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Beyond Fidelity Studies: An Analysis of the Cinematic Adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Mother of 1084


Beyond Fidelity Studies: An Analysis of the Cinematic Adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Mother of 1084

Tathagat Banerjee

Assistant Professor and Head   

Department of English

Maharani Janki Kunwar College

Bettiah, West Champaran, Bihar

Abstract :

A cursory glance at the history of world cinema shows that cinema has visited the literary landscape time and again for scripts. Be it the American film industry or the Indian or any other film industry, all of them have been increasingly depending on literature, in general, and novels, in particular, for their screenplays. But this process of adaptation from one form of art to another is very challenging. Both the forms have their own set of demands. The technical intricacies involved in a motion picture are much more complex than those involved in a printed book. Again, cinema is strongly controlled by a lot of factors like time and money. Critical works in the field of adaptation studies or critical enquiries of film adaptation of novels have often been charged for being profoundly moralistic or centered too much on fidelity studies, that is, the evaluation of the film adaptation’s faithful understanding of the source material. This paper intends to study Govind Nihalani’s adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Bengali novel Hajar Churashir Maa (1974) (translated as Mother of 1084 by Samik Bandopadhyay). It intends to use David T. Johnson’s elaborate comparative approach and evaluation based fidelity studies and belief studies by situating the adapted material and the source in a synchronic system and establish what David T. Johnson refers to surplus value in a synchronic system.

Keywords: adaptation, fidelity, novel, film, belief, synchronic, dialogism, comparative, evaluative, intertextuality

Cinema has been an integral part of our cultural life ever since its birth. In the twenty first century even a cursory glance at the huge content of world cinema ranging from the works of great filmmakers like Charles Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray to the works of young talents like Christopher Nolan, the Coen brothers, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lars Von Trier, Jafar Panahi, Anurag Kashyap and many others is enough to assert that cinema today has come to signify much more than just another form of entertainment. It has rather become one of the most powerful forms of art commanding the attention of the masses all over the world. The question that arises here is, What is cinema? Most of the high ranked directors have broadly and justifiably defined cinema as a mode of storytelling. For instance, once in an interview given to Sudhir Mishra, Shekhar Kapur stated that good stories make good films and that he chose to make films because he had stories to tell. Quite truly, cinema has always been about telling stories. However, when it comes to supply of stories the world of cinema has not been self-sufficient. To meet the ever increasing demand of good scripts cinema has traditionally depended on literature. This dependence on literature has added extraordinary depth and richness to cinema. This relationship between literature and cinema is as old as the history of cinema. Numerous movie masterpieces have their roots in literature. Works of literary greats like Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, Shaw, Hemingway, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tagore, Premchand and popular writers like Stephen King, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J. K. Rowling and many more have been like the script reservoir for cinema.

            Adapting a work of literature into a motion picture is a highly challenging task. What makes this process of adaptation challenging is the basic differences inherent in both forms of art. Both these art forms carry their own set of demands. While cinema is more focused on action, motion and visual expression, the pulse of literature lies in language. Cinema also differs vastly from literature in terms of the technical intricacies involved in it. A lot of works like the handling of camera, editing, sound mixing, special effects are integral to filmmaking and demand great amount of technical expertise. For instance, the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter novels, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of  The Rings books with their wonderful animation, and special effects reflect the vast amount of technical input that went into the making of these films. But the realm of literature doesn’t demand such vast amount of technology. Again, cinema, unlike literature, is controlled by a lot of factors like the availability of money, actors, locations, labour and many other additional factors. Satyajit Ray pointed out these controlling factors as he identified them during his first cinematic venture in his Our Films, Their Films (1976). The time factor also brings in a lot of difference in the two forms of art. In an interview to Steve Paikin, Salman Rushdie admired the way J. K. Rowling has made millions of readers read her bulky novels. Taking this as a positive sign for the writers, he added that Rowling has shown that twenty first century readers are willing to spend hours in reading. Cinema, in contrast, is strictly controlled by time. As the modern trend shows people are more patient as readers than they are as viewers. For instance, while the Harry Potter novels or the Twilight novels have allured unimaginable number of readers, long films are slowly but steadily giving way to shorter films.

