wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
Q’s follow up to his daring, erotic first feature Gandu, is as intoxicating as it is bewildering. You’d be hard-pressed to make complete sense of the film at first go. Yet, you’re likely to either be compelled for a second (and even third) viewing, or to reject the film altogether at midpoint. This Tagore adaptation seems to have no middle ground.Read more
Marijuana and meth are for kids; cinema is the real deal. It doesn’t take courage, insight, expertise or inexplicable talent to create a film that makes a statement about existence, life, politics and about the deteriorating state of affairs in what we so naively call ‘real life’. All it takes is cinema itself.
What can stir up the deepest, most stagnant corners of our insipid souls than love? And what can make us reminisce about the farthest, most forgotten stories of love in our own lives than music? Qaushik Mukherjee (or Q, as he calls himself,) leaves Gandu far, far behind with his Tasher Desh, an adaptation – I call it that only, perhaps, because of my limited vocabulary – of a Rabindranath Tagore play of the same name. I must confess, my only exposure to the play prior to watching the film was reading its name in mere passing, in one of my many online excursions way back in time. Surely, though, I doubt even Tagore would ever have imagined his play brought to life in this manner.
At its best, Tasher Desh is a scathing commentary on everything that is wrong with mankind today. At its worst, it is an unfathomable orgy of images and sounds that can either intrigue you or put you off, depending on which end of the spectrum of creative freedom you stand on. You might either walk out of the film because you just don’t get it, or you might stay till the end, trying to decipher meaning and wisdom from the startling visual and aural experience that you’ve been subjected to. Either way, it’s okay – because even the fundamental differences between right and wrong are but subjective in nature.
To even briefly talk about the ‘story’ of the film would be to do thorough disservice to it; although the film’s one line premise would read much like Tagore’s play – a Prince and his friend (sidekick, conscience, alter-ego, who knows?) attempt to break free from the questions that plague them, ending up in a distant land across the sea – a land inhabited by the Card people; a race bound by rules and order. If you think this description is mysterious, wait till you watch the film.
The first thing about the film that instantly grabs you is the three distinct colour tones used in the first hour of the film – a black-and-white look that has a narrator who wants to put up a production of Tasher Desh; washed out colour showing the Prince, his friend and his mother, the Queen, who are characters from the play; and the trippy, outlandish explosion of colour which seem to show the states of mind of the characters from the play. (This third colour tone was reminiscent of the hallucinogen-induced imagery from the 2012 film Dredd – enough to spawn at least some amount of clarity amidst the befuddlement.) The appearance of these three colour tones is seemingly random; images are cut and juxtaposed with alarming alacrity. The film will either draw you in right then, or you will reject it as indulgence (an innocuous, frequently-bandied term that few realize is far more subjective than simply ‘good’ or ‘bad’.)
In the second hour, in trying to show a land with order, the film descends into absolute chaos. Even the subtitles assume a life of their own, visually as well as in meaning. And yet, within this chaos, one can see the beauty of pure, uncorrupted anarchy – of self-governance and of self-censorship. Indeed, wouldn’t the world be a far more tolerable place if every person has sense enough to control and govern his or her own behaviour?
Here, in this second hour, is when the film comes into its own. It is no-holds-barred in its approach towards the narrative and the message it gives out; and yet it refrains from being sermonizing. It asks as much as it tells, and it urges you to see for yourself the glaring, dismal truth of the land it portrays. The images and sounds are rapid and urgent; the unraveling of these images and sounds, however, is leisurely. After all, it is ultimately a film – a world-view, a state of mind.
The music of Tasher Desh is another tale of trip altogether. The songs are supposedly from Tagore’s play itself, but the eclectic, fusion rendition of the songs, combined with lyrics that are all Tagore, truly propel the narrative; the music is easily the soul of the film.
To put it mildly, Tasher Desh is daring for an Indian film. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I sure won’t judge you for not liking it. In fact, I would go so far as to request you to stay away from Tasher Desh; because it is likely the kind of high you won’t be able to handle.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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