Kaushik Ganguly’s Nagarkirtan (2018): A Reality in Motion

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When the whole country is talking about films on LGBT issues that are premiering in Film Festivals, regional films, especially Bangla films, have crossed far beyond one can even imagine. Kaushik Ganguly again bags National awards for his Nagarkirtan. The film just premiered in National Film Festival on 6th of this month. The Delhi Bengalis got to see a beautifully crafted film, much before the Bengali audience of West Bengal could.

The film moves around the central character of Puti, alias Parimal, played by Riddhi Sen, and Madhu, played by Ritwick Chakraborty. Parimal from the childhood is shown to be confident about his sexuality. Born with the body of a man, Parimal feels like a woman inside. Running away from home, Parimal takes shelter amongst the Hijras of Hazra Lane, Kolkata, and transforms into Pari, and then to Puti, literally meaning a small fish that is devoured by many bigger fishes in the pond, but here the name also has many resemblances. Interestingly, even the Guru-Maa, Anjali, doesn’t force Puti to undergo sexual reassignment. But Puti always wanted to undergo the surgery to be a ‘complete’ self. She falls in love with Madhu, a delivery boy with a local Chinese restaurant, who also plays flute in kirton/kirtan- devotional chants/songs devoted to Gods/Goddesses.One day they elope. Madhu, who happens to be from Nabadwip, takes Puti, dressed as a woman, to his home just a day before Holi, the festival of colors. She is well received and accepted as a ‘friend’ of Madhu. Madhu’s family is well known in the locality since they sing devotional songs in the local temple, and are known as kirtaniya poribaar. In the evening, the family goes to participate in the kirtan. Madhu’s elder brother plays the harmonium, mother plays the kortaal (cymbaals), and Madhu plays the flute. The kirtan song that plays reminds Puti of her childhood and parents, she breaks down. While crying, her wig falls off. Full of guilt and shame, she runs away, leaving behind her mobile phone and the ladies bag. She vanishes off from the sight and thought of Madhu and his family. Madhu frantically searches for her and calls her mobile, which is answered by Madhu’s sister-in-law. He tells the  truth thinking it is Puti be on the other side. Madhu is then thrown away from his home, for bringing disgrace to the family name. While searching for Puti, Madhu keeps meeting people. And then he comes to know that a group of hijras had thrashed Puti back and blue, because she was seen begging for money from the local people on the occasion of Holi, as every Hijra group has their own demarcated periphery, where they earn their bread and butter and no other Hijra from another group can enter there and try to earn. Hungry and dying out of thirst, Puti begs from two three local shops. The local group of Hijra catches her, strips her off, beats her black and blue and pours blue coloured water on Puti. The local cops interfere and take Puti under their custody. Madhu runs to the local police station to release Puti from them. Before he could meet her, Puti hangs herself. Madhu is shattered. The movie ends with Madhu dressed up like a woman, entering the shelter home where Puti stayed,

From the title of the film itself, it unfolds a tradition that is considered to be religious and pious. The resemblance to Lord Krishna is shown at many places, from Madhu with the flute to the blue body of Puti, from the clay idol of Lord Chaitanya to the devotional songs, and many others. The desire of a queer person to be loved and have a family is well portrayed in the film. Riddhi Sen does justice to the role, through his expressions and body language. Ritwick Chakraborty brings a tremendous effect on-screen with his presence. Each and every actor presents a much crafted role. The background scores are significantly emphatic. The cinematography is framed par excellence. I felt like almost watching another work of Rituporno Ghosh. Many motifs and artefacts carry the true meaning of the film. Kaushik Ganguly brings another magnanimous art for cinegoers, almost like a reality in motion. The heart-rendering storyline brings overwhelming emotions amongst the audience in the packed theatre. As a cinelover, especially dealing with LGBT issues, the film has left a mark on my mind. I would like to thanks the whole team of  Nagakirtan for such a beautiful art.

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Himadri Roy

Dr. Himadri Roy is an Associate Professor in the School of Gender and Development Studies, Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi.