Tarikh Review: Saswata Chatterjee, Ritwick Chakraborty Starrer Is A Moving Profound Bengali Film On Love Death And Bereavement

Here’s the review of the Bengali film Tarikh starring Saswata Chatterjee, Raima Sen and Ritwick Chakraborty. It is written and directed by Churni Ganguly. Tarikh is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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Tarikh Review: Saswata Chatterjee, Ritwick Chakraborty Starrer Is A Moving Profound Bengali Film On Love Death And Bereavement

Not since Aparna Sen has there been a female director of substance in Bengali cinema. That’s about to  change. Going by Churni Ganguly’s two films so far Nirbashito and now Tarikh, she has got what it takes to  use  that precious feminine  gaze  to explore  the inner world of both the genders. Though the screenplay gets  scattered  in many directions, and for a film that tells you that time is  just an illusion, that one can live  in the memory of loved ones even  after death, this film seems somewhat overly  obsessed with creating repeated  before-after timelines in the plot.

No, these don’t confuse us. Because, by the time the film makes a time shift for the umpteenth time,  the three main characters are so close to us, we don’t care where they are, and what the time is. The  deepest feelings  of the protagonists are  manifested with delicacy and grace which do not flaunt themselves in front of us.

There is an ingrained poise to the plot. And, though the  characters  talk a lot (if you are anywhere close to an intellectualized Bengali household you would find all these  discussions on Engels, Tagore and Wordsworth  worth your words) there is a kind of elegiac elegance to the way the director brings out the complex relationship  among  the three protagonists, Anirban (Saswata Chatterjee), Ira (Raima Sen) and Rudy (Ritwick Chatterjee).

Anirban is a self-acknowledged “escapist ineffectual  intellectual”, a college professor with his head buried in books, hero-worshipped by his students (whose folk-rock songs are  a highlight of the  film) but completely distanced  from wife Ira, who is closer emotionally to Rudy, Anirban’s best friend from childhood.

The dramatic tension in the triangular relationship is handled with rare mature and understanding. This is a director who knows human relationships intimately. Every shift in the equation is recorded with an assured fluency. While I found the film’s constant shifts of time and location a tad annoying (specially the London  portions which seemed a bit phony to me, just like Anirban’s intellectual  posturing) the  handling of death bereavement and reconciliation are unquestionably  brilliant.

Aniraban’s sudden death during one of his  frequent trips to  London ( he worships the  city and  denies it’s a colonial hangover, I don’t believe him) triggers of a chain of remorse, regret rumination and reconciliation. The family’s reaction, the muffled sobs, the whispered disbelief, the body in the coffin, arriving from London and the ensuing murmur of unspeakable  grief…my hands tremble as I write about it.

I’ve seldom seen a more sensitive and moving depiction of  bereavement in any Indian film in any language. The wife Ira’s grief mingled with guilt (“I never tried to understand  him”) will haunt you. Raima Sen is in full command of her character’s disingenuous integrity. She  projects  a kind  of unpunctuated  honesty that comes to those who don’t think too much about life  and death  until they punch her in the nose.

While Saraswat Chatterjee’s intellectual posturings are adequate Ritwick Chatterjee’s Rudy is an enigma. Is he in love with his best friend’s wife? Yes! Does he want to sleep with her? No!

Tarikh does not offer easy solutions to the complex dynamics of human relationships. It is so deeply affecting because it is not interested in answers. For this director, the existential questions may have answers on  Facebook.  But, to get there, you need to transcend  the  shallowness of  the social media , much in  the same way that  cinema can open doors to  the  conundrum of life if you  only stop  treating it as a  tool of mere entertainment.

Image source: IMDb
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