Directed by Siddhartha Saha | Reviewed by Debopam Deb Roy
Bakshobondi is a short LGBTQ film from Tripura, written and directed by Siddhartha Saha. The film is produced by Pinky Banik and was completed in December, 2021. The core concept of the film revolves around how society treats people of the same sex who are in love with each other. In a typical society where people are expected to get married to someone of the opposite gender, same sex marriage is often seen as a sacrilegious act. Bakshobondi not only narrates the tale of two lovelorn men, but questions marriage as an institution as well. The cinematography and editing of the film as done by Prasenjit Debnath and Nabhojyoti Bharati respectively, is quite commendable. The screenplay is done by Manish Sinha whereas Subhrajit Nandy composed the background score for the film. The film is dedicated to all those who do not get closure in their love life and whose voices remain unheard because of our existing societal norms and practices. The Bengali term Bakshobondi literally translates to the state of being boxed, or stuffed in a box like compartment. A lot of people from the LGBTQ community suffer much in the same way, where they have to hide their true identity or swallow their feelings for someone of the same gender.
The story of Bakshobondi features Joydip Bhattacharjee as “Neel”, a young poet and writer who is homosexual by birth. Since his childhood, Neel is forced to keep his natural identity hidden from his family and as a result, he learns to hide away a number of things inside a trunk which include his favourite doll, a coronet, some bangles and other items related to a typical wedding ritual. As he grows up, Neel meets with “Subho” (Surya Paul), a boy from his college who eventually becomes his love interest. Neel and Subho become good friends and in a few days’ time, their newfound friendship turns into a romantic relationship. However, Subho’s mother, being a stereotypical orthodox woman, becomes skeptical about the recent development in his life and hence, she decides to get him married off to a girl of her choice without taking his consent. Maithili (Rituparna Bhattacharjee), now Subho’s wife, tries to come close to her husband but is shoved aside every single time. This strange behaviour from Subho rouses doubt deep in her heart and in a matter of few days’ time, she discovers Subho’s personal diary where he had disclosed all his feelings for Neel.
The use of close-up shots to establish the mise-en-scene is truly credible. Through different shots and camera angles, the spatial elements have been constructed in a fairly subtle manner. The use of tableau shots to establish purely dramatic scenes is worth the mention. Certain scenes which are either dream sequences or contain a monologue, are very poetic. Moreover, the use of Rabindra sangeet to elevate emotional sequences is definitely worth the mention. Every song sung by Tanumoy Biswas did justice to the visuals that appeared on screen, thus evoking nothing but absolute melancholia within the audience. Apart from the vivid images on screen, the use of background music deserves credit. For example, the scene where young Neel locks away his favourite playthings in a trunk, the use of arpeggios over minor chords indefinitely heightens Neel’s repressed feelings even though not a word is said by the narrator to support the on-screen image. Secondly, the scene where Subho’s mother coincidentally discovers Neel and her son on the rooftop, a very short ominous track layered over the scene coupled with shot-reverse shot tells us about his mother’s perspective. The use of monologues and other conversational dialogues can also be seen as a crucial aspect that drives the narrative forward.
Gay love is an extremely sensitive issue in a country like India, or at least, it has been even till the last couple of years. Considering how patriarchy has heavily influenced society since it’s inception, most people find it hard to normalize a homosexual relationship. As a result, millions of people either suppress their inner desires and suffer silently for the rest of their lives or take their own lives as they find it an easier way out to cope with the pain of forceful separation from their loved ones. Separation is a complex matter that is not just restricted to a homosexual relationship. When a person is forced to marry somebody from the opposite gender, it is not just the man who suffers alone. It is also disturbing and painful for their significant life partner as he/she is deprived of the minimum attention that they seek from their respective other. In due process of “curing” the “sickness”, every third person suffers equally, if not any less.