a film by suman mukhopadhyay

synopsis | storyline | music | cast | crew | technicals


chaturanga (four chapters)

The story is set in Calcutta during the first part of the twentieth century. The protagonist Sachish is the youngest scion of a prosperous Bengali Hindu upper caste family. Harimohan, Sachish's father, is a religious bigot who spends a lot of money on superstitious ceremonies. Purander, his elder brother, is a hypocrite and a cad. Sachish on the other hand is drawn to the rational positivism and the reformist zeal of his uncle Jagmohan. Much to Harimohan and Purander's ire, uncle and nephew scandalize the conservative Hindu neighborhood by feeding lower caste people and Muslims from the nearby slums. One day Sachish discovers that his married brother Purander has impregnated and abandoned a young girl called Nanibala. Sachish brings Nanibala to Jagmohan who gladly gives her shelter. Harimohan and Purander are shocked by this development. They constantly heckle Jagmohan to drive the 'fallen woman' out of the house. In order to 'protect' Nanibala, the idealistic Sachish gallantly offers to marry her. But despite his belief that he is marrying for purely altruistic reasons, Sachish is disturbed by the first glimmers of sexual desire in his body. However, Nanibala drinks poison on the eve of the marriage so that Sachish does not have to make this 'sacrifice'.

Shortly after the tragic death of Nanibala, Jagmohan too passes away after contracting the plague while helping victims of an epidemic. A distraught Sachish disappears from Calcutta. Sribilash finally finds him after searching for many months, in the company of a religious cult headed by Guru Lilananda Swami. He is shocked to see the erstwhile atheist press the feet of the guru and obey all his orders in a servile manner. When confronted, Sachish says that he has realized that rationality cannot explain everything. Reason by itself could not prevent Nanibala's death. Sribilash berates him for moving to the other extreme, but joins the cult to see the final outcome of Sachish's experiments with truth.

The two friends meet the enigmatic widow Damini. Her departed husband was a disciple of Lilananda Swami. Before his death, he had submitted the family property and Damini herself to the custody of the religious guru. Damini is not much interested in Lilananda Swami's other worldly teachings, but soon it becomes clear that there are unstated passions brewing between her and Sachish. Sachish is torn between his spiritual ideals and the calls of the flesh; the tempestuous Damini on the other hand is ready to break all social conventions and stage a rebellion against a social order that has denied her everything. The more Sachish tries to distance himself, the more she disturbs his single mindedness by flirting with Sribilash. An intricate web of crisscrossing desires develops between the three. A disillusioned Sachish finally leaves the company of Lilananda Swami after a tragic death in the group. Damini and Sribilash accompany him. Under an elemental and stormy sky, in a stark landscape beyond human laws, there is a final playing out of the conflict between ideas and desires.

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