One has watched several movies touching upon the relationship between a father and son. But I do not remember – at least in the past several years – one that speaks about a mother and her son. Arjun Dutt's debut feature, Abayakto (Unsaid), which played at the recent Kolkata International Film Festival and will also screen at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panaji, is moving story of a son who moves away from his mother, the estrangement worsening after the death of his father.
It is Abayakto's narrative simplicity which catapults it to memorable heights, and when I watched Dutt's creation at Kolkata's Nandan Theatre, which was packed beyond belief with men and women filling up every inch of space (the aisles and steps included), my respect for Bengali cinema grew. Bengal, the land of Renaissance where men like Tagore and Ray and Ghatak left behind a great cultural tradition, could still tear itself away from the overwhelming influence of Bollywood. Abayakto is a case in point at a time when Mumbai's movie mughuls have been almost casting a spell on Bengali movies.
Honestly, in under 90 minutes, Dutt gives us a mind-blowing work. it is intelligently conceived, imaginatively narrated and admirably performed. The frames look uncluttered, neatly composed and so disarmingly simple that the film moves seamlessly from point to point. There is not a minute when it seems a drag, and the story penned by Dutt himself, is entirely believable.
The movie begins with a dream – of a young boy who gets lost during a crowded Holi celebration. It is a dream that haunts Indra (Anubhav Kanjilal) and refuses to leave him even after he has grown into a young man and has a live-in girlfriend, Aditi (Kheya Chattapadhay). Somewhere deep down in the crevices of his memory, he holds his mother, Sathi (Arpita Chatterjee), responsible for having abandoned him as a child. Which she never did, but the young Indra imagines this, and creates a demon of it in his head.
There are other factors which disturb him and take him far away from his mother, even as she leads a lonely life after the death of her husband, Kaushik (Anirban Ghosh). One of them is Sathi's almost desperate efforts to wean Indra away from Kaushik's friend, Rudra (Adil Hussain). And why does she do this? I would rather not reveal this, for this will be a spoiler
In what is an interesting characterisation, Dutta weaves into the script, Aditi, a college lecturer, who goes out of her way to push him to patch up with his mother. If she is subtle, so is Indra in a role where he could have easily gone overboard. Hussain essaying a soft and genteel character – one whom Sathi virtually hates – is marvellous. He is a man wronged, and he conveys the pain and pathos of all this with brilliant ease. The scene between him and Indra towards the end of the movie is compelling written.
With soothing classical music in the background and a camera (handled by Supratim Bhol), which pauses and ponders (and allows the viewer the luxury to stop and stare as well), Dutta presents a film that has all the right notes. But yes, he did not call cut when he should have, the additional few minutes at the climax robbed Abayakto of enjoying the last punch.
(Author, commentator and movie critic covered the recent 24th edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival)