My review-essay of the Pakistani film Jago Hua Savera (The Day Shall Dawn) in American Kahani.
Night falls on a river. The village around it thickens with darkness. Not the river. On its breast, distant lights flicker like inextinguishable fireflies. The glow comes from the boats of the fishermen sailing on its waves. A majhi (boatman) sings a drawn-out tune and the river’s water folds into its haunting essence with every splash of the oar. This is how the Pakistani film, “Jago Hua Savera” (The Day Shall Dawn) unfolds as does “Padma Nadir Majhi” (The Boatman of Padma), the novel it’s adapted from.
An enthralling flute amplifies the aural impact of the film’s opening scene, holding the viewer in a delicate trance. A synthesis of the work of stalwarts like Faiz Ahmed Faiz who wrote the songs, dialogues and story; music director, Timir Baran and Academy award-winning cinematographer, Walter Lassally – this first scene establishes the tenor of the film’s sensitive and neo-realist aesthetic.
Amala couldn’t resist the urge to try out some of these new finds and took out a five-rupee note from her wallet to buy shahjeera, a darker and slimmer variety of cumin the shop owner told her to use in rich meat dishes and kababchini; small black globules that looked exactly like whole black pepper but apparently had a different aroma, stronger and warmer. A minute later, Amala and Manas joined the crowds drifting out of the market area.
‘There’s a special place I want to show you today,’ Manas said as he approached a taxi.
Chintan Girish Modi interviewed me about my debut novel. The most rewarding part of the interview was his reference to a blog post I wrote in 2011 regarding home and what it means for me. Read the interview in Firstpost.
Feminism in India has listed Victory Colony, 1950 in a “selection of books by women writers in 2020.” which the writer found to “defy homogenous understanding of Indian woman, laying bare the contradictions, contestations, compliances that Indian women are going through, being located within the intersectional grid of their realities.”
To quote from the article:
Resistance against the norm has always marked the crux of women’s writings, where they have been found experimenting with the given. Bhaswati Ghosh’s Victory Colony, 1950 (Yoda Press, 2020) zooms into Amala’s life, a victim of Partition in the East, as she traverses through trying political conditions, displacement, self-fashioning, and finding companionship in a new land, thus, giving a fresh perspective to the genre of Partition fictions, where life is not just about rebuilding, but about refin(d)ing.
Manas had little chance to interact with Amala over the past two days as the women were still holed up inside the school. The morning after the clashes ended, Manas and his friends took a tour of the freshly-seized squatter colony. Manas could see the enormousness of the task that lay ahead for the space to become truly habitable. There was no clean water supply or electricity. Nor did the residents have any sewage or waste collection system in place.
As they walked through the area, Subir thought aloud the need for setting up a few hand pumps at the very least. Manas nodded, saying they needed a new fundraising drive to get the basics in place in Bijoy Nagar.
‘We’ll also need more volunteers, Manas-da,’ Manik said.
Manas agreed as he thought of the added effort needed to manage the camp and work with the squatting refugees.
They landed close to Amala’s shack. The landlord’s goons had razed the incomplete fencing Amala had earlier put up. Manas saw Amala resurrecting the fence with a fresh batch of hogla leaves. She seemed engrossed in what she was doing. Manas noticed her lips moving with the hint of a sweet smile.
As the boys came closer, Manas said softly so as not to break Amala’s reverie, ‘Ei je, how goes?’
He thought he had caught a fragment of a song in her voice before it faded away as she looked at him and smiled. A tiny hurricane swept through Manas’s heart.