Two Indian Films Around Border Make Heads Turn at Cannes
The Bengali landscape is resplendent in the trailer of Prasun Chatterjee’s debut feature Dostojee (Two Friends), and its cinematography “sumptuous”, as the American magazine Variety noted. Vast, rainwashed stretches of paddy fields along river Padma and the glint in the eyes of the two young protagonists, reminiscent of another Bengali village boy, Apu, from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955). First-time cinematographer Tuhin Biswas, a still photographer and primary-school teacher in West Bengal’s Nadia district, was unsure about the video format, until Chatterjee told him, “This is photography too, just think of these as 24 stills per second.”
The location is the remote, no-man’s-land near Domkal (in Murshidabad) — the last subdivision on the Indian side. The Padma river separates it from Bangladesh’s Rajshahi. The backdrop is an early-’90s Bengal, touched by the communal violence that followed the Babri Masjid demolition and the ’92 Bombay blasts, but Dostojee speaks of the friendship between two boys from different faiths, living in a border village. In one scene, as their torn kite flies into Bangladesh, and as Palash says he will move with his fearful mother to the Hindu-majority Nadia when he grows up, one wonders if, when the time comes, Safikul will recall his words to his dostojee (best friend): “bhoy ki, aami toh aachhi (have no fears, I’m here with you)”. “I wanted to show anger and love through the eyes of children. What they witness is my subject of inquiry, too,” says Chatterjee, 34, who grew up in Kolkata’s Dum Dum and dropped out of Physics (Hons) at Calcutta University to make films.
Image Credit: Dostojee film still