Film: Tasher Ghawr
Director: Sudipto Roy
Cast: Swastika Mukherjee, Judhajit Sarkar
ANINDITA ACHARYA: Loneliness can be gut-wrenching, and Swastika Mukherjee’s Sujata, a Bengali housewife, tries to find solace in the company of plants, rats and spice boxes in Sudipto Roy’s Tasher Ghawr. Initially, you might think of her as a carefree soul, someone oblivious of the world. But then, Sujata is a woman in distress, who has created her own world, which is battered and torn. She doesn’t like noise in her world. It was a Sunday, but then isn’t everyday a Sunday in the lockdown. And for Sujata, everyday is painful.
Occasionally, we are interrupted by the voice of her husband (Judhajit Sarkar), someone who is always irked. Someone who always insults Sujata. And the moment Sujata hears him, her pace of life changes.
We never see his face, but his presence looms large in the house, where the married couple is “stuck” during the COVID-19 lockdown. “It” might have started before the pandemic and worsened during the lockdown. So, even when she fries an egg or pours his favourite milkshake, you cannot ignore the deep scar on her arms or the black marks near her eyes.
Sujata’s eyes, however, sparkle when she talks about her kitchen garden, her initial days of marriage when her husband was fond of her singing. But now, she puts up with the torture, and pain of staying with an abusive partner.
In Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, we trusted the nose. The brilliant cinema explored social inequalities through smell. In Sudipto Roy’s film, aromas explore Sujata’s household, her beautiful grown kitchen garden, extreme loneliness, physical and emotional violence. How is the smell of fish flood different from the blood of miscarriage? Through different odours, we get to know Sujata’s lonely and torturous routine. There’s also a “scent” of mystery in Sujata’s life, which has been deftly handled by the director. Kobe sesh hobe bolun toh lockdown ta? (When will this lockdown end?) Sujata often asks. Living with an abuser is harrowing.
We feel for Sujata at every point be it her excruciating pain when she eavesdrops on conversations between her husband and his girlfriend or the suffering she endures on bed where without her consent a monster is unleashed.
Writer Sahana Dutta has a winner here. It’s a simple story which might suffer from some predictable turns but the execution and evoking performances lift the film. In lockdown, several such stories of Sujata are taking place behind closed doors. According to The Hindu, during the first four phases of the COVID-19-related lockdown, Indian women filed more domestic violence complaints than recorded in a similar period in the last 10 years.
Swastika’s Sujata will resonate with a lot of women. Kudos to Ayan Sil for such soothing cinematography. Breaking the fourth wall in a film is a difficult trick to pull off but Sudipto has managed to do it effectively. It makes Sujata’s journey more relatable.
Sudipto had worked with Swastika twice before, noteworthy being Kia and Cosmos. Tasher Ghawr, however, is a one-woman show. It belongs to Swastika. From the way she is introduced to the audiences in her kitchen, to the time she sings on the terrace, Swastika owns every scene. You feel Sujata’s wound, relate to her fear and angst. When she lights a cigarette in the pitch-dark bathroom and tears roll down her cheeks after an abrasive intrusion in the bedroom, you feel for those thousands of Sujatas who are locked with such monstrous husbands. And even at the way Swastika naively interacts with the rats, she is so much in control of the camera that you want to see more of her.
Our hitch was the episode with her mother-in-law. With the film just 46-minute long, couldn’t we have got a sneak peek into Sujata’s childhood and her early marital life. Was there any buried emotional scar in her past too?
Tasher Ghawr talks about an important topic and shows how camera and strong performances can blend to create a strong narrative. Don’t miss this Bengali film on Hoichoi.