            These basic differences signify that literature and cinema are two completely different art forms and therefore what often works excellently for literature might not work at all for cinema and vice versa. Hence, the process of adapting a text into a film calls for significant changes or deviations from the original. The question is, how do these changes affect the reception of the adapted piece or the source text. Numerous films have been criticised for presenting adulterated versions of their original texts to meet the demands of the masses. Adaptation studies scholars like Thomas Leitch and Robert Stam have pointed out and rejected this moralistic tendency in evaluating adaptations. For instance, we can consider George Bluestone’s analysis of Vincente Minnelli’s poor adaptation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856) in his Novels into Film (1957). But changes do not always mean an adulteration of the original. For instance, Akira Kurosawa’s adaptations of Shakespeare and Satyajit Ray’s adaptations of Tagore are marked by some major deviations from the original and yet are considered great adaptations of these classic authors. In fact, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957), and Ran (1985), adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606) and King Lear (1608) respectively, are considered as powerful films as BBC’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays which show minimal deviation from the original text or language. Again, to take one recent example, one cannot but mention the modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories into a TV series. This series gained huge critical acclaim and fan following from the day of its broadcast. Though it completely modifies the original Holmes stories and modernises the whole world of Conan Doyle, it retains those delightful and important aspects for which the original is still read and remembered. Therefore, changes or deviations from the original do not necessarily indicate a flaw. Often what matters most is how far the film is able to capture the essence or the core or, as the book True to the Spirit (2011) calls it, the “spirit” of the original text. But here it is important to note that many filmmakers and their films have been criticised by critics for diverting from the original text in a major or minor way without taking into account how far the film is able to capture the essence of the original in its own way. One instance is the harsh criticism of Ray’s movie adaptations of various literary texts, especially those by Tagore, by literal-minded critics” (Sengoopta 253) whom Ray himself considered uneducated enough from the cinematic point of view” (Sengoopta 254). Ray proved right as now his movies, including his adaptations of Tagore, stand as classics of world cinema. Ray’s comment, particularly the phrase cinematic point of view”, becomes very important in our analysis. What Ray meant to say was that the standards for judging a film and a piece of literature should be different. A movie adaptation of a literary work can best be analysed and judged from a cinematic point of view, that is, from a perspective which takes into account the various features, potentialities, demands, limitations, and constraints associated with filmmaking. This paper studies Govind Nihalani’s adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Bengali novel Hajar Churashir Maa (1974), from the cinematic point of view to analyse and understand Nihalani’s process of adaptation and the relevance of his deviations from the original text.

            The Chapter 28 of The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies (2017) entitled Adaptation and Fidelity by David T. Johnson explores the different aspects of fidelity studies from its rejection by scholars to its continuing practices. He defines fidelity in the following manner:

Put simply, fidelity refers to the extent to which a given aesthetic object—traditionally, in adaptation studies, a film—reflects a faithful understanding of its source—traditionally, a literary text, especially a novel, play, or short story. (Johnson 01)

David T. Johnson avoids to characterise it as a thing of the past and explores three possible futures of fidelity studies. The three possibilities are:

1) He points towards the possibility of fidelity studies that is not based on the evaluative model of scholarship but an elaborative comparative approach. He quotes the following from David L. Kranz’s essay “Trying Harder: Probability, Objectivity, and Rationality in Adaptation Studies,” to make his point regarding the relevance of an evaluative approach:

 there’s no necessary or inherent reason why fidelity criticism must include an evaluation of the relative quality of an adaptation with respect to its source, (qtd. in Johnson, 10)

and the need for an comparative approach:

[c]omparative criticism of adaptations should include analysis of cinematic, intertextual, and contextual elements relevant to interpretive arguments emerging from analyses of narrative and other traditionally favoured data”. (qtd. in Johnson, 10)

2) Taking cue from True to the Spirit he points out the possibilities of evaluative, fidelity- based adaptation scholarship. He points toward a more synchronic, less diachronic way of evaluating adaptation.

3) He points out Philip Rosen’s translation of Bazin’s word croyance as belief and not faith to propose the practice of belief studies which might emphasise fidelity as part of the reception process” He quotes from Catherine Grant’s work on adaptation the following the most important act that films and their surrounding discourses need to perform in order to communicate unequivocally their status as adaptations is to (make their audiences) recall the adapted work, or the cultural memory of it.” (qtd. in Johnson, 10)

In this paper I intend to use a combination of the three possibilities to study Govind Nihalani’s cinematic adaptation of Mother of 1084 and try to look for new strategies for analysis of adaptation beyond traditional fidelity studies.

