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Movie Review – Sahaj Pather Gappo

Today is Janmashtami – a festival which is integral to the ‘Baro Mashe Tero Parbon’ (13 festivals in 12 months) calendar of Bengalis. Food is an important component of every Bengali festival, and Janmashtami comes with its own flair of savoury dishes. Taaler Bora (fritters made of palm) is a quintessential must-have on the night Gopal was born.

Gorging on my share of taaler bora, I was reminded of a film I watched last year – Sahaj Pather Gappo – which won the National Awards, and also ran for more than six months at the box office, after massive outpouring of support and love on social media. The film gives us a slice of the idyllic rural Bengali life, and taal plays an important part of the film.


Based on the short story ‘Taal Nabami’ by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhya, the film explores the innocent, carefree lives of Gopal and Chotu. Their lives are thrown into the quandary after their father is involved in a road accident, and rendered physically incapable of working. With the sole breadwinner of the house incapacitated, their mother now has to make ends meet to run the family.

Sahaj Paather Gappo celebrates optimism. Chotu – the younger brother epitomises hope. He is a bundle of positive energy that is willing to take on any adversity. His older brother Gopal drops out of school and is sent to work for a local shop, in the hope of some means of livelihood. The family survives of muri (puffed rice), and some occasional rice. It is the hope of better days that keep them moving.

And then, one day opportunity presents itself, as a rich zamindar family is all set to organise Janmashtami at their house, and are looking for taal to make bora. Chotu delivers them, in the hope that even a destitute family like theirs will be invited for the grand meal following the festival. The dream of pulao keeps his hopes afloat. Sadly, some dreams do not come true.

Sahaj Paather Gappo will remind you of Pather Panchali. The lush green landscapes, the idyllic scenes of rivers, the rain sequence and the bond of friendship between the siblings – you’d imagine you are back at Nischindipur with Apu and Durga. Even the background score is reminiscent of the iconic theme music of Pather Panchali. The pace of the narrative is relaxed and slow, just like life in a village.

Nur Islam and Samiul Alam, the little boys who play the brothers deserve a word of praise. They are natural at their work and not once would you know this is their first film. Director Manas Mukul Pal delivers us a poignant ballad, the harsh realities of life notwithstanding.

So, if you are looking for an ideal movie to spend your Janmashtami with – look no further.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my first post.

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Book Review: Shyam by Devdutt Pattanaik

When it comes to mythology in India, Devdutt Pattanaik is a name to reckon with. In times like these, when history (and religious texts) have become tools of political power play, and mythology is being sanitised and re-imagined to propagate a narrative that suits a certain belief system, Devdutt Pattanaik’s works help set the record straight.

India is a land of diversity. It is but natural that the ancient texts – the Vedas, Upanishads, and even our epics – would have diverse interpretations across the subcontinent. Even as some attempt to reposition (or repackage) ‘Hinduism’ as a monotheistic, toxically masculine religion (like the Abrahamic faiths), Devdutt Pattanaik relies on, and puts on record, the various narratives centred around the same characters, and stories.

In his latest book, Shyam – An illustrated retelling of the Bhagavata, Devdutt weaves together the tales of Krishna. It is the “story from Krishna’s birth to his death” and chronicles his transformation from “his descent to the butter-smeared world of happy women and his ascent from the blood-soaked world of angry men”. The title of the book, as the author explains, can be attributed to the colour of Krishna’s skin, which was dark (but has now been sanitised to blue).

There is no single source chronicling Krishna’s story in entirety. It has been narrated in fragments in various scriptures – in the Mahabharata (where we learn about Krishna’s adulthood and his relationship with the Pandavas), then in the Harivamsa (that speaks of his pastoral foster family). It also finds a mention then in the Vishnu Purana (where he is described as one of Vishnu’s avatars), and of course, the Geeta Govind of Jayadeva (that is a tribute to his love story with Radha).

Shyam, the book, comes in eighteen chapters (16 chapters and the prologue and the epilogue). Krishna’s life story is narrated sequentially – from the circumstances that led to Vishnu’s eighth avatar till Krishna’s death, and subsequent description of Goloka – a heaven for cows. The author has been politically incorrect, and presented facts as they stand. Krishna’s story has been dissected in great detail, and his persona explored in all his forms. Devdutt minces no words when he laments the current trends of portraying Krishna only as a ‘masculine, war hero’. This is a great disservice to Shyam, who is incomplete without his androgyny. In fact, his feminine self is worshipped in many parts of the country.

The life of Krishna has been narrated in various stages – the infant, the son, the lover, the cowherd, the warrior, the king. Anecdotes have been cited from different sources. like the Bhagavata Purana, the Harivamsa, Geeta Govinda, the Greek mythology as well as Buddhist texts. References have been drawn to traditions prevalent in south India, Rajasthan, Bengal or Odisha. No one interpretation of Krishna has been declared superior (or real) over the other. Krishna is a complete figure, only when we accept all the facets of his personality in entirety.

Anyone with interest in mythology – and also thanks to Amar Chitra Katha – may know most of the stories that Devdutt Pattanaik shares in this book. What sets this book apart are the myriad factoids that he presents, in an illustrated presentation. And he also shares new information with us, which spikes your interest in the subject. Like, the paradise for cows or the references of Krishna in Buddhism, the two Bhagavat Gitas, the interpolation of Krishna and Kali, and so on.

Unlike Ram, who is now a political icon because he was ‘maryada puroshottam’ (the ideal man) and exemplified masculinity, Krishna is as human as much he is an avatar. His ‘colourful’ life comes with frailties. And that’s why his story needs to be told more and more. For Shyam is the perfect epitome of pluralistic, multi-faceted diversity that our country stands for.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

P.S. This review is part of the Flipkart Bloggers’ Affiliate Programme

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights 

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