Home » Language & identity

চারুলতা: A filmic immersion

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on May 4, 2009 No Comment

It’s that kind of a day in Berkeley, 58°F, overcast, drizzling lightly, fog swirling over the city. I am reminded of the mid-monsoon time in Delhi, where the grass suddenly becomes a vivid and lush green, swollen and distended with moisture; new leaves spring everywhere; and the scent of rain-soaked earth rises like hot steam. It was one such time in Delhi, at the age of eleven, that I discovered the 1964 বাংলা (Bangla) film “চারুলতা” (Charulata) by Oscar-winning director সত্যজিৎ রায় (Satyajit Ray). [Note: a previous post on his father সুকুমার রায় (Sukumar Ray) here.] It is one of the first Bangla films that I fell in love with (all the others were Ray’s films as well, most notably গুপী গাইন বাঘা বাইন). The film was adapted from the short novella, নষ্টনীড়় (Broken Nest), penned by Nobel Laureate রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর (Rabindranath Tagore) in 1901. Here’s a short plot summary (of the film) from the good folks at Wikipedia:

The film tells the story of a lonely housewife, known as Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee), who lives a wealthy, secluded and idle life in 1870’s Calcutta. Her husband, Bhupati (Sailen Mukherjee), runs a newspaper, The Sentinel, and spends more time at work than with his wife. However, he notices that Charu is lonely, and asks his cousin, Amal (Soumitra Chatterjee), to keep her company. Amal is a writer and is asked to help Charu with her own writing. However, after some time, Charu and Amal’s feelings for each other move beyond those of a mentoring relationship.

The independence movement in India forms a politically charged if subtle backdrop in the film, along with issues of women’s education and agency in that era. Texts play a pivotal role, in Bhupati’s revolutionary editorials, the old novels Charu reads, the publication of her story in a magazine, and in Amal’s passion for literature. The poetry of Tagore’s বাংলা is preserved in the transition to the big screen format, and what we have is a visual dimension that adds flavor to the silences that Tagore could not as clearly articulate in the constraints of text.

When I first saw the film, I had little appreciation for most of the very nuanced and subtle angles to the film. Over the years I have gone back and seen the film dozens of times, and it seems that it becomes more meaningful, more poignant in the re-viewings. My linguistic experience of the film has seen a particularly salient evolution. It’s the same বাংলা words, yet it appears as if the words themselves have shifted, matured…fermented, possibly due the shifts in my experience of Bangla over the years, and especially lately, in a life mostly painfully divorced from that tongue. The বাংলা is more viscous, thicker somehow, more slow-moving. Or is it that I “stand” longer at words that are not as familiar as they once were…am I at once remove in a way, things refracted through disuse and unfamiliarity, strangered by the distance from the land in which that sweet, lovely language is spoken, and it is that I must work harder to pin them down…the terrain is more complex and vivid, but it is not quite as easily mine as it once was…

Tags: , , ,

Digg this!Add to del.icio.us!Stumble this!Add to Techorati!Share on Facebook!Seed Newsvine!Reddit!

Leave a Reply:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  Copyright ©2009 Found in Translation, All rights reserved.| Powered by WordPress| WPElegance2Col theme by Techblissonline.com