DIRECTOR’S CREATIVE STATEMENT:
`Chandrabati Kotha’ (aka Tales of Chandrabati) is our tribute to the 16th century pioneer poetess Chandrabati – portraying her elegiac life story and her passion for trend setting writing. In her version of the `Ramayana’, she has retold the story of the Great Indian Epic from Sita’s perspective, ignoring the glory of its male chauvinist protagonist Rama. Being a regular disciple of her father, another legendary poet in Bangla literature-Dijabangshi Das, Chandrabati wrote her `Ramayana’ in Pala form (long balladic poems), which was practiced to be performed by the Boyatis (performers who used to sing these poems through various forms of singing, acting and reciting the story-also confirmed to be the oldest form of theatrical expressions in the region). These orally transmitted poems of her are still listened to be recited among the regular females of the locality.
`Melodrama’ in Bengali cinema is a long forgotten phenomenon that is linked to the origin of our cultural heritage and aesthetic importance. After the Great Bengali filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak, the trend of using melodrama as a form of narrative style and characterization had been mostly absent in Bangla cinema. We have chosen to use `melodrama’ as form for our film narrative style and appearance, happened to be existed in these particular Balad forms practiced to be written by the marginal community representatives than the elite group of literary practitioners and considered to be the treasure trove of medieval century Bangla literary heritage.
For her trend setting role in re-writing the `Ramayana’, Chandrabati now a days has been hailed by scholars as the first feminist writer of the Indian sub-continental literature. During this present time of existing orthodox Hindu high-caste male chauvinist perspective of Indian society, Rama has been worshipped as a god and used successfully exercising nationalistic sentiments over the mass ego. On the contrary, in Chandrabati’s `Ramayana’, Sita is treated as a victim of the community’s male chauvinist psycho of proving her virginity, after her rescue from the Ravana followed by a long exile. Chandrabati made her Sita daughter of the mother nature and declared her as a rebel against the system who, against all odds, survived to express the misdeeds that had taken place against her. I have chosen this particular polarization of Chandrabati’s characters and decided to portray her passion for becoming a writer, even against the elegiac fate she had faced in her personal life.
Film `Chandrabati Kotha’ deals with the three `woman archetype characters’ of the Bengal origin, Chandrabati – the writer, who is betrayed by her husband-to-be, Jayananda and transforms into a passionate writer, Sonai – whose tragic love story is rehearsed by a traditional Boyati group and Sita – the misfortunate wife of Rama, who sacrificed her life for confirming the ego of the greater male chauvinist representatives of the society. In one point of the film, all three female characters march to the singular plane of our story and mature to the completion of a journey of a pioneer and a passionate writer, leaving behind a treasure that is worth transmitting among generations!
To create the look and temporal context of the film, we had to take support from local myths and beliefs that were then existing. The synthesizing ethno-cultural interacting groups, places of spiritual interests and belongings, the local hierarchy of the socioeconomic structure and their representatives, beliefs and rituals and above all, the melodramatic, balladic metaphor of the fate driven characters governed by divinity, have helped us to adopt the plot of our film `Chandrabati Kotha’.
We tried to blend three different stories together-Chandrabati’s life, story of Sonai & Binod coming out of the Boyati’s play and the story of escaping Ashok & his Guru. Between the metaphor of interval of their escape, Ashok along with his Guru reaches to our story context and gets to discover our protagonist Chandrabati. Ashok manages to paint stories from her Ramayana, listening to it coming out of the temple surface from where Chandrabati used to sing and write. It is said that our other story-the Sonai-Binod story-the Boyati group sings, is also written by Chandrabati. The Sonai is a similar female character of the writer, who ends up with the same suffering of her being betrayed by her husband and reacts the same way her Sita reacted, while getting betrayed by her so called recuing husband Rama. In one point these three female characters’ reach to the same pick of their sacrifice to declare rejection over the betrayal of their beloved. Sonai chose to kill herself drowning in the river, Sita enters into the fire and Chandrabati dies inside the temple after her long suffering.
The film was shot using the long take style to achieve the temporal feeling of the period. The arrangements and sets were made considering the historical research of the story context and ethno-cultural existence of the society. The editing of the film took place by eminent Indian editor Mr. Sankhajit Biswas, in an epical structure-got built out of our visuals shot. Eminent folk musician of India, Mr. Satyaki Banerjee did the film score and our another Indian associate, Sound recordist Mr. Sukanta Bhattacharya has recorded and mixed the Sound tracks, adding an ethnic value judged over the film’s epic characteristics. Beside portrayal of the elegiac life and passion of this legendary writer Chandrabati of the mid sixteenth century, our film also portrays the rich classical ethnicity of Bengali inhabitant of the region and their mythical existence. Adopted from the great trend of ballad writing by the local poets-the Mymensingh Geetika, film Chandrabati Kotha is our tribute to the classical golden edge of the literary phase that existed through out the medieval era of Bengali literature.