Film review: Buddhadeb Dasgupta's Urojahaj is about the unreal state between a man and his dreams
What does a motor mechanic have to do with the wreckage of an aircraft that is reduced to a rusty mangled piece of metal in the middle of a jungle? To most average citizen, well, almost nothing; to the paranoid cop, a possible threat to national security but to Buddhadeb Dasgupta, who cloaks a poet in the garb of a filmmaker, it leads him to tell a flight of fancy for the poor man that mirrors the shattering of dreams of the common man in an increasing climate of disillusionment.
Urojahaj (The Flight) is a film that is a typical Buddhadeb Dasgupta creation carrying his signature in the plot, storytelling and most of the shots.
Bachchu Mondal, played by Chandan Roy Sanyal, a motor mechanic somewhere in the forested areas of Bengal, happens to find the wreckage of a World War II fighter aircraft in the middle of a jungle that gives wings to his dreams of flying a plane someday. He decks it up painstakingly and even visits the market for motor parts in Kolkata to buy parts and an engine to put the piece of metal in air only to find the state agencies suspecting that he might have subversive designs. Eventually, while trying to escape the oppressive arms of the state, the poor man is shot by the cops.
A child-at-heart Mondal, who shares his passion for flying with his wife, played by Parno Mittra, and his son, even dares to leave his job at a garage to pursue his dream of flying.
If Urojahaj carries a very faint shade of Ghatak’s masterpiece Ajantric that portrayed the relationship between a motorcar and its driver, it’s superficial and probably accidental.
Buddhadeb Dasgupta is a master of magic realism on the Indian screen and this film only reaffirms that position belonging to his own genre where the narrative and dialogue take a backseat. Urojahaj carries a few scenes such as the couple on their bed and the dance of the ghosts could not have been conceived by anybody else other than Dasgupta.
In between the simple tale, Dasgupta weaves in a brilliant sub-plot of ghosts, all simple folks who aspired to a spartan life when they were alive, but all ended up as victims of their dreams. “I just dreamt of a meal of plain rice,” says one poignantly.
Urojahaj is a minimalist film where the images communicate the message. It is an unmistakable message – or, more appropriately a protest on celluloid by a poet – that dreams of the ordinary man can easily get crushed and might lead to dreadful eventualities. Sometimes these dreams might seem outlandish, or even comical, but these are dreams that many live for, and society might even mete out extreme punishment for these dreams.
In short, one’s dreams might threaten one’s existence.
The film has already been screened at festivals in Mumbai and Kolkata apart from New York, London and Madrid and received critical acclaim.
Despite a list of 27 awards, national and international, behind him and a few ailments weighing him down, the romantic youth and poet deep inside Dasgupta’s 75-year-old frame is young and throbbing. Though it owes a lot to cinematographer Asim Bose, art director Ananda Addhya and the maestro's wife Sohini, who is a filmmaker herself, Urojahaj carries the signature of the poet and protester.