Review of “Maati” – Connecting with the roots
Director – Leena Gangopadhyay & Saibal Banerjee.
Cast – Adil Hussain, Paoli Dam, Aparajita Adhya, Monami Ghosh.
Overall Rating – 3.5/5
Several films have been made on partition and the sufferings of people during that time but Maati directed by Leena Gangopadhyay and Saibal Banerjee is little different. It talks about the current generation who were not the direct victims of partition, how much they feel connected with their motherland and how much they are rooted towards their base.
The story is about Meghla (Paoli Dam) , she is a history professor and also doing research about partition. Her grandfather had came to India leaving his ancestral properties in East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh later) taking his young kids along with him. Her grandmother Kumudini Debi (Aparajita Adhya) had not joined them in the journey to India. She was not ready to leave her home, her country to settle down somewhere else. Later she was killed there in communal riots. Her grandmother’s love and sacrifice for her homeland holds a special place in Meghla’s heart,she admires Kumudini Debi. She wants to visit her ancestral place once in her life. Meghla gets a chance to fulfil that wish when a girl Zinia (Monami Ghosh) comes to their place with her marriage invitation. Zinia is a girl from the same village in Bangladesh and she is the grand daughter of Meghla’s grand father’s childhood friend. Zinia’s marriage invitation brings an opportunity for Meghla to go back to her roots, to visit her ancestral home in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, she meets a local resident of the village Jamil Hassan (Adil Hussain) who is a social activist working for communal harmony and upliftment of the villagers. But Meghla also knows a bitter truth about Jamil. Jamil is the descendant of the same family who had killed Meghla’s grandmother and occupied their property. It is tough for Meghla to face Jamil as she considers him only as the next generation of a murderer family. But during her three days stay in the village, her perception changes about Jamil and his family. She also understands a person should not be judged by his or her past but one should be evaluated based on their present. She also realizes every coin has two sides. People from both sides had to suffer during partition so it’s not right to blame one side only for all the tragedy.
The story and screenplay written by Leena Gangopadhyay is fresh and touches emotional chords. The narrative unfolds two tracks in parallel which are set in different periods. One is the track in flashback where we see Kumudini Debi’s journey from a responsible housewife of a highly respected zamindar family to being a lonely women from a minority religion. The other track features Meghla’s journey from history to present and a futute with positive possibilities. Both the tracks wonderfully compensate each other and breaks the monotony. But there is major drawback in the story. The lead protagonist Meghla is born and brought up in India, she has never visited Bangladesh in her lifetime. In her family except her grandfather no one else even feel that much attached with their ancestral place, in such a situation Meghla’s emotions for the place is not convincing enough. As a result one can’t feel invested with the emotions of Meghla. Her equation with Zinia is also half baked. Zinia’s character behaves over friendly with Meghla as if they know each other for a long time. But the same does not reciprocate from Meghla. For a longer part of the film, Meghla’s character is very one note. She is so much occupied with her own emotions that she hardly cares about the feelings of people around her. It makes a bad impression about her character which does not work in favor of the story. But this shortcomings in the writing does not affect much because of the powerful performance of the leading lady Paoli Dam. She has emoted so well as Meghla that we feel connected even with the poorly written character. She has been equally supported by her co-actor Adil Hussain in yet another strong performance. Compared to Paoli, Adil has more shades in his character and he is at ease in all the moods. In a small screen time Sabitri Chatterjee leaves impression as Jamil’s mother. Both Aparajita Adhya and Monami Ghosh has very little to do but they have looked stunning in traditional bengali attires.
The director duo Leena Gangopadhyay and Saibal Banerjee have made an impressive debut. Their detailing for creating perfect ambiance for Bangladesh is commendable. Their technical team has helped a lot to create this authentic look and feel. Tanmoy Chakraborty’s art direction is excellent specially the way he has desgined the zamindar house in periodic time. Shirsha Ray has added magic with his eye soothing cinematography. The traditional Durga Puja and Manasa Puja celebration sequences are brilliantly captured. Also the top view of Ichhamati river is visually enriched. Debojyoti Mishra has wonderfully used the folk music of Bangladesh in the songs and background music. The songs sounds fresh and works in sync with the narrative.
Overall Maati is an emotional film in the backdrop of partition which touches the right chord. A good effort from the whole cast and crew lead by the two extremely talented actors Adil Hussain and Paoli Dam.