Cinema

The family as a microcosm of the nation

A scene from Galpa Holeo Satyi

A scene from Galpa Holeo Satyi  

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There is a scene in the first half of K. Balachander’s middle class drama Navagraham (1970) where Baalu (Nagesh) tears up a paper containing an image of India and manages to re-join the jigsaw created by the bits in minutes. He does it by piecing together the other side of the paper that features the picture of a human face. An unemployed but good-natured youngster, Baalu has been asked by Vatsala (Lakshmi), one of the saner voices in a chaotic household, to try unifying the family. The image of India is for him the image of the family. Unifying the human hearts will amount to unifying the household, and in a rather naive generalisation, the nation.

Tapan Sinha’s Galpa Holeo Satyi (1966) is about one such selfless individual, Dhananjay (Rabi Ghosh), trying to bring a semblance of peace to a joint family where the individuals can’t stand each other. At one level, the dysfunctional family represents the inability of the Indian joint family system to accommodate varied aspirations of its individuals under one roof. At another level, it is also emblematic of a diverse nation finding it difficult to absorb its diversities, nearly two decades after independence.

Unifying the country by bringing about amity in a family. This sounds anachronistic, and even regressive, in 2016. The traditional family had little space for ambitious women -- and the women in Galpa Holeo Satyi are all either students or housewives. The family had as its foundation certain rigid codes and values which had to be adhered to and reinforced at every opportunity.

Dhananjay’s character was part of the dying breed of freedom struggle-inspired idealists committed to bringing about happiness, even at the cost of sacrifice and suffering, in a family. To the crumbling settlement at the centre, he comes as an angel, one who can cook, clean and coax the family members to change their attitude with his wit and honesty. He is a self-made reformist -- and Tapan Sinha was a big believer in the power of benevolent romantics to change the system, bit by bit -- who strives to reform the simplest unit in the nation.

Tapan Sinha and Hrishikesh Mukherjee -- who remade Galpa Holeo Satyi as Bawarchi (1972) -- approached the subject as early day cine-reformists who wanted to gently shake the ship of the middle class system without wanting to radically overturn it. Dhananjay and Raghu (Rajesh Khanna) were their protagonists to accomplish the story’s vision -- by appealing to the honest, optimistic side of the family members, and that of the audiences.

One character unique to Sinha’s movie, not found in Bawarchi, is that of the publicist-intellectual Khoka (played by Ajoy Ganguli) who finds his individualism at odds with the tradition-bound demeanour of his family members. His conversation with his colleague on the latest trend in publicity design -- where the latter tells him that we are living in an age of S3, sex, sadism and shock where it is not Nouvelle Vague, it is ‘shocumentary’ that rules the cinematic medium -- is one scene that doesn’t find an equivalence in Bawarchi, which has little place for such cynicism.

Dhananjay, Raghu and Anand Sehgal (from Mukherjee’s film Anand (1971) that released a little before Bawarchi) were among individuals designed to create greater belief in the brighter side of human nature, one that believes in unconditional compassion toward fellow mates. They were creations of middle class educated imagination of their directors that still held on to both India’s founding ideals and saw the typical dysfunctional family as a microcosm of the nation. However, as shown in what transpires in the life of Satyapriya (Dharmendra) of Satyakam, another idealist in Mukherjee’s universe of honesty and benevolence, the fate that awaited the Dhananjays and the Raghus is one filled with disillusionment. Their humour ensures they walk on the path of fire with a smile on their faces.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 8:53:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/The-family-as-a-microcosm-of-the-nation/article14571267.ece

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