These days Bengali films are nicely publicised and packaged. Goynar Baksho was no different. That coupled with the assurance of an Aparna Sen’s finesse was enough to guarantee the connoisseur Bengali a nice evening out. Needless to say, I was not completely disappointed.
‘Not completely’ since I went with my mom, dad, sister and my husband and the cumulative verdict was different. What I admire about every Sen movie till date is her adept portrayal of a subtle liberal/feminist approach which is sometimes unimaginable in the situations depicted. Goynar Baksho is no different. The story chronicles the journey of three generation of women of a family which traces its roots in erstwhile ‘purbobongo’. Set in the time when India had just gained her independence, this erstwhile wealthy landlord family from Faridpur had to transfer base to West Bengal and are shown as still getting accustomed with their now non existent ‘aristocratic’ habits.
Moushumi Chatterjee portrays the role of a child widow who vehemently guards her box of jewels…even after her death. She is worried about the fate her ‘500 vori’ jewel and entrusts the newly wed Konkona SenSharma with the responsibility of protecting her jewels. But she is not the benevolent image of the elderly ‘Pishima’ we get to see in the movies. Moushumi, as the abusive, venom spewing, strict taskmaster ‘pishima’ is a revelation. And that ‘bangal’ accent…this movie makes me realise that overtly beautiful women have often remain hugely underused in our cinema.
She threatens Konkona with dire consequences if she even thinks of touching her jewellery..including killing her husband. And what follows is mayhem. Hillarious picture sequences and characterisations make the first half an enjoyable watch.
The second half is the part where Sen leaves er mark again…albeit with the hilarity this movie is conceived with. Konkona, as a first generation entrepreneur..probably the first of the working women of our society sends a message and so does Pishima. ‘Pishima’s’ words of wisdom about all that thoughts we have about sin, lust, benevolence is just a sham- is the high point of the movie. ‘First hand experience’ as she puts it. And there comes the fiery expression of suppressed sexuality and celebration of womenhood. Sen has a knack of portraying feminist discourses in the relationships you least expect. Be it the timid housewife in ‘Paroma’ or the mother in law and daughter in law relationship in ‘Paromitar Ekdin’…she finds the bond of being a women, a reason to celebrate.
The initial portrayal of Moushumi’s character makes you least expectant of the bond that a ghost will share with her daughter in law…but even more surprising is her words of encouragement for Konkona to pursue a love affair and not be trapped in a marriage where her husband can have a mistress but she cannot afford to have a male companion. The subtlety with which she points out the intellectual difference that she has with her husband, or her openness of Srabanti’s character smoking when the film shifts base in the 70’s is well scripted and portrayed.
To think that a women who belonged somewhere in 1920’s could have a mind which thinks and how, is definitely encouraging for a society which still tells it’s women to dress up properly or not to wear that short dress when you go clubbing. My juniors have recently faced the wrath of moral policing in Hyderabad and that has been the shoddiest of the shows ever. But Goynar Baksho gives me faith.
There are a lot more layers to the story which needs to be discussed, but I thought of writing this post to jot down these points since while coming out of the theatre my father expressed his disappointment and so did my mother. They expected the apparently carefree mood of the first half to continue. I disagreed. Thank you Sen for making this one…..because we need more of pishimas in our lives and in the society where we currently live in.
Go and watch. My husband does not watch many Bengali movies. But he for one enjoyed the movie, may not to the fullest but glad that he appreciated the subtext of characterisations. There lies the success of the storyteller. Shirshendu Babu, I have not read the original story..but after the portrayal, I will surely do so 🙂
Shubho Noboborsho 🙂