Thursday, November 17, 2011


Director: Rubaiyat Hossain

Meherjaan, primarily a love story, is bitingly political; the setting of the film, the 1971 war involving East and West Pakistan, is a terrible historical milieu etched in blood in the collective consciousness of the people on both the sides. The film unearths those painful experiences amidst a lyrical rendition of a beautiful love story.
Meherjaan is saved by a Khan soldier of West Pakistan; and the latter, in turn, is given shelter by the girl. Caught in the dilemma of whether to betray her own nation by falling in love with the enemy, Meherjaan holds her emotion back for a long time. But, she does fall in love eventually: Wasim’s humanitarian world-view that calls into question the grand narrative of aggressive nationalism wins her over. The greater part of the rest of the film is devoted to help Wasim return to his country safely.
While Meherjaan’s personal world unwittingly merges with the political, the war grows more intense with each passing day. A new nation is about to be born, but the political vision of its makers is seriously challenged. Feudalism is soon to be replaced by a new social order that anticipates communism; but, the positive dimensions of feudalism cannot be totally ruled out. An affectionate zamindar, the father-figure of the unnamed village in the interiors of East Pakistan, becomes the principal target of the Peace Committee. Eventually, he is murdered, and the village is set afire. A new country is on the verge of birth, but the bloodbath that precedes it is grotesque.

And, of course, interspersed is the tale of the woman who loses her lover to partisan animosity, and is raped by the soldiers. These tales have been often deliberately evaded by history; nobody has ever bothered to record the trauma and the unspeakable suffering of these women molested brutally during the war. Neela’s daughter born out of rape comes back to Dhaka to research on these women to find very little.
Then there is Salma. Her world is confined to a huge wooden almirah; her fantasies, her dreams and all her idiosyncrasies play themselves out there. She is looking for her knight in shining armour, who, eventually, comes. One good thing is the film, despite the agonies and pains, it portrays is not too awfully dark.
One drawback of the film is that the screenplay is a tad convoluted. It could have been slicker. However, Meherjaan, like Guerrilla, deserves to be released commercially in Kolkata. Bangladesh art-house cinema is certainly going places. It’s time they got wider international recognition.

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