            Mahasweta Devi is one among India’s most noted progressive writers and social activists. Winner of many prestigious literary prizes including the Sahitya Akademi award (1979), the Jnanpith award (1996), and the Ramon Magsaysay award (1997), she has also won the Padma Shri award (1986) for her works as a social activists among the tribals and the Padma Vibhusan award (2006). As a writer she writes in Bengali and has many novels, plays and short stories to her name. However, her major works include Hajar Churashir Maa (1974), Aranyer Adhikar (1977), Bashai Tudu (1978), “Draupadi” (1985). She is among those few writers whose writing career and social activism have a very close connection. In the words of Govind Nihalani, through her works one gets to hear the voice of a community that is otherwise voiceless” (Nihalani). Her works, marked by an unflinching faith in the concept of protest” (Nihalani), satirically present the establishment, the state or the system and the bourgeois community as the chief agents of corruption, exploitation, and suppression and realistically portray the struggle of the marginalised, voiceless and oppressed community for survival. Her novel Hajar Churashir Maa, published in Bengali in 1974, has been translated into English both as a novel and a play. The English novel came out in 1997. The novel, set in the chaotic Calcutta ( now Kolkata) of late 1960s and early 1970s, records the inner journey of a mother to rediscover her relationship with her dead son and her own identity in a corrupt, callous, and patriarchal society.

            In 1967, with the support of the Leftists the peasants of Naxalbari in West Bengal revolted against the landlords who were supported by the establishment or the system. This revolt gradually spread to the urban areas including the city of Calcutta. The Naxal revolt in Calcutta drew thousands of young intellectuals who, as they claimed, had lost their faith in the corrupt system. Later, this revolt was ruthlessly crushed by the police administration. However, this period of unrest, often referred to as the decade of liberation by the Naxalites, claimed the lives of many innocent people, police officers and young intellectuals-turned-Naxalites in Calcutta itself. Though Mahasweta Devi’s novel is set against this particular sociopolitical situation of Calcutta she is more interested to explore the human aspect of the situation. In the novel she explores the psychology of the young intellectuals who became a part of the movement and the way they and their dear ones were affected by these sociopolitical events.

            Structurally, the novel is neatly divided into four chapters entitled Morning”, Afternoon”, Late Afternoon”, and Night”. The titles of these chapters signify that the novel traces the events of a single day in Sujata’s life. This day happens to be both the second death anniversary of Sujata’s son Brati and the day of her daughter Tuli’s engagement. Sujata is a middle-aged working woman belonging to a wealthy, respected, organised upper middle class family in Calcutta. Married to Dibyanath Chatterjee, a chartered accountant, Sujata is the mother of two sons, Jyoti and Brati, and two daughters, Nipa and Tuli. As the novel progresses we find that Sujata is a complete non-entity in her house. Dibyanath and his mother had never allowed her to exert any influence on her own children with the exception of Brati. Brati, a Naxalite, is killed with four of his other friends —Laltu, Bijit, Somu and Partha — by hired assassins of police. While Brati’s identity as a naxalite and his murder remains an embarrassment for his father, brother and sisters who care more for their social image, Sujata’s life never remains the same after Brati’s death. Not only does she become conscious of the corruption, moral degradation, hypocrisy, falsehood, and pretentiousness prevailing in her society and develop from being a apolitical woman to a politically conscious woman but also realises that in her thirty four years of marriage she has only tried to support some dead relationships in the name of duty. Only after Brati’s death she starts understanding her son’s political convictions, his lack of faith in the system, his courage to condemn and reject the commonly accepted , pretentious, and hollow family values, dead relationships and the corrupt social order and his commitment to everything of everyday life” (Devi 77).

            On the day of her son’s second death anniversary, the point from which the novel starts, Sujata attempts to rebuild and relive her relationship with Brati. She leaves her house where Brati’s memories are hard to find and visits Somu’s mother, mother of another Naxalite killed with Brati, and Brati’s girlfriend Nandini only to find that this would be her last visits to them. In the house of Somu’s mother, Sujata experiences Brati, blood of her blood, the child whose birth had endangered her life, the young man who had become so strange and impregnable to her…”(Devi 38) coming back to her again. Thus, in Somu’s mother’s house where Brati used to spent most of his time and had slept the night he was killed, Sujata finds the real Brati, a Brati made up of his own beliefs and ideology. This Brati was unknown to Sujata. And in this episode with Somu’s mother she tries to integrate and understand the real Brati, However, here she also becomes aware of the pitiable existence, poverty, exploitation, and marginalisation of the slum dwellers like Somu’s family. She realises that though the shared trauma of their sons’ death has brought them together they would soon be separated by the eternal gulf of class difference.

