Tarikh movie review: An exceptionally well-written film that portrays dichotomies of human existence
Tarikh is the story of three individuals, each with his or her own unique approach to life
Churni Ganguly’s second directorial feature Tarikh is a sensitive portrayal of a man – or shall we say, a man’s memories – that his loved ones struggle to cling on to after his untimely and unexpected death. The void that is left behind, and the unsuccessful attempts at filling that void with bits and pieces of fond conversations, incidents and whatnots from a life now perished – that is part of what Ganguly depicts beautifully in her film. I would imagine the film would have been immensely difficult to write, for several reasons described later in this review. And the subject has been dealt with in a manner that will make us ponder about the value of each and every single precious breath we take.
Tarikh is the story of three individuals, each with his or her own unique approach to life. Anirban Gupta is a professor teaching in and shuttling between the cities of Kolkata and London. Anirban is an idealist, and a firm believer in the fact that the price of true freedom is perpetual vigil. He encourages his students to keep up their struggle against injustice that comes in any form or shape. His students literally worship him and his ideals. Anirban’s wife Ira works as a lobby manager in a Kolkata hotel. When she is not at work, she prefers living an uncomplicated life with her little daughter Niharika, and by spending time on Facebook ‘watching puppy videos and chatting’. She is not as well-read or as free-thinking as her husband, and her simple, easy-going attitude towards life remains a regret in Anirban’s heart. The third person in the story is Rudrangshu, or Rudy – Anirban’s childhood friend. Ira and Rudy have a lot in common, and seem to have a soft corner for each other, and Anirban’s long absences from the city does not seem to help the situation. The triangle goes through a number of dynamics over the years, until a time comes when an unexpected incident changes everything.
One thing is for sure - Tarikh is an exceptionally well-written film. Ganguly takes her time to unravel the nature of each arm of the triangle by carefully peeling it layer by layer, never rushing a scene or inserting an unnecessary shot here and there. Her eye for detail is also extremely commendable. Consider, for instance, a scene where a worrying parent goes to the room where her child is sleeping, and draws the blanket over the little girl, and the girl – half-asleep – immediately kicks the blanket away. It’s a simple scene, but every parent knows that this is exactly how little children behave. As adults, we feel anxious for them, and we tend to overdo things. They, in turn, react immediately, in all honesty, and in an unforgiving vacuum of pretence. Such small nuances of parenting help us endear the characters, especially in an environment of tragedy. The non-linear structure of the film must also have been difficult to write, especially because the subject of death in a setting such as this is always tricky.
Tarikh is also an excellent study of the preaching and practising of such values as socialism. How many of us are ‘insufferable escapists’ – as the filmmaker terms people who encourage others to live by the principles of socialism, but never live by those very principles themselves? When it comes to actually implementing what we believe in in our own lives, how many of us stand by our beliefs? And most important of all – what happens when we don’t? Is there a sense of overbearing guilt that keeps nibbling away at us? Does the rot in the core spread through our entire being, poisoning us? Especially when we know that the very notion that we believed in has failed worldwide? Does that make us feel responsible? These are excellent and important questions raised by Churni Ganguly in her film.
However, as a work of cinema, the narrative begins to dwindle somewhere in the second half. We witness repetitions of ideas, and a twist in the plot in the climax – although beautifully handled in terms of execution – is perhaps uncalled for in the first place, simply because it comes across as a misfit in an otherwise beautiful film. There’s nothing wrong with either a square peg or a round hole, you see? But when you try to fit one into the other, there is bound to be problems. That is exactly what has happened to Tarikh as well. It tried to be too many things at the same time.
Saswata Chatterjee, Raima Sen and Ritwick Chakraborty play the three vertices of the plot, and they do commendable jobs. Chatterjee is brilliant with his calm reserve and dignified yet dreamy approach to his values. His is a complicated character, with abundant shades of grey. It will take an entire separate feature film to simply debate whether his wants from his wife are justifiable or not. Chatterjee understands these nuances of his character, and it shows. I am happy to see that the director has not reduced the character of Raima to a cliché by dolling her up and making her come across as an unwitting dunce. In terms of execution of a character, I liked Raima’s performance the best. But when it comes to sheer acting grace, there is no one like Ritwick Chakraborty. He is so natural, so graceful, that in the scene where he arrives in the city to meet his friend’s mother, it literally looks like the two of them have actually known each other for several decades! As I have said before in my reviews – this is no ordinary artist. This is a man who is currently performing at the pinnacle of his art. And he is not going anywhere in a hurry.
Tarikh may not go down in history as a great film, but it is a fantastic attempt by Churni Ganguly at studying, understanding, feeling, and portraying the dichotomies of human existence – of life and death, of standing one’s ground and escaping reality, of unfulfilled love and selfless sacrifices, of the complacence of joy and the irreversibility of a great loss. And in that sense, it is a film that everyone should watch at least once.
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