Writer-Director: Kaushik Ganguly, Cinematographer: Shirsha Ray Editor: Mainak Bhoumik, Cast : Churni Ganguly, Kaushik Ganguly, Raima Sen, Ritwik Chakraborty, Srijit Mukherje, Victor Banerjee
[S]hobdo is a tribute to all the unsung heroes of the film industry on 100 years of Indian cinema. Kaushik Ganguly has chosen to highlight the Foley artists who go unheard despite creating accurate and effective ambience sounds that pour life into every frame and scene.
Shobdo tells the story of Tarukh, a foley artist who holds his work in high esteem. He considers himself a master craftsman recreating sounds of the universe dressed in his underwear and confined to a sound studio. Tarukh’s work soon becomes his obsession where his mind starts registering only the ambience sounds, drowning out human voices and making him oblivious to the reality around him. Tarukh’s wife (Raima Sen) and his psychiatrist ( Churni Ganguly) have to fight for Tarukh against him. However Tarukh is in denial refusing to give up his passion that’s taking a toll on his mental, emotional, social and personal life. What happens thereafter is tragic, drastic and melancholic.
Shobdo is a thoughtfully drafted and researched script. It introduces the audience to Foley through scenes that are beautifully interwoven in the story. The characters are efficiently etched out. The film makes its way smoothly to a climax that is somewhat predictable but also desirable to the viewer. It’s an emotional ride- withdrawing from and delving into Tarukh’s life at the right moments.
The filmmaker has deliberately avoided background score retaining only the ambience sounds making the viewer hear what Tarukh hears. The highlight of the film is the surreal scene where Tarukh is made to face the problem at hand. There are several touching moments like the waterfall scene where Tarukh is overwhelmed by the sound of the gushing force of water, scenes where Tarukh displays how he is inseparable from the sounds he listens to and how he goes about recreating them. At one point the director confronts the audience through the psychiatrist’s outburst- raising questions about the judgmental society thus exposing the dichotomous personality of the psychiatrist who is as emotionally involved in her job as Tarukh is in his job.
Ritwik Chakraborty as Tarukh carries his role with earnestness, responsibility and aplomb. He strikes a chord with the audience through his expressions of angst, gullibility, stubbornness and escapism. Raima Sen as Tarukh’s wife does a good job. However she is not thoroughly convincing as a lower middle class housewife. Her off-screen image overrules her on-screen persona. Churni Ganguly as the emotional psychiatrist plays her part endearingly. Victor Banerjee through his performance lends the serenity that his role as an experienced psychiatrist demands.
Shobdo is a thought-provoking film. It’s dense and lingers on your mind after the end credits roll. It raises complex and poignant questions about societal norms on what’s normal and what’s abnormal and the compulsion to conform to these norms that smother creativity and violate individualistic choice.
As for the tribute to cinema goes, it’s befitting considering the art of Foley is being threatened by popularity of sync sound and there could not have been a better time to make this film.