            Next, she visits Brati’s companion and beloved Nandini. It is through Nandini that Mahasweta Devi explores the psychology of young intellectuals who after losing their hope in the system had joined the Naxal movement. In this conversation with Nandini, Sujata becomes aware of the idealism of young intellectuals like her son Brati, their dream of an Utopia, the corruption and exploitation practiced by the state, and their unending political games” (Devi 86).

            The last chapter of the novel canters around Tuli’s engagement party. Devi uses this chapter to ruthlessly unmask the corrupt, immoral, hypocritical, pretentious and hollow society of the “bhadraloks” (Bengali for gentlemen or upper castes). Here we meet a politically conscious, authoritative, and protesting Sujata. When on entering the house Dibyanath questions Sujata of her whereabouts, she curtly answers:

Two years ago, for thirty two, I never asked you where you spent your evenings, or who accompanied you on your tours for the past ten years, or why you paid the house rent for your ex-typist. You are never to ask me a thing. Never. (Devi 93).

Further she decides that she would not stay here (her house ) after tonight” ( Devi 94). However she decides to go through the party as a last obligation. At this point the people at the party appear to Sujata as dead people that ate, quarrelled and lived in a frenzy of lust and greed....The dead that had lost all claim to respect”(Devi 107). The world appears to her as a hollow, decaying place full of cadavers”. Finally, a physically ill Sujata, who was long suffering from a rotten appendix, falls to the ground. Mahasweta Devi creates a symbolic pattern with this ending. Sujata remembers her acute birth pangs and the consequent arrival of Brati to her world, she gets to know the real Brati after the shocking news of his death, and finally the pain induced by her appendix releases her to death and unites her with Brati.

            It is only natural for a novel of this kind to get the attention of a progressive” ( a word often used by Nihalani himself to describe his films ) filmmaker like Govind Nihalani. One of the most noted filmmakers and winner of numerous awards including the National Film award, Nihalani has to his credits films like Aakrosh (1980), Ardh Satya (1983), Party (1984), Aghaat (1985), Drohkaal (1994), and Dev (2004). Nihalani has on numerous occasions collaborated with famous writers like Vijay Tendulkar, Satyadev Dubey, Bhisham Sahni and Mahasweta Devi for his scripts. Known for their realistic treatment of various contemporary sociopolitical issues and their effect on individual lives, Nihalani’s films seem to follow a pattern of tracing an idealist individual’s struggle for survival in a world of corruption, violence and exploitation. However, if his initial films portray the gradual defeat of their protagonist in their struggle against the corrupt system, his later films end on a positive note where the individuals never give up their protest.

            Nihalani’s adaptation of Devi’s novel released in 1997 and went on to receive the National award for best film in Hindi. One useful way of analysing Nihalani’s adaptation is to gauge how successfully the film captures the essence of the text and figure out the ways in which the adapted piece diverts from the original to meet the demands of cinema and analyse how far they are relevant from a cinematic point of view. To begin with, the most important change we witness in Nihalani’s adaptation is the change in language. In one of his interviews to Suparn Verma Nihalani made the following statement:

I saw a play based on Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma in Calcutta years ago. I thought it was a good subject for a film, but I didn't have the courage to pick it up because of various reasons. When I saw the English translation of this novel, my interest was suddenly revived (Nihalani).

So, Nihalani used the English translation of Devi’s Bengali novel for his Hindi script. This kind of move has its advantages and disadvantages. To point out the advantages first, Nihalani’s Hindi movie received a much wider audience than Devi’s Bengali novel had received. This audience factor becomes one of the most important aspects for a motion picture when one takes into account the huge amount of money, men and labour involved in its production. However, Nihalani’s film enjoyed this wider audience at the cost of certain amount of authenticity. Here Satyajit Ray’s views on cinema and language can be considered. Throughout his career, Ray made films chiefly in Bengali and had only one Hindi and one Urdu film to his credit. In one of his interviews to Bert Cardullo, Ray himself admitted that he never felt at ease while working in languages other than Bengali. Recollecting his experiences while directing Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) and Sadgati (1981), two movies in Urdu and Hindi languages respectively, he stated that he had no idea regarding the quality of the dialogues and had faced trouble while coaching his actors”. Ray elaborated how in case of these two movies he had relied more on strategies like giving verbal directions” as he was unable to act out the parts himself for the actors. So keeping in view Nihalani’s efficiency in Hindi, Nihalani’s decision to make the film in Hindi seems absolutely practical and logical. But when in the same interview Ray was asked if he would make films in English he had answered:

