ABYAKTO : Brilliance Beyond Words

Abyakto (The Unsaid) leaves you in a trance of brilliance which is indeed difficult to capture in words. At all of 88 mins of runtime, debutant director Arjunn Dutta transports you into a world that is immersively poetic, heartbreakingly beautiful, intriguingly complex, and simmering with the melancholy of ‘nibiro bedona te puloko laage gaaye‘ in every frame.

A son goes back to his roots to her broken mother who is trapped in her world of solitude past the father’s death. There is a world of unease and apathy that he feels for her, after all they have had a traumatic past that still comes back to haunt him. Time has practically taken a pause on her side of the world for the past seven years – the grandmother’s memories are frozen in time, the maid hasn’t attempted to evolve from her naivety, the sewing machine feels untouched for ages, the hustle bustle of a crowd sets a claustrophobia in her today, her son’s childhood play-tools are neatly stowed away, and she has shelved her passion for music for long now, only going back to the nostalgia locked in some audio cassettes from time to time. All she is waiting for is to possibly break the barriers with her son, now that he is ready to move to his next milestone of life. The burden of his unhappy childhood and she being the reason for the distance between them weighs down too heavily on her, but there are things that are best left unsaid.

He on the other hand has his bitter memories never leaving him for a minute, even when his sensitive, practical, and Rumi loving partner rightly pushes him to make amends with the rock of his life. The sky also pours along with him as he sulks in his traumatic past. He doesn’t find his mother’s loving presence anywhere as he often goes back to his childhood. The good memories happened with Baba, Rudro Kaku, Dida, Maami, Tinni didi, but never with Maa. As he spends some grown up time with his mother now, his struggle with himself escalates further as he strongly wants to resist his somewhat growing softness for her. Afterall, her age appropriate restraint is overflowing with undeniable affection. Where does time eventually take them to? Are the doors of unspoken broken for good? These are answers one must explore; and explore them at the big screen. It is one of the finest cinematic experiences of recent times, and Arjunn paints his delicate film like a flowing verse with utmost care and fondness.

It is hard to comprehend that this piece of art is coming from a debut filmmaker – such is his maturity in conceptualizing, freshness in narrating and finesse in executing every frame of the film. I am not sure if Arjunn Dutta will agree, but knowingly or unknowingly there is a very strong footprint of Rituparno Ghosh school of filmmaking, including his world of aesthetics, emotions and cinematic language throughout Arjunn’s film. And that in my mind is a brilliant gift, as we strongly need able minds to take that legacy forward. In fact, it is hard not to go back to Ghosh’s Unishe April (or Aditi Roy’s Abosheshey) at times too as another shade of an estranged mother child relationship evolves on the screen. But more than the concept, it is the world that Arjunn is deftly able to create that reflects the inspirations from the master filmmaker, and that is something worth celebrating.

Yes there is the immensely sensitive and subtly powerful storytelling that forms the heart of the film, but it also oozes technical brilliance throughout its runtime. Whether it is the beauty with which intricacies of the beautiful inner spaces of the lived-in house are captured, or it is the stunning still shots freezing on a old house drenching in rains, or just a passing rumbling nature shot, each frame tells a deeper story in itself. Now overlay that with some of the most soul stirring and beautifully atmospheric background score of recent times, and you are just captivated by the poetry that is transcending on screen. The artistry of the production design to capture markedly different moods of the somewhat mourning Kolkata home and the chic Delhi abode; the seamless transition of the narrative between a haunting past and a brooding present with a heightened sense of drama captured in imaginative dreams; the very appropriately used verses of Tagore to Shakespeare to take the story forward without a lot of words – everything is seamlessly in sync to accentuate the sense of awe the film wants to leave you with. Look out for a shot where multiple hands reach out in silence to seek inexplicable closures, or an end montage of ‘times that could have been’ – it is hard to escape the teary eyes or not feel the goosebumps there. Emotions have not been expressed with such honesty and warmth in a long long time on screen.

But beyond everything else, what makes Arjunn Dutta’s storytelling all the more powerful in Abyakto are its host of amazing performances. Arpita Chatterjee is the soul of the film and she stuns you with her powerhouse portrayal of Saathi (how appropriately named). While you cannot take your eyes off her breathtaking screen presence, the strength of this performance comes from how brilliantly she creates two very different living and breathing characters separated by timeline, distinctly varying her gait, her gaze, and her complete entity across the two periods. The depth of the performance also comes with how amazingly she moves us with strikingly distinct reactions to herself in these two periods. Soaked with elegance, pain, frustration, solitude and a world of empathy, Arpita makes Saathi as a character to be cherished for a lifetime. Anubhav Kanjilal as Indra is a revelation and captures the nuances of his complex state of mind with such maturity. It is a smart casting decision by Arjunn to have a relatively fresh face step in to this crucial character and keep his intricate reactions to tough situations so fresh (Look for how much he is able to emote through his expressive eyes). It takes some talent to respond from strength to strength to Arpita’s towering presence on screen, and Anubhav doesn’t let the energy slide for a minute. However Anirban Ghosh essaying the other important character of the film ( Koushik ) comes out relatively uneven, oscillating between somewhat flat to somewhat over-pitched in some of his scenes. Contrast that to how seamlessly Adil Hussain as Rudro steals almost every frame he is in with his quieter presence, and leaves you with a tremendous impact that only an actor of his calibre can, even with such a limited screen time. The rest of the ensemble does justice to the roles they are cast for, without hampering with the overall tonality of the film.

It has been a few hours since I have walked out of the theatres now, but somewhere I am still lost for words to comprehensively express the experience that Abyakto has been. This has to be one of the strongest debut features in our cinema along with Indraadip Dasgupta’s Kedara last year, and with what Arjunn Dutta has been able to achieve with Abyakto, it speaks a world about the depth of his sensibilities and his understanding of cinematic aesthetics. This is allround creativity of a filmmaker operating at the top of his game, with a very intriguing storytelling style simmering with a tremendously sensitive outlook towards life.

Take a bow Arjunn! The future of Bengali cinema has suddenly started to look a few shades brighter.

Parane baaje bnaashi nayane bahe dhaara…
Dukhero maadhurite korilo dishahaara…
Sakali nibe kere.. dibe na tobu chhere…
Mon sare na jete… phelile eki daaye…
Knaadale tumi more bhalobashar-i ghaaye…

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Copyright ©2020 Jayashree Chakravarti.This article cannot be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL can be used instead.

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