury of my home theatre I watch cinematic masterpieces at will and pleasure. I can afford to compare. I can ponder to dissect and discuss. I knew very little cinema when I saw her first film, but now having seen many great and many more good films, I have to be grateful to the lady for making this film, though in a snobbish beer laden slouch on a sofa I can pick at all the weak spots in that film. A film is what you see and experience at that time. It is an emotion, only later do words come and make it rational and relational. I fell in love with the film- what am I projecting or identifying to enforce a cathartic ‘aha’ experience? At this moment and point of writing I do not know. I may, by the time I finish, or may not too- not every experience can be defined and described.
OK! ‘iti mrinalini’ appears to be a very simplistic story. A very successful actress climbing on screen and falling in life, writes a suicide note, and reminisces. Her life is narrated in flashbacks as she extracts nuggets from her memory laden old box. This by itself is a story line that Shakespeare could have pursued. It needed Shakespeare because the narration needs poetry: The writer/director, therefore uses Tagore. As the flimsy cellophane wrapping of the story line is unwrapped layers and layers of laden narratives breeze through the film. The pride, passion and poise of a truly great artist is a portrait painted on screen. I did not cry after the film, maybe I should have.
And, why does the protagonist wishes death and starts writing the suicide note? She has lost a great role in what could have become a great film! It sounds too simplistically silly, unless you ponder on why all contemplations of suicide are on flimsy grounds. Flimsy? Yes, indeed flimsy, to the one peeping through a window. No emotion is flimsy inside. We laugh at somebody slipping, we cry at somebody dying… it is a moment of appropriate emoting, not experiencing the high and low of reality.
The film is loaded with Tagore. I don’t just love him but adore him. This could have favorably prejudiced me. His lines are so meaningfully and majestically woven into the script and narration.
She decides to die after many tragic and painful moments of her life. She had been living in a dream which was fulfilled part-time by her married mentor who lives in with her; she had given birth to a lovely girl and given her away for adoption to her brother, she is rejected by her lover, her daughter dies in an accident…but she chooses to quit acting only later. She decides to quit acting after seeing the death of Sayajit Ray on TV, saying she had always been waiting for a call from him, and now that he is no more she need not act for or with others.
Clichéd? Of course! As clichéd or more than Clint shooting a lot of guys, but then that is cinema. In life you don’t see clichés. A good cinema does not make you feel that you are watching clichéd script. ‘iti mrinalini’ was a good film for me when I saw it squirming in an uncomfortable seat in a congested theatre. I say it was, hoping it will be so when I see it again.
When the film ended in a screening at the Chennai International Film Fstival 2010, Aparna Sen was there in the lobby, ready to interact with viewers. I wanted to just go there, hold her hands and express a very silent ‘thank you’. I did not. Therefore this verbose but very real “thank you Aparna Sen”
A cinema’s success is what happens while viewing not when reviewing.