Forged: Anujoy Chattopadhyay, Asik Shaikh, Arif Shaikh, Jayati Chakraborty and Swatilekha Kundu
Director: Prasun Chatterjee
Ranking: 4 Stars (out of 5)
As disarmingly easy as it’s unerringly genuine in its evocation of the time, place and tradition it’s situated in, Dostojee, written, produced and directed by debutant Prasun Chatterjee, is a piercing, poignant story of two eight-year-old boys in a Bengal village caught in a fast-spreading local weather of spiritual intolerance. Apart from the younger protagonists, the 2 communities they belong to and the sleepy village they name residence are the important thing narrative elements within the diligently crafted Bengali movie that premiered on Tuesday on the sixty fifth BFI London Movie Competition.
Dostojee posits friendship and humankind’s capability for empathy as a bulwark in opposition to bigotry however doesn’t lose sight of the tough actuality that surrounds us. Locals play key onscreen roles within the movie. They lend Dostojee unwavering credibility.
The movie’s design and the filmmaker’s imaginative and prescient draw energy from the deft synchronisation of setting, language and the newbie actors’ performative instincts. Its salutary symmetry and distinct timbre outline Dostojee greater than anything.
The movie celebrates the positivity inherent on this planet of youngsters whereas it lays naked the unreliability of fickle adults with out succumbing to handy binaries for the aim of conveying its overarching humanist message.
The village the place Dostojee unfolds is on the border between India’s Murshidabad district and Bangladesh’s Rajshahi. Unbeknownst to the boys whose friendship is aware of no divides, it witnesses rising communalism within the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition and the following chain of occasions that rocked the nation in 1992-93. The reverberations are felt on this the final subdivision of the state of Bengal.
The younger protagonists of Dostojee (English title: Two Associates) stand by one another at the same time as narrow-mindedness begins to gnaw into the vitals of their little hamlet – and the nation. The boys, in fact, are oblivious to the gravity of the scenario. What they do know, nonetheless, is that the friendship they’ve solid is all they have.
Their shifting story unfolds in a Muslim majority hamlet the place the 2 inseparable youngsters have the identical personal tutor (Anujoy Chattopadhyay). Palash (Asik Shaikh), the son of a Hindu priest, is a studious boy who scores excessive marks. Safikul (Arif Shaikh), son of a Muslim weaver, is much less academically inclined however is enterprising and artistic.
Palash and Safi name one another ‘dostojee‘, a time period of endearment rooted within the Rajshahi dialect. Their modest properties face one another and share a standard courtyard. There’s, nonetheless, a low fence between the 2 dwellings. It issues not a whit to the boys. The fences that separate the 2 communities are a lot greater and extra daunting. Worse, they’re invisible. Can the 2 boys skirt round them and surmount the discord sown of their village by conflagrations erupting a thousand-plus miles away?
When they don’t seem to be in school, Palash and Safikul do what boys of their age do in a village: they fly kites, catch fireflies, play soccer, watch the Bioscope at a good, have a good time one another’s festivals and even bicker over little issues, unmindful of the venom that has seeped into the world round them.
Safi asks his elder sister (Swatilekha Kundu) if he can accompany Palash to the annual Ramjatra – a folks theatre efficiency of tales from the Ramayan. She directs her sibling to their father (Shankar Dey). The latter places his foot down and refuses to let him go. I had gone final yr, the boy protests, unaware that circumstances are now not the identical.
In Palash’s residence, his mother and father focus on if Lord Rama is a vital deity for Bengalis and agree with one another. His mom (Jayati Chakraborty) exhorts her husband (Prasanta Chakraborty) emigrate with the household, which features a Palash’s youthful sister, to Hindu-dominated Nadia. She is not certain her household is protected within the village.
Dostojee performs out within the early Nineties nevertheless it displays realities which can be up to date. The 2 youngsters’s joyful co-existence is threatened when non secular identities are performed up, battle traces are drawn and the bellicosity between the warring factions assumes ominous proportions. Safi and Palash may nicely be from a village wherever in India in 2021.
The previous mirrors the current, and vice-versa, in a seamless, undemonstrative method on this delicate, understated examination of a friendship that can’t escape the impression of fanaticism fuelled by hate and mistrust because it negotiates the fallout of the rising misgivings of the boys’ mother and father on the 2 sides of the gulf.
Whereas one group, numerically stronger within the village, mobilises funds to construct a brand new mosque, members of the opposing non secular group shut ranks to claim their rights. The boys’ mother and father are affected by the modified situation; the 2 kids stay untouched.
Chatterjee’s chiselled script centres on the fantastic thing about the unconditional belief that drives Palash and Safikul’s relationship. The boys are immersed of their innocuous adventures, just a few of which go astray with out upsetting the stability of their friendship. However there’s tragedy mendacity in await the duo.
Within the passages that observe an sudden untoward incident, the movie is at its most chic, alternating between achingly tender assertion and pr0found pathos and attaining a high quality stability within the depiction of the emotional impression of grievous loss and the transcendence of reconciliation.
By opting to view the fractious social dynamic of the village by means of the unsullied, unaffected eyes of two boys who haven’t any method of understanding of what the in poor health winds blowing into their properties imply, the director offers himself ample room to deal with a topical, sensitive theme with subtlety.
The props – notably a jar wherein the boys put a caterpillar with a purpose to see it flip right into a butterfly, Palash’s laataai (kite spool) that briefly turns into a bone of competition between the 2 associates earlier than it assumes far higher symbolic significance and a bowl of sewai that Safi’s mom makes for Eid – are emotional/psychological tugs that draw the chums nearer whereas the remainder of the village simmers.
The movie’s soundtrack eschews an orchestral background rating. It’s embellished with diegetic Bengali movie songs – Mohammed Aziz is a specific favorite – and qawwalis interspersed with ambient sounds emanating from a spinning wheel, a grinding stone and suchlike.
Shot totally in pure mild by debuting cinematographer Tuhin Biswas, an newbie nonetheless photographer and first faculty instructor studying the ropes on the job and never letting any of the inexperience present, the movie makes use of lanterns and candles to light up lots of its scenes, thereby capturing the atmosphere of a Nineties border village with out electrical energy.
The movie itself is shot by means of with the ability of inventive integrity and confidence, the 2 attributes complementing one another all the best way. Dostojee is an distinctive cinematic accomplishment, an uplifting ode to like and hope in a time of despair.