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Paromitar Ek Din Taught Me That Women Can Be Women’s Best Friends!

Paromitar Ek Din - is a classic Bengali movie that celebrates the special bond between women, which is very unlikely according to popular perception - writes Swagata Tarafdar. 

Paromitar Ek Din – is a classic Bengali movie that celebrates the special bond between women, which is very unlikely according to popular perception – writes Swagata Tarafdar. 

 I have always been an ardent fan of movies by Aparna Sen. These days whenever her movies hit the theatre, I make it a point to watch without fail. But today I’ll write about a movie by Sen that was released way back in 2000 – Paromitar Ek Din (House of Memories). Though I had watched it at that time, being a naive school-girl, I had failed to realize the full import of this film.

Recently I watched the movie again and I was greatly shuck by its contents. Some of the scenes seemed like a direct portrayal of few incidents from my own life. I was surprised to realise that somebody else had made this movie long before those events unfolded in my life. However, apart from the personal connect that I felt, the movie is exceptionally good in it’s own way.

The young Paromita’s story

The movie is all about the incidents of one particular day in the life of its female protagonist Paromita. It’s the day of her ex-mother-in-law’s funeral. Attending the funeral opens the floodgate of all her memories associated with the old decrepit North-Kolkata house. The movie shows those memories in flashback.

A young Paromita steps into the Sanyal household as the youngest daughter-in-law. With time, she becomes very close to her mother-in-law Sanaka and her schizophrenic sister-in-law Khuku. In time, she gives birth to a son, the only male heir of the Sanyal household. But her son is born with Cerebral Palsy. The arrival of an ill child loosens her bond with her husband, who blames her for her inability to give birth to a healthy child.

Later, she gets her son admitted to a school for spastic children. Here she befriends Rajiv Srivastava, who is a documentary film-maker, making a film on spastic children. Paromita’s son dies an untimely death. The only fragile thread holding her marriage snaps down. Meanwhile, her friendship with Srivastava blossoms into love and the duo decide to get married, much against the wishes of her mother-in-law.

Later, when Sanaka falls ill and becomes bed-ridden at the fag end of her life, Paromita again steps into her ex-matrimonial home, flouting convention, to take care of Sanaka. The entire movie revolves around the day of Sanaka’s funeral. The movie ends on a happy note with the revelation of Paromita’s second pregnancy.

The unusual bond between these two women

 What I found most heartening about the movie is it’s portrayal of an unusual bond between two women. This goes against our popular culture where women themselves are touted as being women’s worst enemies. An unusual friendship develops between Paromita and Sanaka, transcending the barriers of age, background and temperament. When Paromita’s husband accuses her for giving birth to a cerebral-palsy-affected child, it’s Sanaka who firmly stands by her.
If Paromita’s son Bablu’s death takes her farther away from her husband, it only brings her closer to her mother-in-law who provides solace to her. After Sanaka becomes a widow, it’s Paromita who takes her to a restaurant to savour fish-fry, away from the judgmental eyes of the people, as she understands that Sanaka loves to eat fish though traditionally widows are forbidden from consuming non-vegetarian food.

When Sanaka falls ill, it’s Paromita who comes to take care of her ailing ex-mother-in-law, flouting convention.

Sanaka represents women of the previous generation, financially dependent on their male counterparts, afraid to live life on their own terms. Mani, the man she loved, failed to muster courage enough to broach the topic of marriage to her. The man she got married to, failed to elicit any feeling of love in her. In the evening of her life, she realised, “Purush manus meyeder kokhono kichhu dite pare na. Konodin na.” (A man can never give anything to a woman. Ever.)

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Being trapped in a loveless marriage, lifelong she performed her wifely duties, while secretly nurturing her love for her Mani-da. She admitted to Paromita, “Konodin moner mil hoyni tomar swasurer songe. Tobu kete to gelo etogulo bochhor. Etogulo chhelepuleo holo. Aré biye ki ar sobsomoy sukher hoy re? Hoyna.” (My mentality never matched with that of your father-in-law. Still I spent so many years with him. I also gave birth to his children. Does marriage always turn out to be a happy one? No.”)

In contrast, Paromita is the modern Indian woman, having aspirations of her own. She is educated and sensitive. She looks for love within the institution of marriage. When she didn’t find it there, she came out of that marriage.

Srivastava understood her the way she is, giving her a shoulder to cry on. But she is not self-centered at all. When the time came, she didn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility of looking after her ex-mother-in-law – a duty which even Sanaka’s present daughters-in-law refused to take up. She understood Khuku like no one else. While the society at large stigmatized Khuku as “pagal” (mad), she was sensitive enough to understand that Khuku needs to be made to lead a life as normal as possible.

Both female protagonists are strong in their own ways and with time, they forge a bond that is unprecedented.

My take on the movie

The movie showcases some stellar performances. Rituparna Sengupta as Paromita, Aparna Sen as Sanaka and Sohini Sarkar as Khuku are impeccable. Use of appropriate Rabindra Sangeet (songs by Tagore) add to the mood. The scene where Paromita reveals to Sanaka the news of her impending divorce and Sanaka breaks down crying, is made more poignant by Khuku singing, “Tori aamar hahtat dube jaay, Konkhane re kon pashaner ghai.” (My boat sinks all of a sudden. Who knows where, ripped apart by which rock.)
No wonder the movie has bagged more than twenty national and international awards. And I am sure that lot of women of our country will be able to relate to one or the other female protagonists. Do give it a watch.

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About the Author

Swagata Tarafdar

An engineer by education, I am a civil servant by profession. A doting mother. An avid reader. I try my hand at writing as and when ideas tussle inside my head. read more...

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