The immortal tales of love and longing between Radha and Krishna. The doomed romance between the supplier of a roadside Chinese restaurant in Calcutta and a trans woman. IN Nagarkirtan, director Kaushik Ganguli boldly mixes the two. He suggests that the longing and depth of emotion in these relationships are the same. Nagarkirtan is an exciting love story and a request for acceptance and inclusion. The film is a tribute to the late Rituparno Gosh, a director who in his art and life has consistently and eloquently asked us to look beyond binary files. Nagarkirtan does the same.
The film’s triumph is Putti’s character, played with grace, empathy and masterful restraint by Riddhi Sen, who is only 19 when he plays the role. Ridhi’s gait, manners and body language are not exaggerated or artificial. And the sadness in his eyes suggests a fever in Putti’s soul that can never be removed. Appropriately, he won a National Award for his performance. A character in the film tells us that Putty got the nickname because when rolling the dice he invariably gets one, or I put in Bengali. Which suggests that she always loses. Puti was once Paramal. She has been fighting against herself all her life. In one scene, she tells her lover Madhu, “I have the wrong body. I have to fix it. When we made mistakes in math, we would calculate it again, that’s right. “But the chances against Putti are unbeatable.
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Puti and Madhu are those invisible people who inhabit the cityscape, but whose lives we rarely pay attention to. He lives a meager life in the restaurant. She, dedicated to a group of transgender people, begs them for traffic signals. Their romance must be shrouded in secrecy. Puti’s guru controls his protégés with an iron hand. And Madhu is not entirely sure what to do with his own emotions. At one point, he asks Putty if it’s really possible for two boys to fall in love. Madhu insists that Puti only meets him as a woman. She doesn’t like to see her short hair under her wig. He says, “Always come to me dressed. I don’t like to see patchouli. ”
Yet, after Puti initiates their romance, Madhu has the courage to move on. He tells Putty that he will save enough to pay for her gender reassignment surgery. He even took her to his village to meet his family, who have been a professional badjan singer for three generations. He himself is a flutist who plays kirtans in the city to supplement his income. Kaushik positions him as a figure of Krishna and Puti as Radha, forever feeling sorry for his partner. The film begins with a kirtan session and a key moment when it is revealed that Putty is different from what appears is also set during kirtan. The pain and sadness of the ballads reflect Putty’s grief, but they also heighten her emotions, suggesting that this romance is beyond and perhaps purer.
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Nagarkirtan it also works as a commentary on the marginalization of trans people. The film delves into family rejection, psychological trauma, aggression and territorialism, which are inevitably caused by the inhuman conditions in which many are forced to live. Manabi Bandiopayai, the first transgender director of a college in India, plays herself in the film. But the script, also written by Kaushik, never loses sight of the love story. The moments between Puti and Madhu have a wonderful tenderness. They also work because Kaushik and Ritwick Chakraborty, who plays Madhu, do not give Madhu Brownie points for falling in love with the transgender. He is an ordinary man with unusual values and compassion. Ritwick skillfully plays Madhu’s devotion in a restrained way, assuming it is natural and inevitable.
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Nagarkirtan was shot by the brilliant Sirsha Ray, who also fired Death in Gunj. His camera does not smooth out the misery of these lives, but he discovers beauty in gloom. Notice the small moments – like a scene in which Madhu and Puti are on a bus heading to his hometown of Nabadvip. Nabadvip is also the home of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, a 15th century saint considered by the worshipers to be the incarnation of Lord Krishna. Puti holds in her hand a statue of the saint given to her by Manabi. When Puti falls asleep, her grip on the statue loosens, but Madhu takes it, holding it, almost like a talisman that may ward off evil. It is significant that at the climax Putti no longer has the statue. There is no one to save her from the horror that awaits her.
Nagarkirtan does not allow us to look away from the tragedy of Putti. And he quietly insists that we make our ideas of sexuality and love more expansive. You can watch the movie with Hoichoi subtitles.