Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meghe Dhaka Tara (Cloud Capped Star)

I am no film reviewer; neither on this case I will try to review the movie. After all a diamond remains a diamond even if an untrained eyes dismisses it as just another stone.

The name “Meghe Dhaka Tara” or the “Cloud Capped Star” appears first time in the movie in a letter written to the protagonist, in which she is described as an cloud capped star by her lover. This movie is directed by great Ritwik Ghatak, who along with Satyajit Roy and Mrinal Sen, can be considered as doyen of Bengali Cinema. It is the same Ritwik Ghatak, who wrote the script of Dilip Kumar starrer “Madhumati”. More about him can be read in the incorporated links.

“Meghe Dhaka Tara” along with “Komal Gandhar” and “Subarnarekha” completes a Calcutta trilogy, depicting the plight of victims of partition and subsequent atrocities in East Pakistan. Though I have not watched the last two, but the first one has left a deep impact on my consciousness.

This is a story of selfishness and of being parasitical. Neeta, the protagonist of the movie, works her way to her death, only to see her family happy. His, older brother, Shankar, a budding musician, only one to understand her plight, but cannot do anything as he has to do his riyaaz, apart from listening the tantrums of being unemployed and eating on the salary of his younger sister. Her brother, Monty, and sister, Geeta, are two other characters who are at their best are interested in her salary for getting themselves some shoes or saree. Her mother always keeps whining and her father, a school teacher, is more interested in Wordsworth and Keats. Finally, her lover, Sanat, a former student of her father, unable to getting a scholarship for research, ends up in a job and marries her sister.

The movie begins rather slowly, and as it progresses, it gathers a speed with sense of irony and injustice. A family which is almost completely dependent on the income of its eldest daughter, and its member whose fancies is also met by her, irrespective of her own genuine needs. He the battle to see her family happy and contented, Neeta sacrifices her own future, her own beau and her own life.

When the question of marriage arose in the house, Neeta’s mother directs her father to marry of Geeta to Sanat, the reason was if Neeta, even if she is eldest is married, on whom they are going to survive. Geeta, even after her knowledge of Sanat’s relationship with Neeta, seduces Sanat and later taunts her sister “Not everyone have patience to wait”. Sanat, who thought of becoming a researcher, cannot hold on to his own principles. Monty, given the first chance of living the house leaves it. Shankar, after surrendering to taunts and watching her sister Neeta, leaves for Bombay, only to return later.

When Monty gets hospitalized, Neeta, despite of her falling health, gives her best to restore her brother’s health. During this time, Neeta realizes that she should have protested the injustice done to her, she should have thought about her, but then it was too late and she has some work in her hand. When Monty comes back, entire family is contened because he is reinstated and his salary has increased apart from getting some compensation, but no one asks about Neeta who makes it possible. Neeta now stays in lonely room, doing her chores on her own.

When Shankar returns after gaining fame and fortune in Bombay, his family puts a long list of demands before him, mother asks from a two storey house, his sister Geeta (who is was pregnant) asks for a necklace for her new born, only Neeta fails to meet him. And when he meets Neeta and finds that she was suffering from Tuberculosis and is at terminal stage, he is devastated. He breaks this news to his family, who at their best only can offer their sympathies. His father, a senile old man, on listening this cries “I accuse” to which he replies “to whom” signifying all are guilty in this manslaughter. He leaves the home for booking a sanatorium for her diseased sister.

In between, taking the view of the upcoming new born, the mother persuades the father for asking Neeta to leave. Father, with tears in his eyes, packs her belonging, and gently tells her to go as her breath is venomous, she is free now, and they can only give her their sympathy. On her way back, she encounters Shankar, who takes her to the sanatorium, in the hills, where she always wanted to be. In the climax of the movie, she clings on her brother and cries “Dada ami bachte chai” meaning “brother I wanted to live”, with all her emotions, all her truthfulness all her honesty, her plea echoing through the hills of Shillong.

The movie itself is melodramatic and it is given a surrealistic effect by providing sounds of lashes at the scenes where Neeta is undergoing emotional churning. Though, nowhere in the movie it is the mentioned that her family is refugee, but it can be presumed, given their appearances that have crossed the border. The characters portrayed in the movie, I would plainly say, have a direct or indirect resemblances to real life. An average Bengali can easily find within his family or within his knowledge a person gung ho about ‘English’, a male member committed to ‘football’ or a female member in love with herself. But for me story resembles like a quote from the Victor Hugo’s master piece ‘Les Miserable“They belonged to that bastard class formed of low people who has risen, and intelligent people who have fallen, which lies between the classes called middle and lower, and which unites some of the faults of the latter with nearly all the vices of the former, without possessing the generous impulses of the workman, or the respectability of the bourgeois.”

The characters here where once intelligent people who became the victim of their circumstances. Now, they would feed on anyone who is different of them. Any one who earns is food for them and once he or she is finished, they throw it out, just like any garbage is thrown out. Many of the watchers will find the traits of feminism in this movie. However, in my point of view, it applies to anyone whether male or female.

At the beginning of the movie, Neeta’s slipper breaks as she was heading home, she hides it and kept walking, Shankar sees this and ironically at the end another girl’s slipper breaks down, and she does the same, Shankar was there watching it, thinking of seeing a deja vous of Neeta.

For the last scene click on the this Youtube link

© Tarun Mitra

February 17, 2011


Mridula said...

Sounds like a powerful movie, but then I somehow hardly ever watch movies, so reading about them is the second best thing I do I guess!

Megha said...

hmm...i think you have written a movie review for the first time right?

Good job :)

But I think movie review should be lttl brief.

Keep writing :)

Nisha said...

Very well narrated. Now I want to watch this movie.
Let me find out if it's available on DVD since I am not sure it's be running in theater here.

Thanks for sharing.

Nisha - Le Monde-A Poetic Travail

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Mridula..yes it a very powerful movie, and from one of the best directors the country has ever produced...:)

@ Megha..Not a review, I cannot review a greatness.. :)..thanks

@ Nisha...Running??? it was released almost 50 years ago...:)..yeah DVD is available and they might be showing it in some movie fests,, Thanks :)

Sanand said...

It was interesting to read a movie write up from you for the first time, i'd say you should do this more often as it tells us a whole lot about you as an individual too. Looking forward to reading more.

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Sanad...Thanks I will try...:)

vanderloost said...

I strongly suggest Komal Gandhar made on the same lines in which two of Tagore's beautiful songs have been uniquely juxtaposed with the cinematic milieu.

Meghe Dhaka Taara succinctly encapsulates the post Bengal socio-economic scenario of the quintessentially labour lazy, impractical Bengalis who spend more time in star gazing and cloud chasing than doing something substantial for self emancipation.

Supriya's spell binding portrayal, the strong script line, the black and white mistique elevate this movie to classic genre.

An inadequate parallel can be drawn to Mrinal Sen's Ek Din Prot Din but however these celluloid stories are universal statements of saga of human survival - their unforgettable stories of triumphs and travails amidst adversities.

Such parasitic familial ties can still be found in the by-lanes of Bengal even now if you chose to explore.

All the best!

Tarun Mitra said...

@ Vanderloost..though I haven't watched those movies..but I will..but I love one song of Komal Gandhar..'Akash bhora' sung by Debabrata Biswas...just love that song...

Now I must say this is one of the strongest views on Bengal and Bengalis I came across...till now I believed I am an outcast in my community...but truth can never be hidden...thanks for visiting my blog..hopefully u will visit again..