A modern retelling of Rabindranath Tagore’s 1926 classic novel ‘Ghare Bairey’ (The Home and the World) Ghawre Bairey Aaj is a Bengali political drama by the legendary Aparna Sen. Starring Tuhina Das, Jisshu Sengupta and Anirban Bhattacharya, the story revolves around a complicated love triangle that emerges between Sandip a right wing Hindu Professor, Brinda a young Dalit woman and Nikhilesh, her socialist Editor husband.
A modern retelling of Rabindranath Tagore’s 1926 classic novel ‘Ghare Bairey’ (The Home and the World) Ghawre Bairey Aaj is a Bengali political drama by the legendary Aparna Sen. This isn’t the first on-screen adaptation of Tagore’s timeless story. Satyajit Ray’s 1984 film was an exact period recreation of the book, set in the early 20th century reform movement with references to the Swadeshi Movement, the rise of Hindu nationalism and the rejection of the Purdah system and embracing of western education by Bengali women. Sen’s adaptation is a contemporary take on the story, contextualised within a time current viewers would have either grown up in or are living today, against the backdrop of steady saffronisation in India.
Starring Tuhina Das, Jisshu Sengupta and Anirban Bhattacharya, the story is largely set in the first decade of the 21st century, in a modern, ‘woke’ India that has not only stepped out of the shadows of the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition but also seemingly recovered from the 2002 highly communal Godhra riots. The plot revolves around a complicated love triangle that emerges between Sandip a right wing Hindu Professor, Brinda a young Dalit woman and Nikhilesh, her socialist Editor husband. As the narrative progresses, it doesn’t take long to notice Aparna Sen’s political stance. Sen has always been a vocal citizen. Whether it was penning down an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of Anurag Kashyap or joining the rally protesting against the attack on NRS Medical College junior doctors, she hasn’t shied away from openly calling out the extremist, supremacist leanings of Indian politics.
When we debate about whether an artist should be separated from her art, we shouldn’t forget that all art is a subjective reflection of our society, and that an artist shoulders an implicit responsibility of vocalising its virtues, but more importantly its shortcomings. For instance, being a filmmaker in modern times demands acute awareness of the representation issue and Sen’s framing of the three characters into different sections of our caste hierarchy makes for a more grounded viewing experience. In one scene, Sandip subtly calls Nikhilesh out on how his family has renamed his wife from ‘Bimla’, a categorically Dalit name to ‘Brinda’, an upper class Brahmin name. Although a small scene compared to the bigger premise of hyper-nationalism that Sen depicts, it is a sharp reminder of how elite cultures have time and again tried to erase Dalit identity using assimilation as a tool.
In Soumik Halder’s brilliant scripting, we are consumed by the brutality of Indian politics while Neel Dutt’s refreshing music lifts the viewer from its harsh realities into a place of poignancy. His timely inclusion of celebrated Bengali song ‘Bhora Badar,’ originally a Maithili poem turned to song by a young Rabindranath Tagore, heard in the soulful voice of Manomay Bhattacharya, works perfectly at the film’s climax to capture the complexity of Vrinda and Sandip’s relationship, and the turmoil in the hearts of all three characters.
Being an activist apart from being a filmmaker, it was of supreme importance for Aparna Sen to offer a neutral standpoint of the story she was narrating. India being a multilingual, multicultural, multi-religious collective of people, how do we justify a Hindu nationalist state as inclusive or secular? Touted as Sen’s most political film yet, in Ghawre Baire Aaj, she fearlessly carries forward the debate around hyper-nationalism, cleverly integrating current events such as the assassination of Gauri Lankesh, mob lynchings and the gross malnutrition decimating our tribal populations into the film's narrative. A film with a large message, it is a tribute to the fact that there is no religion above humanism, and even in our foggiest of days, we need to remember this brotherhood and stand as one nation.
Available to watch on Amazon Prime.