Well,a small trip to Nandan II on a cloudy december day to watch Sthaniya Sambad was filled with apprehension and excitement at the same time.Moinak Biswas is a well known name to the film afficionados of the city and Arjun Gourisaria is also known from his Patalghar days.I must admit the apprehension was fuelled by a prejudice or sort of prejudice,that a scholar of films might not necessarily have the requisite creative competence of making a film.HOWEVER I HAPPILY STAND REBUTTED.
Sthaniya Sambad is a sort of vignette of various characters and images.Deshbandhu Colony opens up as a kaleidoscopic vista in front of us.We as the audience see our city ,our roads like never before.The narrative of the film carries on for 24 hours from a day to the next dawn and within that we see a tapestry of characters all part of a flowing society and all of whom have their own place.The dreaming poet and protagonist Atin introspective and nerdy,the two old men at the shop who are part of the flowing history themselves,brooding on life,philosophy and even desires(sexual ones even),the group of singers rehearsing for the "Basanta Utsav" detached and removed from the banal reality of this existence and locked up in their pseudo-cultural ivory tower.The detached intellectual played remarkably by Suman Mukhyopadhyay(He should consider coming in front of the camera more often) and also the common mass who protest and also ironically support their homes being uprooted and also the two "bizarre" thieves,the landshark Mr.Paul(a common entity of the city these days),the five unemplyed youth located on a bamboo perch on the side of the road acting much like a Greek chorus offering visions and comments on the passers by and about the city; and most importantly,the city itself.
These characters of the refugee colony of the southern fringes of the city now stand at the doorsteps of being doubly uprooted.First by the separation of Bengal,an act of history and next by the spade of modern Development in the form of Real Estate boom that is gripping the city.A fate much like the modern individual of the city.We see ourselves in all these characters who stand uprooted from their past.The history, the flow of existence is halted drastically and we are on the verge on a new order being established on values more lusty than compassionate.The constant presence of the drone of the yellow bulldozer acts as the leitmotif that binds all these modes of thoughts together.
Sthaniya Sambaad shows how the city is changing along with its inhabitants.The camera that perches on top swoops down to take us into the land of the prey.We see the world of the colony the world that we soon will leave behind.The destruction of the colony we see is not vehemently and unitedly opposed as two of the residents aspiring to urban middleclass existence from the humbler shacks of the colony promotes the idea of the destruction on the name of a well used noun “development”.The actual destruction of the colony and the preceeding visuals and sequence on the fringes of modern Eastern Kolkata,where a new world order is rising is brilliantly executed.A surreal hallucinatory sequence charactarised by blinding lights,fogs and vast open spaces and the haunting skyscraper building sites blurrs the line between imaginary and real.Suman’s line to Atin a few minutes before and the Chinese riddle that he pronounces becomes profound.The scene is almost Beckettian in its absurdity and the question of whether we are living the dream or dreaming the life is a question to be asked and is done so.The silent destruction scene is well executed,the silence on screen mixes with those of the audience inside the theatre to produce the fact of our own scattering,our own disposition and owr ownselves being irreparibly lost.
Against the backdrop stand the story of the protagonist Atin,whose search for his ladylove Ananya almost is a sort of searching for the city.Ananya’s plait is cut and stolen by two thieves and after a spell of momentary sorrow she visits a swanky Park Street parlour to change her hairstyle to suit her new shortened hair.Ananya's
episode and Dipankar and Atin’s failed search for her is metaphorical.The plait of the city too has been cut and stolen by thieves and she now must accomodate and legitimize her new position and new looks.Dipankar and Atin as the introspective modern intellectuals with heart fail to locate her as they fail to locate the changing city.We see Atin as he finds the blinding neons of Park Street too glaring and too different.Atin meeting the landshark Mr.Paul and giving him his poetry book stands surreal and absurd.
However poetry and art are useless in front of social and political forces at work.In this postmodern age of slippages and distortion where the order is controlled by faceless powers like Mr Paul who is devoid of existence in realty,that very reality is questioned as we can only see them in dreamy surreal visions and hence art fails to express as expression is also victimised.The episodic and chapter like structures of the film is in tune with the incompleteness that the film portrays.
Sthaniya Sambad fulfills all promises and all it tries to express.Backed by a fantastic script and excellent cinematogrpahy and quite a masterful narrative structure this film is certainly a fresh trend in bengali cinema.Powerfully expressive and with an undertone of wry humour(we remember the shot where the loud playing of the rock band is followed by an old almost octogenarian lady in the next room in one single shot) the film beautifully and with a touch of warmth portrays a panorama of modern urban existence;from danger to game to comic situations to the banality of existence and the ironic unreality of the situations.