Perhaps I will, but even then, the story I select must be a story from my own country. I really don't have any desire to make films abroad. A film in which the use of English sounds logical (Ray 175)

This statement by Ray not only answers for his use of Urdu in Shatranj Ke Khilari but also throws much light on the issue of cinema and language in general. Ray considered it logical for a film based on a particular culture to use the language of that culture for expression. This is why Ray himself chose to use Urdu and not Hindi when he adapted Premchand’s short story Shatranj Ke Khilari”. Another perfect example is Steven Spielberg’s crafty use of language in his masterpiece Schindler’s List (1993). While Spielberg made his main characters speak English, he made all other characters speak German to gain some kind of authenticity. When asked in an interview he replied that he had planned to make an out and out German language film, but had not done so keeping the American audience in mind. From this perspective , Nihalani’s use of Hindi to retell a tale of human struggle , protest and suffering set against the background of 1970s Calcutta and centered around a Bengali family seems to take a toll on the film’s authenticity. However, one can again refer to the audience factor to justify Nihalani’s selection of language. But Nihalani, like Spielberg, attempts to overcome the problems arising due to this difference in language by using various strategies like collaborating with Mahasweta Devi herself to write his script and using a lot of Bengali actors. Here it is important to point out that Nihalani who had worked chiefly with actors like Nasseruddin Shah, Om Puri, and Smita Patil in his earlier films consciously used a lot of Bengali actors in this movie. Possibly, he wanted actors who had read the original text and experienced its essence. Lastly, the poetic rhythm of the original text is hardly found in the English translation of the novel, and this problem also persists in Nihalani’s film. The lacuna of the English translation vividly appears in Sujata’s conversation with Somu’s mother. In this episode we find Somu’s mother speaking Bengali the way the slum dwellers do. Her Bengali is different from that of Sujata’s. Very interestingly, while the English translation of the novel fails to tap this difference, Nihalani quite intelligently makes Somu’s mother speak the Hindi spoken by the slum dwellers and lets Sujata speak what we call Hindi of the genteel folk.

            Structurally, too, Nihalani’s film diverts from the novel. The novel traces the events of a single day in four chapters and follows a stream of consciousness technique and deals heavily with dreams and memories to relate the readers the past events. Nihalani’s film replaces this complex and compact structure of the novel with a cinematic structure spanning from 1949, the year of Brati’s birth to Sujata’s old age. The film begins with Sujata entering the maternity home to give birth to Brati in 1949 then shifts to 1970 and 1972, the years of Brati’s death and second anniversary respectively. Finally, the film ends portraying Sujata’s working at a Human Rights Documentation Centre after her retirement. This structure of the film portrays the changing face of Calcutta through the decades, and as Nihalani himself states, gives this 1970s tale a contemporary touch by stretching it to Sujata’s old age. Moreover, the film, like the novel, keeps the character of Brati vividly alive through a series of flashbacks. Thus, the structure of the film though simple doesn’t at all dilute the experience of the book and proves to be effective in capturing its essence.

            Nihalani also brings a lot of new additions. For instance, Nihalani adds one very vital scene which helps the audience to see the tale from a different perspective. After the scene in which Nandini tells Sujata about Anindya’s betrayal, the film uses flashback and shifts to the scene of Anindya’s betrayal. This scene centers on a secret meeting of the Naxalites. In this meeting the frustration of Brati and another Naxalite Neetu regarding certain aspects of the progress of the movement in the urban areas is vividly portrayed. In this scene, Brati questions the way their movement against the corrupt establishment is victimising innocent people like a traffic police officer. This is certainly a well-researched addition because like the counter insurgency operations of the police, the armed struggle of the young intellectuals in Calcutta too did victimise a lot of innocent people. We get some idea about this in Ashoke Kumar Mukhopadhyay’s article Through the Eyes of the Police: Naxalites in Calcutta in the 1970s” (2006). But in Mahasweta Devi’s novel we get a vivid portrayal only of the police excesses. Thus, this scene helps to communicate the other side of the story, that is, the fact that in certain ways the movement did went in the wrong direction claiming the lives of many innocent individuals. The film adaptation, thus , seen through David T. Johnson’s evaluative approach, adds to its own value and the “surplus value” of the film and the text combined in a synchronic system. The film engages in a dialogic interaction with the text.

