I was watching a film one day when our maid came to clean the room. "Telugu film dekhucha! Bujhi parucha?" I was actually watching a Tamil film and I informed her about the subtitles. I have heard people don't like subtitles as they feel uncomfortable looking up and down constantly. Hence, they usually don't watch the films which are not in the language they understand. One needs to find excuses to watch a movie, why try to find excuses to not to watch a movie! But to everyone's relief Amartya Bhattacharya has brought yet another film that is made in Odia that is being globally watched and appreciated. That movie finally released here at Odisha and I watched that last Friday.
6 or 8 months back, I had jotted down in my diary app that how I was avoiding doing anything that put pressure on mind or where mind is used such as thinking, writing, reading, analyzing. I thanked social media, OTT for my wretched condition. In Amartya's new film the central character Ananda argues - earlier, people used to have tails. But they stopped using it, so it vanished. If people stop using their brains, it will vanish someday. And what people without brain will do - they will not be able to think, they will become - sheep - to follow anyone anything in herd and worship everything that gives them instant pleasure and gratification - just like those action, thrillers, fantasies, love stories; endless reels, shorts, vlogs, posts, whatsapp forwards. Mindless people can be easily manipulated, ruled and brainwashed- like people of naughty America - like the voiceless character Jatin in the film who has lost the ability to think and makeup his mind.
Ananda along with Jatin and few others are porn addicts in the film. They rent porn CDs to watch as a group and seek instant 'action' and gratification. (Porn is a metaphor here. One can substitute the 'porn' here with action, comedy, thriller, romance, reels, shorts etc.) Ananda, which literally translates to 'pleasure', one day accidentally rents a film of French new wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Though he initially detests but gradually gets addicted to the films of Godard - because those films made him 'think'. He wants to share that joy and opportunity of thinking with everybody so much so that he decides to hold a Godard film festival in the village.
This basic premise in the film is interspersed with a bigger and 'intellectually heavier' subplot of 'art' as a pure and independent form- represented by Ananda's daughter 'Shilpa', her present lover 'artist' Pablo and past 'na?ve' admirer Joe. Pablo says he loves Shilpa and he takes inspiration from some incidents and characters Shilpa is narrating to him for the purpose of making a movie. But he gets suspicious and doubts the integrity of Shilpa - in other words, the virginity of art - when Shilpa tells him about her past innocent lover Joe - with whom she may or may not have had sex. Does art belong to some 'one', can it be owned? No, not especially by an egoist so-called artist like Pablo. Art favours the innocents - just like that child at the end of Amartya's other movie 'Khyanikaa'.
After ridiculing the patriarchy of art form, both the plot ends cohesively with a point that pleasure lasts an orgasm but ecstasy is infinite. It can only be had by pursuing art, intellect, or in the context of this film, Godard. While people in the end dismiss thinking, labeling it as injurious to health and bid Godard goodbye, Ananda becomes Chidananda and greets Godard hello, how you are doing.
'Adieu Godard' is Amartya Bhattacharya's finest to date. It is his rebellion to establish film as an art form. And presently, particularly in these times of boycott, nepotism, stars vs story, industry supremacy, Amartya Bhattacharya's film is dangerously relevant and astonishingly well timed. While as subject, style, and form, Adieu Godard is impeccable, I have some problems with it. I feel the humour in the film is little too much, exaggerated, and overdone - so much so that it sometimes ventures in to the line of farce. I always feel that the theatre artists' performance, especially of the veterans like Choudhury Vikas Das, appear accentuated when being watched over the long-mid-closeup of audio-visual medium. While theatrics certainly require that but, in my opinion, it needs to be subtle and toned down for the screen. Choudhury Vikas Das has an undeniable towering persona on the screen, he owns the scenes he is in but, I, honestly, feel the performance of Dipanwit Das Mohapatra, Abhishek Giri and other minor characters are more natural in this film. Amartya Bhattacharya is one fine photographer and he has won national award for his photography, so there is not a single frame in this film devoid of meaning and worth criticizing. The solo frames of Choudhury Vikas Das in black backdrop of worn-out households are breathtaking. His photography style in the film is much more grounded and natural unlike his other films. I have, however, one suggestion. I know he must have his reasons, and the content of his films certainly benefits from the style and philosophy of his photography, but can he start using better gears, especially camera and lenses! The cuts are crisp and editing is sharp. I appreciate the minimal and stunning score of Kisaloy Roy and lively sound design of Sujoy Das. The dress and costume team has also done a commendable job.
Few years ago, I had asked Amartya Bhattacharya in a symposium that 'these films you do, they are not conventional, they are not accessible, they dwell in between the intellectual and abstract. Odia people, especially of present, or simple folks like my mother don't care for these films and most likely will never watch them! How can someone remain inspired if one's own people don't watch them." He replied that "why do you expect only your people to watch these! Why don't you think beyond Odisha! Make a film that people in foreign countries will watch and appreciate, think in this way. Language or geography are not barrier, they never had been. Why you restrict the possibilities, you make a good film and the world is your audience."
I feel proud that these Odia films of Amartya have crossed the boundaries and gathered accolades from all over the globe. I think Adieu Godard is his final call - to start a new wave - to bring about a renaissance- especially in Odia cinema. Aspiring producers and filmmakers time to think beyond the action, romance, comedy, thrillers.
I thank Swastik Choudhury and Amartya Bhattacharya for giving me an impetus to start thinking again after years.