Jyeshthoputro Review: Must we think of every film as something seen through a prism, which has been carefully switched on by the filmmaker to manipulate the viewer? Or is he just presenting a given story, may be his own, from his directorial point of view? Or, is it a clever combination of manipulation and perspective? One can trust filmmaker Kaushik Ganguly to have achieved a finely nuanced blending of manipulation and perspective and the audience is captivated enough to watch how the narrative evolves and along with it the characters that people the plot.
Let us take a closer look.
Jyesthoputro means the eldest/elder son. How does the elder/eldest son differ from his younger siblings? Well, the rituals followed after the death of each parent fall squarely on his shoulders. It is dictated by convention and custom. Ganguly’s Jyesthoputro questions this right when circumstances are defined differently. Indrajit Ganguly (Prosenjit Chatterjee), the eldest among three, which includes a mentally unstable sister and a younger brother, is a superstar who has remained away from the ancestral home in Ballabhpur, a distant small town, for 10 years. He learns of his father’s sudden demise while shooting on location for a film.
The shooting forms the opening frame disturbed by the cell phone. But when he calls for “Pack Up”, it is a bloomer because calling “Pack Up” is exclusively a director’s domain. Indrajit arrives at the ancestral home, much to the surprise of his younger brother Partho (Ritwik Chakraborty) and his pregnant wife. But is this solely out of a sense of duty and emotional loss? Or, is it to keep the media and his fans happy? These are opposing pulls he might be going through that the director smoothly transfers on to his viewers.
He finds himself a complete misfit in his former home more because the visitors do not try to hide their awe at meeting a superstar in the flesh. But stardom entails arriving with an entire staff including bodyguards, a secretary, an assistant and other paraphernalia. This disturbs the harmony and detracts from the solemnity of the situation, which Partho is very uncomfortable with. He is not star-struck by his brother’s charisma, unlike most family members.
Indrajit questions his position within the family after a gap of 10 years, questioning also, how his young brother reacts to his “homecoming”, how his sister has been keeping and so on. Do these questions involve morals? Or, do they relate to his fame and popularity?
Director Ganguly explores these through Indrajit, constantly caught between his star power over the entire village and his duties as the eldest son. If Partho is uncomfortable and irritated by the massive crowds outside his house craving for a small glimpse of the star, Indrajit is helpless because the crazy fans form part of his very existence and there is no way he can let it go. The arrival of a superstar in their midst provides the psychological and emotional context of what follows. This psychological dimension involves an underlying discontent in two different ways in the two brothers — the one a superstar and the other an ordinary playwright and actor of town plays and this also creeps silently into the conflict between them. Each frame is carefully designed and thought out, enriched by the finely honed performances of every actor.
Chatterjee has a relatively easier job as he just has to play himself in his actor’s persona. Yet, he tries to extend his performance with that slight twitch of an eyebrow, or wiping his face with a handkerchief after his star-struck distant cousin kisses him and he allows her to; or, trying to point out to Partho that there is certainly something in him that forces the younger brother to cut several red tapes just to meet him at the bungalow allotted to him via the CM.
One has to mention that break-of-dawn meeting with his old girlfriend (Gargi Roy Choudhury) to hand her an important document for his brother. This is, by far, one of Prosenjit’s finest performances in recent times.
Chakraborty is a treat to watch — his uneasiness with his brother’s visit, his heightened irritation that soon turns to anger to find the privacy of his mourning constantly disturbed; his anxiety on the one hand for his pregnant wife and his sister locked in her room on the other, et al. His final showdown with Indrajit where he confesses that he had to down some pegs to gather the guts to face him and give him a piece of his mind is beautiful. There are also small slices of happy camaraderie between the two brothers as Partho enjoys expensive whisky courtesy his brother. Noticeably, it is Partho who follows the Hindu rituals of wearing the dhoti and the sacred thread, allowing his hair and beard to grow, eating vegetarian food and not Indrajit.
That said Sudipta Chakraborty runs away with the cake as the mentally unstable sister. She can sometimes think clearly but mostly remains locked in a room. She brings out the desperation of wanting to “belong”, of wanting to be freed from her imprisoned state, or actually breaking into loud wails when she hears of her father’s demise. How and when she turned unstable is suggested in a fleeting reference so brief that one might miss it completely. She brings out the violent streak within her in one scene and her pain when she arrives at the condolence meet of her father at his former school, stretches out her arms for her brothers to hold, the belt strings of her maxi hanging loosely around her, her hair all awry, spoiling the seriousness of the occasion.
Roy Choudhury as the serious schoolteacher, who was once in love with Indrajit, comes up with a beautifully nuanced performance that sustains the subtlety right through. The same goes for Damini Basu as the irritating starstruck distant cousin and the new actress who plays Partho’s reclusive and quiet wife.
Jyesthoputro follows a linear, straight narrative without a single flashback or clips from films featuring the superstar. The focus is on the present with references to the past, which sustains the intensity of the drama. The peeling walls with the closed doors of the huge mansion now in disarray, the sister’s disorganised room, the prim-and-proper stage at the school function, all point to the wonderful work by Tanmoy Chakraborty.
There are hardly any close-ups but the sounds of the approaching van with the star’s paraphernalia and crew add a different dimension to what deceptively appears to be a peaceful small town. The sound design dotted with shouts of the fans to catch one glimpse of the superstar enriches the texture of the film. Prabuddha Banerjee’s music, including lines sung from the Internationale as a tribute to the father, Sirsha Ray’s multi-layered cinematography, Subhajit Singha’s editing are just right.
“To the film director, each shot of the finished film serves the same purpose as the word to the poet,” wrote VI Pudovkin in Film Technique. Jyesthoputro bears this out in every frame.