However, the most significant addition by Nihalani is the different ending of the film. The novel ends with Sujata’s death during Tuli’s engagement party. The film , in contrast, goes on to trace the lives of the major characters in the post-Naxalite period. Sujata after her retirement starts working at the Human Rights Documentation Centre, while Nandini , now a social activist working with the tribals, fights her legal battle against the tortures of Saroj Pal, the Police Officer. Unlike the novel, the film ends on a highly positive note as old Sujata clutches on to one of the legs of Neetu’s killer and doesn’t let it go till he is caught by the locals. In the last scene, Sujata says that the more she follows Brati’s line of thought and action, the closer will she come to her son. Another important aspect of this ending is the character of Dibyanath. In this ending one finds a very changed, submissive, and supportive Dibyanath. Sujata finds herself quite at ease with Dibyanath and in his house. The novel, contrarily, never allows this kind of development in Dibyanath’s character. Throughout the novel, he remains the authoritative, morally loose, irresponsible, indifferent, and hypocritical man. In fact, while, on the one hand, the novel deals with Sujata’s grief, on the other, it ruthlessly unmasks and criticises the Bhadraloks” of 1970s Calcutta. Sujata’s mother in law, Dibyanath, Nipa, Tuli, Jyoti, and all other characters belonging to the upper middle class society are presented as narrow-minded, corrupt, and morally hollow beings. Devi portrays this society as a grossly materialistic and morally degraded wasteland with space only for cadaver” like men and women. Contrary to the novel, the film handles its characters much more sympathetically. True, in the party scene the film unmasks the bhadralok” society as brutally as the novel does but the ending of the film puts more emphasis on the concept of regeneration rather than degeneration. This kind of ending has a lot to do with Nihalani’s own philosophical views. In one of his interviews Nihalani expressed his faith in the goodness inherent in human beings, the concept of protest and his optimism. This faith is perhaps the answer for not only this ending but the optimistic tone found in his later films.

Lastly, there is another aspect very important for the movie and the novel that needs analysis. In the 1970s Calcutta was often described as the most turbulent city” (Mukhopadhyay 3231) in India. The Naxalite movement, the sudden rise in population due to the immigration of the refugees and several other sociopolitical issues had affected the peace of the city. This segment of Calcutta’s history, its most troublesome years, is the background of Hajar Churashir Ma. Naturally, the portrayal of the city finds a prominent place in the novel. It is mainly through the eyes of Sujata and Nandini that the readers get a vivid glimpse of Calcutta. While , on the one hand, one finds a completely chaotic Calcutta torn apart by political turmoil, Naxalite movement, unemployment, corruption, rapidly increasing population etc., on the other, one finds the same old traditional Calcutta with its old landmarks, film festivals, Rabindra jayanti celebration, unending demonstrations by intellectuals and radicals against American barbarity in Vietnam. It is the reference to the eternally existing traditional picture of Calcutta that intensifies the portrayal of the chaotic Calcutta of the 1970s. When the cinematic representation of the 1970s Calcutta comes up one cannot but mention Satyajit Ray’s unparalleled portrayal of the city in his Pratidwandi (1972) and Jana Aranya (1976). But, interestingly enough, Nihalani doesn’t fully explore these images of the city. The film was shot in Mumbai and only a part of the shooting was done in Calcutta. The film contains four ariel shots of the city and the Howrah bridge, a few shots of poster filled walls and a scene depicting the dingy alleys of Calcutta where the Naxalites are chased down by police vans. These few shots of the city fail to capture the Calcutta of the 1970s as evoked by the novel. The city almost plays like a character in the novel.

The three approaches suggested by Davidson fruitfully help us to evaluate both the art forms and demonstrates them as sites of contestation. Though a study of a movie adaptation like this basically becomes a kind of comparative study of the film and the original text focusing on the aspects lost and found in the adaptation process, it is necessary to select the proper standard of judgement, to keep the cinematic point of view intact. The Hindi language of Nihalani’s film sacrifices the authenticity of the movie and fails to portray the poetic rhythm of the novel. Similarly, the film, focusing more on the human aspect of the book and shot mostly in Mumbai, doesn’t sufficiently evoke the images of the city. However, Nihalani tries to overcome the language problem and comes up with strategies like casting Bengali actors in the main roles. He also tries his best to capture the changing face of Calcutta in his few shots. Lastly, Nihalani’s own subtle additions to the script like the optimistic ending, a much more sympathetic portrayal of the characters like Dibyanath and Tuli, and a glimpse of young intellectuals’ concern for the nature of the movement’s progress enrich our experience of this extraordinary tale.

Works Cited

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