CHAPTER 6: CALCUTTA REVISITED
14th August 1947. The birth of Pakistan. Cut to Calcutta. The nation is getting ready to celebrate independence. Saket strolls in the streets of the city. He has not informed his family about his disappearance from the house. He has grown a moustache, perhaps indicating the masculinity he has regained over the time of healing. He returns to his apartment. He looks up he can see Aparna calling him.
Subsequently he sees his piano once more in the film dangling on a loose rope. It eventually falls and breaks down. He looks at the place where the piano had fallen. Tall grass has grown indicating the one year that has passed since Aparna’s death. The image of the piano once more underlines the relationship Saket had with his wife. The piano is no more and so is Aparna.
He starts wallowing in his old world as he tells the watchman that he is here to meet Aparna and starts walking towards the lift. It is a new watchman and is confused but understands that he is here to see Mr. Nair who has just moved into the apartment. He gets into the lift and relives all the good moments when Aparna and he had just moved into the apartment. He recollects the good times and Aparna’s paintings as he stares into the same flat he had lived. As Mr. Nair keeps asking what he wants, Saket keeps staring into the flat. Finally, when Saket snaps back, he can hear Mr. Nair’s words and starts the conversation.
Mr. Nair: What can I do for you? I’m from Madras Presidency too. Been here six months. But I’ve no idea who the last tenant was. All the tenants here are new. What’s the name again?
Saket: Saket Ram.
Mr. Nair: When did you see him last?
Mr. Nair: Saket Ram.
Saket: One year ago! Exactly one year.
Mr. Nair: Please don’t get me wrong. But a year ago…, there was a massacre in this building. Your Saket Ram… Maybe he was killed? Sorry!
Saket: No. It’s all right.
Mr. Nair: Then looking for him would be futile!
Saket: No harm in searching.
Mr. Nair: What is your relationship with Saket Ram?
Saket: Like body and soul. We were very good friends.
When Mr. Nair asks when he had met Saket Ram, Saket replies that he had seen him one year ago. Here he points out that he was no more the Saket he knew – the one that was more peaceful and loving. Mr. Nair says hesitantly that Saket might have been killed in the riots for which he seems to agree and not object. He considers the original Saket dead. Mr. Nair says that it will be of no use searching for him for which Saket replies that there is no harm in searching for him suggesting his quest to rehabilitate to his former self. Upon asking his relationship with Saket Ram, he says that it was one between the body and the soul. The soul is gone, the body remains. But what is the use of the body without the soul? The search for the soul continues.
Saket asks if he could take back Aparna’s painting that is hanging as a decoration on Mr. Nair’s wall and is given the painting. Saket holds the painting to his chest and walks back into the streets. He recollects all the great times with Aparna as he roams the city. The melodious song “Nee partha paarvai” plays on. The night is out and Saket revisits the she sites that had, just a year ago, been plagued with riots. It is totally calm and peaceful. He once again sees the images of people he had killed greeting him into the streets. Somehow, he seems to have been to immune to them and has learned to live with them. He is unshaken by the images and carries on into the settlements. He reaches the house of the little blind girl that he had seen last year. She starts speaking.
“Hey! Ram, Shall I tell you how I died? Ram, let me tell you.”
Saket is disgusted and starts puking when a crowd of, what it seems to be, protestors calling out “Down with Gandhi! Down with Suhrawardy!” coming towards him and dragging him with them. The crowd merges onto a bigger one that seems to be gathered outside a large building and is being stopped by a group of Gandhians. In a few moments, it is revealed that Gandhiji is in the building as he opens the windows of the balcony. This is the first time we see Gandhiji (Nasseeruddin Shah) in the film though a lot has been talked about him. Interesting trivia must be presented here. Nasseeruddin Shah was turned down in the final minute for the title role in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982) which eventually was awarded to Ben Kingsley. He regains the lost chance in this film. He silences the crowd as he calls Suhrawardy to the window. At Gandhiji’s initiation, he starts delivering a showcase speech about peace among Hindus and Muslims. Saket loses temper at this and questions Suhrawardy about his responsibility during the last year’s riots. Suhrawardy tries to escape Saket’s questions diplomatically but is pinned down by Saket and the apparently supportive crowd. Realizing his situation, Suhrawardy admits that it was his responsibility and he has failed. Ironically, the crowd around is amazed and starts appreciating the apology with the cries of “Long live Mahatma Gandhi”. Saket is disgusted by the crowd as it applauds. They seem to be satisfied with the apology. He realizes that the protest was just a formality and was not heart felt at all. He is surprised at the people’s fickleness and is unable to digest people forgetting and forgiving the mishaps that had taken place.
He moves away from the place. As he moves towards a more isolated place he hears somebody asking him if he is disgusted by all this. As Saket looks up, he realizes it his old acquaintance Shriram Abhyankar, clean shaven, speaking. He informs Saket that he has been in the jail for just 10 months for none could prove his guilt. He also adds the following lines.
“Heard that lecture from Suhrawardy? And he takes support of a snake like Suhrawardy. What kind of Mahatma is this Gandhi? The public remembers nothing. Only you and I remember. This senseless flock of goat follows the old man who survives on goat milk. This flock doesn’t know that he is off to celebrate Bakrid! In between this, a theater is staged to run the state. No permission for the critics to watch it!”
Shriram hints that the foolish people do not know that there is going to be large scale massacre against the Hindus in the newly formed Pakistan whereas the Muslims in India are going to be protected in India. He is mad that nobody is questioning the happenings. As they walk the streets, they meet a drunk holding an Indian flag and shouting out “Hindu and Muslim! Brothers! Brothers!”. Shriram stops him and starts mocking him. He mentions various political rival and improbable friends for which the drunk replies “Brother”. There is a reference of goat again as in the previous passage indicating the blind followers of Gandhian politics. Shriram continues to mock the guy until he gets confused and grabs the flag from his hands. He walks away with the flag shouting the same thing as Nehru’s “Tryst of Destiny” is broadcast. It is 12.00 A. M. 15th August 1947.
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