When my grandfather Abbasuddin Ahmed passed away in December 1959, my father had just returned from UK after joining the Lincoln's Inn, he had no income. He told me, he borrowed Rs 400 from his friend S. M. Pervez (movie producer) and later, to pay back his loan, wrote the dialogues for some of his movies. My father said, the movies were designed in such a manner that every seven to ten minutes there would be a song, or song and dance (together). The audience, otherwise, would be bored, if five minutes interlude could be afforded, even better!
In January 2018 I watched a movie in Kolkata titled Mayurakshi (directed by Atanu Ghosh). There was no song, no dance, no heroine with scanty clothes or figure on display, no love scenes, all of this was missing, yet I watched spellbound. Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee was there, he was overshadowed by the acting of octogenarian Soumitra Chatterjee as the father and the protagonist in this movie, where there was no love scene, but lots of love. It was an example of brilliance per se, if S.M. Pervez was alive he would certainly have to shift from his 7-10 minute interlude for dialogues, because dialogues here were the most important communication tools.
I will not go into the story for I suggest my readers to view this movie, instead I embark upon my own reactions to the movie. Indian poet, lyricist Gulzar had once said when asked, “What is loneliness?” He said, “It is your twin brother.” Begum Akhter, the famous ghazal exponent had once told his disciple Rita Ganguli, “Loneliness is inevitable, the earlier you accept it in life, the better.” In his compilation of letters Chinno Potro, poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore writes to his niece, “What I can write to you, I cannot to any other, even to my readers I have to tone down my expressions and make them intelligible.” Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in his letters to his friend Dr. Qazi Motaher Hossain repeatedly mentioned his loneliness and wished his friend were of the opposite sex, in which case, he would offer him his love. But Fakir Lalon Shah has already warned us, “Mon, shohoje ki shoi hoba?” (This means: It is not easy to be one's mate).
The lonely father's role was played with such ease by Soumitra, it seemed he was in his own habitat, speaking to his son. I had once had the opportunity to listen to his recitation live in London (2003) where he recited Tagore and Jeebonanondo Das by heart. It was a magical moment and I was amazed at his memory, the recitation was of course unparalleled and his rendition of Shesher Kobita, or Banalata Sen are still ringing in my ears. I took the opportunity to go to the stage and introduce myself with my grandfather's name; he respected that and remembered meeting my Uncle Abbasi, what a legend Soumitra!
I was reminded of my late father Former CJ Mustafa Kamal who shared watching the Apu trilogy with me, he remembered the reaction as Soumtiro slaps the messenger boy who brings news of his son's death, Abba praised that acting. In fact, through the entire movie, I was reminded of him. Abba had retired from his various important positions and my mother had passed away in 2009. He lived until 2015 and I was privileged to be his closest confidante. I witnessed Mayurakshi in the next six years of my father's life. His feeling of loneliness, of seeing the society go in different directions, of not being useful, powerful took various manifestations. Often he would just start talking when I am about to leave, and I would miss my friends' get-togethers just to listen to him, knowing that I was his sole escape. Often, when I visited him, he would not talk at all, listlessly watch TV. As the hair greys his friends left this world, his health was fragile and junior lawyers, judges all knew about his not so generous remarks. To put it mildly, he would be able to tick off any junior CJ or Judge, Barrister if the need be. He was a guardian of this country, but as it happened in Mayurakshi, you are gradually left to yourself and the attendants. One of the regular attendants was me, I wonder whether those times spent chatting with my Dad, made me richer or do I still have to compete with the neo rich and their SUV's?
Nashid Kamal is an Academic, Nazrul exponent and translator.