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Past, present merge in new UK films

Global filmmakers are banking on Indian themes for cinematic success, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 17:50 IST

What connection does contemporary London have with the divine love of the mythological Radha or the unrequited ardour of the heroine of a famed Rabindranath Tagore poem? Lots, if two new short films made by first-time London-based directors are anything to go by.

Sangeeta Dutta’s Sadharon Meye (Ordinary Girl), inspired by a classic Tagore poem about a girl thwarted in love, and Piu Banerjee’s Eternal Radha, an ode to a mythical woman’s ineffable devotion to Krishna, explore the delicate link between the past and present and the real and the unreal in strikingly similar yet completely singular ways.

The two short films were premiered at the just-concluded 26th North American Bengali Conference in Houston, Texas. In dealing with women pining for love across time zones, Sadharon Meye and Eternal Radha, both shot in the Digi Beta format, underscore the eternity of human emotions.      

Sadharon Meye, 26 minutes long, is Dutta’s first film. A journalist and academic, she has assisted Rituparno Ghosh in the making of films like Chokher Bali, Raincoat and Antarmahal. She also has a BFI commissioned monograph on veteran Mumbai filmmaker Shyam Benegal to her credit.

The director of the 11-minute Eternal Radha, choreographer and dancer Piu Banerjee is one half of the Maya Dance Company, a touring company that has performed extensively on television and in theatres. Sister Mou Banerjee, co-director of Eternal Radha, is the other half of the award-winning combine.

Sadharon Meye blends poetry recitation and a string of visuals to narrate two parallel love stories – one set in 1932 in Kolkata and the other in present-day London. Separated by many decades, the women at the centre of the two stories seem to have absolutely nothing in common, yet the essence of their emotions bind them together in a timeless embrace.

The man in the life of Tagore’s coy but clear-headed Malati is no different from the man who arouses love in the heart of a contemporary avatar of the ordinary girl, who lives in London, even as he causes much agony to her. Words and images in a delightfully seamless interplay bring Tagore to life in a contemporary London milieu, but all in a way that leaves enough to the imagination to make Sadharon Meye a piece of pure cinema. 

The Bengali version of Sadharon Meye has Kolkata’s legendary elocutionist Gouri Ghosh recited the Tagore poem, while actor-filmmaker Aparna Sen has lent her voice to the English translation of the verse.   

Eternal Radha, shot by Bafta-winning cinematographer Jonathan Smith, explores a woman’s quest for pure love as she journeys from a London bedroom over the Thames to a magical forest where dance, poetry and the caress of nature help her soar to the heights of mystical ecstasy.

The film uses musical pieces from Tagore, Delhi band Indian Ocean and pop singer Nitin Sawhney to uses its human drama against the backdrop of one the world’s most exciting cities. Sound, movements and visuals are melded in a harmonious whole to create an impact that lasts well beyond the length of the film.