Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nirbaak directed by Srijit Mukherji

Source: Wikipedia
Nirbaak (Speechless) 
India (Bengali) 2015
107 minutes, drama, love story, quirky, fantasy elements
Directed by Srijit Mukherji
Starring Anjan Dutt, Jishu Sengupta, Ritwick Chakraborty, Sushmita Sen

A man who loves himself a little too much. The erotic fantasies of a tree in a park. A golden retriever who doesn't approve of her owner's fiancee. The overseer of a hospital morgue's overactive imagination from watching too many Hindi films.

In this non-linear, meditative reflection on life, love, and loneliness, each of these everyday stories feature one silent and one active character. Each asks how to cope with the loneliness of life. And all are connected, however loosely, through the participation (however minimal) of one woman who is doomed to die.

Through brilliant physical acting and the creative use of camera angles and techniques, Srijit Mukherji brings these at times creepy, at times quirky narratives to life.

Filming and Acting

As I mentioned, the best part of this movie was the creative filming and great physical acting. This movie has a very minimal amount of dialogue; most of the story is conveyed through the use of the camera or through physical movements. Let me give you a couple examples. 

In the first section, Anjan Dutt plays the role of the world's ultimate narcissist. He takes the idea of self-grooming to the extreme, staring at himself in the mirror for hours making faces, or even french kissing his own reflection. The director chooses to film all the aspects of his daily grooming routine. Thus we get to see Anjan Dutt playing with bubbles in the bathtub, Anjan Dutt on the toilet, Anjan Dutt meticulously trimming a single sideburn during the time it takes the maid to clean his whole apartment. Finally, when he is ready to emerge into the world, it is evident that he is possibly the loneliest man on earth. Even though it is his birthday, he spends the entire day alone, returning home in the evening to an empty house and a lonely bed. 

The most creative story from a filming perspective, however, was the story with the dog. The female dog is not at all happy when her owner brings his fiancee home with him. She is used to having all of his attention and his love. In fact, it is obvious that the dog is actually in love with him (in one amusing flashback, she completely refuses to mate with the stud of a golden retriever they bring in at the vet's office). To show the dog's perspective, the director uses a doggy-height, black and white camera spliced with footage showing the dog's emotions (this dog is a very talented actor!). Through a combination of doggy-perspective and normal filming, the director shows us the pain of the dog who has been replaced in her love's affections. 

The Story

As I said before, this movie is experimental and employs non-linear storytelling. This leaves many unexplained plot holes, such as what happens to Anjan Dutt's character? To me, this did not seem like a problem; each of the tales struck me as a piece of these characters' normal day, so the loose strings do not really need to be tied up. Because of the funny and quirky parts of the narratives, I enjoyed each of the stories as they came. 

My husband did not enjoy this movie at all. He was disappointed that the movie perpetuated the stereotype of the woman dying. In fact, he argues, it was not necessary to include death to create a film about loneliness. He also objected to the personification of the tree and the dog with human emotions by making them be in love with other characters. I agree with him that the portrayal of the woman was problematic in some ways, mostly because three different characters fell in love with her at different times, and at least one of those was completely without her consent or knowledge (she was dead at the time). 

But I was impressed with the amount of intimacy that the director was able to show on film (the film is rated A, meaning no admittance under the age of 17). Specifically, I was impressed by the depiction of Anjan Dutt's character masturbating in bed. This was done in an unmistakeable but tasteful way, with the effect of demonstrating a deeper level of the character's utter loneliness. Or perhaps his love of himself. Either way, this was not something that I expected to see in an Indian-made movie in the near future. I hope that this indicates that society, at least Bengali society, is becoming more open about sexual content. 

I highly recommend this movie for Anjan Dutt's quirky physical acting if nothing else. 

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