Review: Sthaniya Sangbad (Bengali)

By Amitava Nag • Published on January 10, 2011

Sthaniya Sambad

Quantum Physics and the modern theories and postulates have long laid down the interchangeability of time and space in the physical world. We have tried to grasp the realities that govern the relativity of simultaneous events, the progression of one Universe to the parallel Multiverses. All these have taken us from the real to the metaphysical and the philosophical. However, most of the material aspects of existence can be measured macroscopically by the four dimensions – three of space and one of time.  By the early twentieth century only, physicists namely Einstein and Minkowski proposed the concepts of a dilating time using relativity. The concept of ‘now’ henceforth rendered fictitious in the larger scope of nature. So time doesn’t ‘flow’ – the space-time is laid out in the matrix.

It becomes difficult to relate the mathematical models of the physics lab to our reality – because of the difference in degrees. It is interesting hence whenever a piece of human creation becomes a mirror wherein these reflections can be traced. Sthaniya Sangbad (Spring in the colony, 2010, dir: Moinak Biswas and Arjun Gourisaria) is a Bengali film that is close to depicting just that. From the name – both in Bengali and the English version, the reference of Space and Time are apparent. It doesn’t come as a surprise later on, that these four dimensions play significant part in the film’s structure. For example, the narrative progression of temporality has been deconstructed in the film a number of times to give a sense of non-linear progression. However, if looked from a different reference frame it gets obvious that the reference frame of the characters within the film and the audience are different. The events therefore, occur at different time points – and as said earlier, they are not chronological in the space-time membrane : they just exist.

Also, noteworthy here is the way time has been interchanged with space – the flight from the colony to the white town and then to the new one, actually replace the pace of time within the reference frame of the film itself.

The temporality gets violated naturally since there was a deliberate strategy of trying to move in different paces within the film. That is why there is a sudden jerky effect induced by an uncanny auto-rickshaw chase, the top angle suspense in the lead female character’s surreptitious fleeing from the colony to the white town or the two phony characters who are in pursuit of selling something that we never actually come to know what. In the parallel universe, if we may say so, there is a machine – a bull-dozer that becomes a character. In some deft images, it blurs the man-machine dichotomy by bearing ‘human’ traits – it  almost shies away – we find it moving across a pond, spot it moving between two houses, suddenly round the corner and so on. In the final take when the ‘human’ is unaware, it pulls down few houses without making a noise – the eerie temporality embedded in the seeds of natural space.

The director-duo also played with the fourth dimension in the narrative realms of the film. Dawn to dusk; the camera moved and captured nuances of life bound in melody. That is why the five young men on the bench with their back against the wall (a good pun) hold the film’s balance. Not only they have few of the wittiest moments of the film but more importantly, across the different time points, they manage to give a different feeling of the space they are filling in – almost like fractals in a 1.5 dimension space. The dawn and dusk frames are grainy unlike most of the HD sensors of modern technology. This also helped in forming a spatial character of the medium. The depth of focus similarly, simulated a human eye, very gradual out of focus of the background characters as opposed to the one at foreground creating a confusion at times whether the screen is focused or not. In a flat 2D screen with a possible immeasurable curvature, (from the audience PoV) this reinforces the third spatial dimension (in a purely non-Euclidean sense) much more than the cutting edge HD ones where depth is discrete.

To relate or not, a piece of art relies on the aspects of nature that is ‘contemporary’ or at best ‘nostalgic’. By the virtue of the definitions of the terms there are spatial and temporal elements that work on the human mind at the macro level. In Sthaniya Sangbad as well; the basic plot moves geographically and also in their temporal settings, at the same instance of time. The colony for one, is set ‘now’ with a temporal reality of refugee gathering from East Pakistan after the Indian Independence. The white town or Park street similarly is set ‘now’ with a pace resembling a world of ‘today’ (wherein most of the side characters are justifiably blurred) and with a dark night, New Town is set ‘now’ but positioned towards the future (a bleak one may be?).

Again, all the three sections (or atleast the first two) more often than not, change temporal positions in the film’s time-scale fuzzy-ing the space-time divide that I mentioned earlier. In this regard the film’s narrative and the film’s structure complement each other to make it a very worthwhile experience.

Indian films have seen a lot of genre changes since their inception. There have been quite a few breaks in the long journey. Where does Sthaniya Sangbad stand? It’s difficult to predict a ‘future’ of such a film. But what deserves mention is the sublime texture of the film with a neat script that ensured that the viewing experience is mostly gratifying. Probably the third section of the film dragged a bit with mostly verbose – and you bet, you can trash a lot of it. The characters came out convincing – most of them, for the urban middle-class Bengali. Not less important is the freshness emanated from the raw actors and the uncanny ‘what-next?’ situations springing surprises.

Answering to my personal message as to what is the purpose of making such a film, one of the directors Moinak Biswas was curt – “For the urge to make a film as we wanted to make it”. It was obvious from the making and the experimentation with form and content – of not only the film but beyond that in our social existence in one of the plural multiverses.

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