A Film a Week - The He Without Him / Runanbandha

previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

Judging by its international title, the third feature by Kolkata-based Bengali filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya, The He Without Him, is a poetic and spiritual meditation of sorts. All the doubts should be cleared with the explanation of the original Hindi title Runanubandha rather than its translation (as it is “credit union” which makes no sense). Used in spirituality, the term signifies “body memory”, a combination of genetic memory and empiric memory of an intimate personal contact of not necessarily sexual nature. For instance, it is also a bond between a parent and a child. The film premiered on its home turf, at last year’s edition of Kolkata International Film Festival in the official international competition.

Plot-wise, it is a story about a daughter Shatarupa Biswas (Priyanka Ghosh Roy) looking for her long-lost father, the poet Michael Hemanta Biswas on the streets of the megapolis of Kolkata, finding his voice in the voice of film director (both characters are voiced by the filmmaker himself), which leads to a conflict between trust and doubt, attraction and rejection, underlined by another actress (Urbi Sengupta) playing the imaginary version of the same character. On the symbolic level, it is also connected with the Brahman mythology and the story of Lord Brahma, the universal father and creator, being attracted to his own daughter named Shatarupa (or Saraswati, according to other sources).

Bhattacharyya is not only an indie filmmaker covering most of the jobs in the film crew, but also a painter, a poet, a writer, a photographer and, as stated in his biography, a recitation artist. His themes gravitate around the dark corners of human soul and his imagery is usually surreal and all of that could be seen in The He Without Him which was filmed on a shoestring budget, with non-professional cast (including even the film’s producer Swastik Choudhury), with Bhattacharyya doing most of the work himself, from location scouting, props and costume design all the way to writing, directing, voice-acting, editing and handling the cinematography.

Sometimes full control results in a somewhat hermetic piece of cinema and that is certainly the case here. More to the point, Bhattacharyya himself gets kinda lost in handling all the things all the time, and falls for the easy solution of being frequently repetitive in the terms of narrative and also the style with, for instance, smooth transitions from full, vivid colour to black and white and back. The lasting impression would be that The He Without Him would be more effective in a more compact format, as a 20-30 minute short, which is also the format that suits Bhattacharyya best, since he holds a pack of awards for his fiction and poetic documentary short works.

No comments:

Post a Comment