A milestone film, Nirbaak, explores the unconscious and showcases the surreal on screen. Sirjit Mukherji, inspired by Salvador Dali’s painting of a tree with subjective consciousness, strings together four stories seamlessly. Anindita reviews the bold film.
Srijit Mukherji’s Nirbaak (2015) can be identified as an innovative attempt at new form of Bengali cinema, which ensures a complete break away from his earlier six films. The narrative technique is different from the beginning to the end and it cannot be safely assumed that everybody will be able to accept the film. The film leaves one unnerved and goes on to explore the realm of the unconscious and showcases the surreal on screen. Dedicated to the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali, the film was inspired by his painting of a tree with a subjective consciousness, which inspired the director to reflect if it was really possible for a tree to have any relationship with a human being as such.
The director seeks to explore the possibility relationship between different objects and uses the trope of the silent lover in four interconnected stories to depict how love is unconfined and profound, and need not always be subjected to mutual reciprocation. The film is a medley andexplores numerous nuances of emotions associated with love like affection, lust, jealousy and sacrifice and parting.
The film begins with the title cards being shown against a backdrop of shadow play which symbolically narrates the story and eventually zeroes in the image of the heart, which is where all the focus lies. The first story is about a lonely Anglo Indian man and his erotic narcissistic fantasies. He indulges in profound self admiration, and the story highlights his intense loneliness and how he finds pleasure in himself, a principle which he believes is the best way to be happy, and thus advocates others to follow the same. He meets with a tragic nemesis, which makes him lose the most precious thing he possessed in his life.
The second story is about a woman, who is reluctant to live her own birthplace and settle elsewhere, she sits under the same tree like the lonely Anglo Indian Samson of the first story and finds a companion in the tree, which soothes and tranquilises her lovelorn heart. The tree’s subjective consciousness is reflected with subtlety and symbolism, and the tree meets with and end as the woman decides to move in with her human lover.
The next story is perhaps the most brilliant one. It is about an obsessively possessive canine pet that the woman’s lover had kept in his newly acquired flat to give him company in his hours of loneliness. The bitch refuses to accept the other woman and mauls her, which eventually lead to the tragic death of the woman.
The last story is perhaps the most eerie one. It is centred against the backdrop of the chilling morgue, in which a man named Mrityunjoy (one who has overcome death) forges a relationship with the dead woman’s corpse of the same woman, who had died in the third story. He decided to protect her body from being subjected to any form of damages whatsoever. His protective love for the corpse reaches an almost surreal level when he begins to fantasise a conjugal life with the dead woman, and at the end decides to sacrifice his own life for her. Everything is so subtly nuanced and the film is replete with suggestive details from the choice of names to the little details. Mrityunjoy conquers death and sacrifices his love for a pardesi woman only to enter tray No. 13 (conventionally regarded as unlucky) of the morgue.
The Anglo Indian Samson plays the saxophone and the role is played by Anjan Dutt who had once released an album entitled Purono Guitar, in 1995, where there was a song entitled Samson, about a lonely man deserted by his Delilah and his passion for and his saxophone.
Human mind is intriguing and in the post Freudian and Jungian era it is one of the most interesting areas of study, analysis and research.
Psyche consists of the totality of human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The word has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and represents one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The film explores the relationship of the soul and the heart and needless to say not all relationships based on love share a name.
It is a challenging film for any director for there are chances that people will not accept several things showcased on screen, but for a director who has attempted to reinvent himself in every film Nirbaak shows how the director has dared to probe into the realm of the metaphysical inconsiderate of the fact that people might feel little confused about the theme of the film.
This is perhaps the first venture in the Bengali cinema to explore the world of the unconscious. People went to see Sushmita Sen in her first ever Bengali film but I thought it was actually Anjan Dutt, who essays the role of Samson with such dexterity and perfection that it becomes his best performance ever. Ritwick Chakraborty needs no words to describe his acting skill for in every film he proves his skill and leaves us in awe. He is one of the best treasures that the industry has at the moment. The labrador Bingi was brilliant and perhaps the real show stopper of the entire performance.
Last but not the least, I have to mention the choice of songs and the use of colours and sounds and silence in the film which strikes us in its sheer realistic appeal. The use of different lenses and colours for displaying subjective consciousness was an awesome and brilliant idea and is most perfectly visible in the story of the Labrador, in which the director explores the parallel consciousness of humans and the animal. The last laugh of the corpse at the morgue is eerie to say the least and the film transcends the limits of confined vision and echoes the words of Dali “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Director Srijit Mukherji explores the inner world human emotion and desires; and like surrealists painters probes into the darker and repressed worlds of sexuality, desire, and violence.
Nirbaak shocks and shakes the audience out of their comfort zone leaving them baffled and astounded. Despite the fact that the movie did not receive as much adulation as his other movies, nevertheless Nirbaak deserves attention for being a brave effort in its own way.
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Dr. Anindita Chatterjee is a well-known writer. Her poems, short stories, critical non-fictional works, several research papers on fiction and non-fiction have been published. She has participated and presented papers in several national and international seminars in India and abroad. Her areas of interest include Classical British Literature of Romantic and Victorian Period, Indian Writing in English, Films and Popular Culture. She works as Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English, in Durgapur Government College.