Directed by Samiran | Reviewed by Sabarno Sinha
The pursuit of every filmmaker is to establish a unique style which can easily help one identify the work of a particular director. As per my observation, Samiran’s two films, a short titled, Mother and a feature named The Bonding, have established his unique form of storytelling, which I wish to explore in this article. Both the films deal with the complex relationships among and convolutions in love, identity and society. In Mother, we witness a female protagonist who is both the saviour and the victim at the same time. While she is responsible for the well-being of her family, which includes two sisters and a father (probably adoptive), there are others who are critical of her, more so as her love for humanity surmounts her devotion to any God or religion. Samiran’s decision of beginning the short with a scene from the middle of the film, thereby employing a non-linear structure, not only builds expectation among the audience about the death that is to come, the corpse that must be cremated at the burning ghat but also establishes the idea of the family in relation to society. Remarkably, this film employs long sequences without dialogues and utilises music and silences to a very large extent to convey deep emotions. On the other hand, soliloquies by the characters are extremely important as they give us more information about the environment and the character. Power equations are established in the sequence of shots following the opening scene as we see Sree, the protagonist, doing the household chores and being the “motherly” daughter of the family. In The Bonding, we encounter Deep, a social recluse who is riddled with psychological issues. He is prescribed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy when his father asks him to stay at his friend’s house, Paran Uncle, who is himself a psychiatrist. This film is more dialogue-reliant than the other. Yet, in the establishment of the female protagonist of this film, Rai (Paran’s daughter), Samiran uses dance as an element of introduction. This is similar to Mother where Sree is also a dance tutor. Music and dance further the story and lend a cultural element to the otherwise universal themes that Samiran has used in his film. Needless to say, incorporating such an important element requires a skilful actor who possesses a multitude of talents and in this aspect, Samiran has been successful for he has found an actress of the calibre and versatility of Mrittika. Her deftness in acting and smooth execution of the director’s vision helps elicit the cultural references that are abundant in the film. When people crowd outside the house of the coughing father in Mother, an Indian audience would immediately understand that the man is no more. I highly appreciate this element in Samiran’s filmography as it only gives him his unique style as a filmmaker.
The non-linear structure is introduced in The Bonding through the use of flashbacks in both the protagonists. In fact, the editing of the shots has been done in very unique ways to suggest what the film is leading up to. A shot of Deep’s feet is shown and then the frame cuts to the feet of Raj, the boy Rai spends all her time with in the hope of reciprocation but in vain. We anticipate that Deep will occupy the space where Raj’s feet land, beside her and with her, but there is also an element of suspicion involved. This is exactly what Samiran hints at throughout the film: that love is a powerful marker of identity and while it creates us, it may also break us for life, make us blind to everything else in life.
Deep’s gradual improvement at Paran’s house is juxtaposed with the elder daughter’s grief at being banished from her in-laws’ house as well as Rai’s growing expectations of a proposal from Raj. The stage is set for a heartbreak and that is what we see at the end. Raj breaks her heart and she, in turn, tells Deep that she has nothing to give anymore; she has turned incapable of love. Thereafter, everyone returns to their own life. Rai’s life changes rapidly as she is wedded off to a man even though the audience understands that it won’t be one that will bring pleasure but only more sorrow. While Mother has a happy ending, Rai doesn’t get one in what seems to be a tragedy. Her father is dead, the man who loved her is no more and she is left with nothing but melancholy. The final shot of the film is extremely poignant, in my opinion, for the sole reason that it gives a fitting conclusion to what I have admired most in Samiran’s film: symbolism. Directors are often seen to be throwing around symbols that make no meaning but this is not the case with Rai’s cage and her birds. In Baul music, the human soul has often been compared to a bird that seeks to fly away from its cage. Samiran uses this very traditional trope by associating a cage of two birds with Rai’s sanity and happiness. They nourish her as well as Deep when he adores them and takes care of them. When the narrative spirals downwards and we see recurrent failures, the birds are no more to be found. It is as though the soul is dead. At the very end of the film, Rai clutches the cage in her arms and cries. I was not only moved but also understood that she wanted her soul to return, her life to be back inside her bosom. But, it was no more, like Sree’s father. While his death had brought renewed life as it made her fiancé propose and suggest a new life for other children, the case is not so with The Bonding. It is a far more realistic portrayal of the various threads of our fate which make our life and how they intertwine and often cut each other to pave the way for us called life. Once again, Mrittika deserves great commendation for this larger-than-life portrayal in such a heart-rending manner.
I would like to conclude this article by briefly commenting on something that should be beyond the scope of this review: the colour scheme used by Samiran. The play of warm and cold colours contribute to the story and also, arouse the very feelings that the director wants his audience to feel when the given shots are shown. These creative decisions contribute to the success of Samiran’s films, Mother and The Bonding.
Sabarno Sinha is an undergraduate student of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He was active in the debating and MUN circuit in Kolkata. Sabarno frequently writes short stories, poems and screenplays for short films. A lover of world cinema, Sabarno finds pleasure in watching contemporary as well as classic films from Japan, Italy and Germany among others.