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The Man Problem

by Himel Choudhury



The soul burns, slowly and painfully.

TLR Rating: 8 Reels.




Dahan, (in other words ‘burning’) is a film directed by one of the most acclaimed directors – Rituparno Ghosh, who unfortunately is no more with us. It is one of his best works till date. As the name goes, the movies deals with ‘dahan’ or burning inside every woman when they wish to step outside to the world from the very narrow space allotted to them by the society. True incidents have been the source of inspiration for this movie. This shameful incident had taken place on 24th June, 1992 in the roads of Kolkata. A novel with the same name written by Suchitra Bhattacharya has also been published earlier. The movie stars various famous actors: Indrani Halder as ‘Srobona Sarkar aka Jhinuk’, Abhishek Chatterjee as ‘Polash Chaudhury’, Rituparna Sengupta as ‘Romita Chaudhury’, Suchitra Mitra as Jhinuk’s thammi(grandmother), Subhendu Chatterjee as Romita’s father, Mamata Shankar as Romita’s sister-in-law and Sanjeev Dasgupta as Jhinuk’s fiancé.

The movie brings out the brutal face of the society. A woman can never be set free even before or after marriage and the worst part is, instead of support, they get humiliation even from their near and dear ones. If a woman gets sexually assaulted, it becomes the spicy gossip of society; even the lawyers and the police who are ‘supposed’ to prevent crime and maintain order, have a very unwanted and unhealthy attitude towards the victims. There are a few who remain out of the box. In the film Jhinuk’s thammi quotes many a time that doing the right thing is nothing special, it is everyone’s duty. But in today’s world, we expect no one to follow the right path and if we find one among thousands, people start celebrating the fact. But no one realizes how people have degraded themselves day after day and to be honest, none even bothers to realize.

The Good Samaritan

‘Dahan’ starts with the narration about the location of Romita’s new address. She is writing to her sister in Canada stating about the new environment she is facing after her marriage. Romita and Polash are newly married couple. Amongst the various changes after marriage, she is trying to adjust and is leading a happy life. The director tries to show, how a girl always tries to take the shape of the vessel in which she is poured into, just like water. Parallel scenes shows another girl, Jhinuk going to meet her grandma (thammi) who stays in an old age home. The girl pleads with her thammi to leave the place and requests her to stay with the family. Jhinuk gets restless when she finds another woman is suffering with some disease. But her grandma staunchly refuses to go and she leaves from the place alone. On the other side of the story, the newly married couple has gone out for shopping and while returning an incident occurs which shakes the normal rhythm of life, especially the lives of Romita and Jhinuk.

A group of boys starts teasing Romita outside the metro station while her husband was buying cigarettes on the opposite footpath. Although he tries valiantly to rescue her, he ends up getting beaten badly and thrown away. Romita shouts and yells for help but all in vain. Rituparno Ghosh cleverly uses a couple of minutes to show the passiveness and apathy of the society towards crime, as several passersby looks on at the molestation but none steps forward. The selfishness of the ‘civilized’ world becomes apparent. Jhinuk also crossing the same road at that time, finally rescues Romita and her husband despite the repeated refusal of her co-passengers, and launches an FIR against the attackers. Jhinuk almost became a star after this incident, a newspaper story broadcasted to all relatives with everyone praising her for her courage. Her thammi has a stark contrast behavior though. For her, doing the right thing at the right point is quite obvious and natural. She tells if people think not having a backbone is natural, then it is useless to live in the civilized society. Rituparno tried to show through thammi, the steadily degrading moral values in human lives.

Indrani Halder put in her career-best performance.

The movie shows eloquently how both women were forcibly bound not seek for justice. Rituparna and Indrani gave stellar performances as Romita and Jhinuk respectively; bringing to light the suffering and injustice the women in our time have to tolerate. Ghosh manages to implant empathy in our minds for all his women. The men however, are single dimensional and very dominant. The men are portrayed in a manner to always be at the top. When Trina, the fiancé of one of the attackers, tries to say no to the marriage after knowing about the incident, her father threatens her with the fear of the society and advises her to forget all such incidents. This is one of the examples of the patriarchal society Rituparno tried to show.  The male leads, Polash and Tunir (Jhinuk’s fiancé) hurt their counterparts just to keep pace with the society. Ghosh shows how people can be easily driven from their moral ground just to get a higher position in the community. The film has very nicely captured few moments when both the women Romita and Jhinuk are found nursing their wounds in a strange rhythmic manner which leaves a question in the minds of the people – Can these wounds be truly healed?

Rituparna Sengupta proved her mettle once again as Romita.

The points what Ghosh wanted to depict were very clear and it never seem like they were forcefully proposed. The ending of the film was a masterstroke; it could have finished on a feminist note but the film made the people ponder on his/her thoughts again. Much like the other films of Rituparno Ghosh, this film too has nicely covered the fact, that how there is always a conflict between the middle class aspirations and moralities, and how in reality it’s tough to choose moral values. The ending message of the movie was very beautiful – it says all people are lonely at some point and so instead of expecting others to be like our imagination, it’s better to be independent in our minds.

The movie has received many awards. It won National film award for ‘Best Feature Film’, ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Screenplay’. ‘Dahan’ is one of the most commendable works of Rituparno Ghosh. It is very well made and features drama which engages the audience till the end and also deals with a sensitive subject with maturity, but convincingly puts across his ideas which are very realistic.

The author is a software engineer at Infosys and spends her spare time in watching movies and reading novels. She loves to analyze the literature behind the movies.

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