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
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