Nobody knows the name of Jack Donovan Foley and nobody will know Tarak’s either.But Tarak is happy to do his work, he is a Foley artist working in the Bengali film industry, he adds sounds like the eerie creaking of a door in a horror film or the sound of gravel crunching under the protagonists feet.Jack Foley pioneered the art of creating ambient sounds in a studio environment in 1927 and started an ingenious and creative tradition with the help of ordinary props to recreate almost all the sounds that we hear in a film, save for the music and the dialogues. There is a sequence in Shobdo where Tarak creates the sound of a flock of pigeons flying off by flapping a bunch of dried leaves.The sound is similar but far from perfect.In movies we accept these sounds because we are more tuned to the action and the background musical soundtrack. Tarak is obsessed with perfecting these sounds and starts going far beyond the call of his unsung profession and consequently off the cliff of sanity.
Tarak is married to Ratna (Raima Sen), who loves and cares for him deeply and is the first to understand that he is tuned in to only the sounds of the world minus the soundtrack of human voices.She enlists the help of Dr Swati(Churni Ganguli), who is completely intrigued by Tarak’s condition and for whom curing him becomes an obsession .The film is built around these three characters and their struggles to make sense of his very obscure problem.
The most poignant scene occurs towards the middle of the film where Tarak explains his work and passion to his wife over some Old Monk rum in a hill cottage.They have been sent there so that Tarak can spent time in a quiet environment away from the shrill city sounds that he creates relentlessly. But then mother natures orchestra that plays in the jungle at night is both sublime and scary to Tarak, his wife and the audience.These sounds represents a professional challenge to Tarak that threatens to aggravate his condition rather than assuage it.
Ritwick Chakraborty who plays Tarak is a genius, his is a rare portrayal of a mentally tormented man locked into his work of creating fake sounds and completely content to be there. The one part that is poorly written is that of Victor Banerjee as the flamboyant senior doctor who is too full of himself to be either convincing or likable. Raima Sen as Tarak’s wife delivers a touching and controlled performance in a very deglamourized look.That she still manages to look ravishing is something beyond her control.Yes, Suchitra Sen’s granddaughter is that beautiful!
Mr. Ganguly puts the creativity back into Indian cinema in its 100th year by telling a singularly unique story about a very unique man.The obsessive compulsive disorder that Tarak displays is what every filmmaker experiences at some point.The business of creating fake sounds is like the art of cinema itself, for every staged image there must be an artificial sound.In a sense this is a film infused with a very western sensibility in the approach of he two doctors to cure Tarak and the stress on mental illness which is mostly glossed over or a matter of shame in India.The film is very rich in characterization and assembles a group of people who are earnestly trying to make sense of a very strange problem.
Finally Shobdo is a triumph of the directors commitment to tell a fresh story with great commitment, sensitivity and creativity.Amidst the great cacophony of films with hackneyed plots and lazy direction, Shobdo strikes a melodious note( without a single note of music in it). This film is a step in the right direction of engaging the minds of Indian audiences who crave something entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. It is a brave attempt that deserves a wider audience than the multiplexes of Kolkata which cater to a thin sliver of Kolkata’s film-lovers.
Categories: World Cinema