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What happens if a marriage of many decades crumbles in the autumn years without any overt reason? Bengali film Belaseshe explores this unusual premise.
Bengali movie ‘Belaseshe’ (2015) by director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee remains one of my favourites. This film leaves an indelible mark on your mind, questioning the institution of marriage and companionship.
Belaseshe goes on to doubt the existence of love in years of togetherness; it tries to evoke elements of compromise, sacrifice, interdependency that come as essential parts of marriage. The film takes us through the lives of every character giving a deep insight into their conversations, monologues, thought processes and articulations.
We the present generation are acquainted with the value of marriage at the cost of the separation faced by the protagonist and his wife. We witness some pertinent questions like- When was the last time you complimented your partner? When was the last time you invested in some ‘we’ time with them?
Such questions are raised in the film beautifully and the story drives home such relevant points about relationships and marriage at large.
Belaseshe, translating to ‘into the autumn of my life’ traverses through the life of protagonists, Biswanath Mazumder and Arati Mazumder, when the former announces his decision to separate from the latter after 49 years of marriage. Understandably, the decision of the septuagenarian does not go down well with his children, three daughters and a son, and thus he gets termed as a coward.
“Tumi Maa k bhog korecho, r ekhon jokhon tomar Maa r pashe thaaaka uchit, tumi paliye jachho? Tumi…khub sarthopor! Kaapurush! (‘You’ve used my mother for the last fifty years, and now that you should stand by her, you are running away? You are…very selfish! A coward!’) accuses the eldest daughter.
The conspicuously seeming plot of the movie speaks of ‘habit’ called love in relationships, and ‘being in love’ as the habit. Does the dynamics of a husband-wife relationship change with the passing years of marriage, is a question to reckon with in Belaseshe.
The film delivers important lessons on love, companionship and meaningful gestures that sum up successful marriages. The emotional re-discovery of the institution of marriage is something that lingers in the minds of audience even after the film ends.
Both the protagonist and his wife reveal two different perspective of love in marriage; the man believes in explicit expressions of this emotion “Tomake ami kotodin kachhe paini, amaaro toh ichhe kore…tomaar gaayer sporsho ta pete” (“It has been quite some time that I have got you, I too wish to feel your touch at times”) as opposed to the woman’s preference for latent, implicit gestures. Perhaps as an introvert I identify with the latter’s behavior more.
With the passing of years in marriage, it seems that love becomes more of a covert affair. But sometimes, it is also important to express one’s love, one’s gratitude or one’s emotions to one’s partner, and this is aptly described in the film. That a lot can be won or lost with meaningful gestures has been dealt with beautifully.
It becomes increasingly significant to explore and introspect the various facets of relationships especially when it boils down to husband and wife. It is important to appreciate one another, it is important to notice the efforts undertaken in love by one another. The film reiterates the essentiality of being for one another both physically and emotionally.
I too like the female protagonist believe in the concept of being minimally expressive but love, under no circumstances should get lost or forgotten for the sake of responsibility.
To their children the septuagenarian Mazumders seem to be an exemplary couple, the perfect made for each other type. But soon they are confronted with the bitter truth that shatters all their beliefs when their father demands a separation from their mother.
“Aami tomader Maa r theke bichhed, mane divorce chai” (I want divorce from your mother”) announces Biswanath Mazumder. It is impossible for them to reconcile to the reality that a man who is endowed with everything and with his wife placing him above everything, would want to part ways. The scene which portrays the female protagonist laughing in disbelief at her husband’s call for a divorce is clearly etched in my mind – a wife’s complacency in believing that her husband cannot abandon her after their prolonged togetherness, is something that is quite common.
The film throws open certain questions that we married individuals often ask ourselves – does marriage mean the physical intimacy alone? Does having and nurturing children fulfill the basic criteria of marital life? Or do couples need to incessantly and relentlessly work on their marriage for that eternal happiness that evades most married couples?
The heart wrenching conversation between the senior Mazumder couple raises the emotional quotient in the film. Many a time married couples knowingly or unknowingly take each other for granted; the individual who is often taken for granted continues with his/her services towards his/her near and dear ones silently, in an effort to sustain happiness in their conjugal life.
There are times when either the husband or the wife fulfills all her responsibilities whilst the other remains oblivious. This is not a deliberate action, but soon turns into a cause for dissatisfaction. The movie drives home the fact that a lot can be achieved by making meaningful conversations.
Belaseshe reinstates my belief in the institution called marriage. It echoes something that I strongly vest my faith in, “when something goes wrong, mend it and not discard it.”
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