Silence speaks a thousand words in Indraadip Dasgupta‘s deeply immersive and stunning debut directorial Kedara. Through the almost forgotten art of Ventriloquism, the film takes us on a journey in search of humanity, to go back and grow intimate with many things lost or forgotten, befriend our solitude, and reflect back upon the definitions of success and failure of a dejected existence. In these ultra fast and busy times, Kedara is the much needed thoughtful pause that celebrates the songs of silence, and relishes on living life king size in a unique personal universe that is otherwise laden with the burden of not-haves.
The visual poetry of the film brilliantly sketches out the desperation to cling for companionship to satiate the emotional, physical or spiritual needs of a lonely soul named Narasingha, and yet never compromises on his intrinsic goodness that maintains the grace and poignancy even in the most desperate times. Unlike the world that ridicules him at every instance and has taken his decency for granted, Narasingha has stayed honest to his love for his art, his yearning for his lost childhood and maternal care, and his void from a long departed partner. He knows that none of that will ever come back to him, but the hope never dies.
Sometimes it takes the shape of generated sounds of blank phone calls hoping that a very known voice would speak from the other side one day. Sometimes it is about daydreaming with a popular hindi film song playing on the radio and getting intimately drenched in those emotions. Sometimes it is about unlocking a room full of memories after years, and losing oneself to the innocence and warmth of a lost childhood. Sometimes it is just about finding companionship in the most varied soundscape – whether it is emulating voices of loved ones to impersonate their warm presence, or exploring concurrence in the tics of the wall lizard at the most appropriate moment, or simply finding some rhythm of life in the thuds of a wooden horse doubling up as furniture in the otherwise deafening silence of Narasingha’s world.
The maddening cacophony of Narasingha’s world is amplified by a host of nuisances – the unruly street rookies who want to use their political clout to create trouble, the know-it-all gyani neighbour desperate to paint false pictures of happiness and success, or the ultra hyper-pitched house-help aptly named Menaka whose only real help possibly is her seductive presence in the loner’s life twice a day. But there is Keshto as well amidst all of them – the neighborhood scrap seller with the heart of gold who truly cares for Narasingha. Kudos to Indraadip Dasgupta for turning irony on its head on how he uses this apparent junky to brilliantly implant the most precious life-altering midas touch in Narasingha’s life, post which he sees everything with an invigorating spirit and positive attitude.
The impersonation of the newly found confidence through the metaphor of an age old armchair is brilliant use of cinematic language to introspect about life. The zeal for living and the internal belief in yourself is what matters, not the external shine and extravagance. Put to good use, it can provide you with the most cherishable experiences of life even when everything otherwise is crumbling apart. The bright sunshine of life suddenly pierces through the darkest alleys of sorrowful existence and the withered walls of destiny find themselves adorned with vibrant red colored hangings. The king size attitude propels one to seek closures – either asking for reconciliation or giving it back in a language that the big bad world understands. And if that newly recuperated spirit is suddenly snatched away, everything goes away with it – the roomful of colorful memories is suddenly turned to a skeleton of barren white walls; one simply loses to drive to keep his world and belongings safe under lock and key anymore as there is nothing left to lose; and life finds itself shattered like the broken pieces of the kedara. What stays behind are footprints of an exquisite life and brilliant cinema that nurtures it with such perfection.
Kedara is a triumph of everything that comes together to create spectacular cinematic art. It feels goosebumps to even think that this is a debut directorial effort for the renouned composer Indraadip Dasgupta – he displays such maturity of craft in overall conceptualization and execution of a very sensitive topic. Such is his clarity of vision and mastery of visual storytelling that solitude unfolds like poetry on screen. It only helps that the poetic soliloquy further blooms with the deftly written screenplay and dialogues by Srijato Bandopadhyay. It does take some craft to create such an immersive experience rich in layers, in spite of the central premise being so lean on prevalent dramatic elements. Of course it all comes together so well because it is superlative team effort on all technical fronts. Solitude flows like a song on screen courtesy the spectacular cinematography of Shubhankar Bhar. The claustrophobic close-ups, the terrific low light shots, the clarity of capturing even the dust specks of an enclosed space brilliantly set up the world of a solitary soul searching for life. The rich production design by Ranajit Gorai also works in complete sync with the camera to perfectly create the atmospherics. The visual storytelling gets amplified by the neat editing of Sujay Dutta Ray – the way he stitches together the striking cut shots to tell a story, with specific shout-out for how he overlaps the bleak present with comforting memories of the past in seamless continuity. The sparsely used but very evocative background score by Arijit Singh further helps to add color to the storytelling. That it comes as part of the brilliant reverberating soundscape engineered and crafted by Anirban Sengupta and practically dissolves in it further illustrates how the sound of solitude becomes a very important entity in a film that soaks itself in the glory of minimalistic cinematic language. You don’t get cinema everyday where you see such all round technical excellence with each and every area complementing the other to create such a rich portrait of life.
The beautifully measured performances throughout the film instill life into that portrait. Even the small roles are well cast and there is no attempt by anyone to go overpitch to mess up with the smooth tonality of the film. Bidipta Chakraborty makes her graceful presence felt even within her few scenes. Rudranil Ghosh‘s Keshto will possibly go down as one of the most memorable characters of his career (certainly his best this year). I wish there are more and more filmmakers who can invoke this subtle and sensitive side of Ghosh which usually otherwise gets lost in an attempt to do too much.
The heart and soul of Kedara though lies with Narasingha, and I can say it with certainty that no one else could have pulled off such a complex and layered character with such elegance and ease as Kaushik Ganguly. He proves yet again that he is possibly a few shades better as an actor than a director even when he has established time and again how refined and matured a filmmaker he is in his own right. Ganguly has a gifted capability of using every inch of his physicality to emote and tell a story, and as Narasingha he is stunning with his expressions of grief and despair of a lonely tortured soul. He sheds all his vanity in this act, and it is spectacular how he lives and breathes multiple entities to and fro within a same shot with such ease throughout the film. Ganguly completely submits himself to Dasgupta’s vision and idea of Narasingha, and in the process gifts us with one of the most affecting and complete performances in a long time overall, and of his career as well.
It is heartbreaking that the National Awards ignored such a masterclass performance in favour of far more ordinary ones just to please a popular wave! Along with the special jury mention for Indraadip Dasgupta, Kaushik Ganguly definitely deserved it in his own right. Thankfully though, both of them received wide critical recognition across the film festival circuit, and now seeks the warmth and company of an audience that appreciates good cinema.
Films like Kedara are not made every other day. It also knows very clearly that it is not a film for everyone. But it is very special (Thank you Samiran Das and Kaleidoscope to stand firmly behind such a unique film) and demands to exist and flourish in its own niche space. It does not entertain, it leaves you to introspect. It dares not to follow the customary template of everyday drama, but comes with a unique voice to deal with the trauma of solitude in a masterful film. Just like its protagonist, it throws up the challenge to define the paradigm of success and failure of art and of life to the viewer. It is for us to decide then.
For me, it is a resounding success – not many films leave you with a catharsis that will resonate in its poignancy for a long long time.
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