The Aesthetic Narrative of Antaheen

The film’s artistry lies in its layered conversations on the choices one makes in life
The Aesthetic Narrative of Antaheen

I am one of those rare, unfortunate souls who wasn't exposed to the gallery of Bengali cinema while growing up. However, I have been trying to catch up since 2010 by watching some of the old and new-age contemporary Bengali movies through references from friends, family and online portals. Some of Bangla cinema's iconic characters and movies have remained eternally relevant.

One of my personal favorites from the newer lot of movies, that has remained etched in my memory ever since the time I first watched it is Antaheen directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury. The story is aesthetically paced as a poem overlooking a background of various human emotions.

The story is set in Kolkata and primarily revolves around the characters of Radhika Apte who plays Brinda, a feisty and dynamic broadcast journalist and Rahul Bose who plays a very poised and intelligent,"Mr. Darcy version" of an Indian cop. His character Abhik Chowdhury gives us an insight into how a cop, who deals with crime and hatred throughout the day, prefers to retire to the solitude post work with some jasmine tea and indulges in some occasional cooking when not on duty.

The two characters, who are involved in two extremely challenging professions, are unknowingly connected via an online chatroom, where they connect over conversation on life, relationships, loneliness and future. Over a period of time, they develop a sense of curiosity about one another and are almost virtually attracted to each other. They contemplate meeting each other in person till the end of the story but fear that this might end up spoiling the already matured relationship that they have nurtured online. At the same time, Brinda and Abhik also happen to know each other in the real world, unaware of their virtual connection. They are mysteriously drawn to each other in the real world as well, but eventually fail to admit to their feelings, both in the virtual and real world.

Antaheen is powered by a powerful supporting star cast with legendary names like Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen, Kalyan Ray and Mita Vashisht, who lift this beautiful tale with their powerful performances. They play small parts which eventually helps in building the narrative between the two protagonists. Sharmila Tagore plays Abhik's aunt who has chosen to remain single. Her character very carefully defines the difference between being alone and being lonely, whereas Aparna Sen (Poromita) and Kalyan Ray (Ranjan) play an estranged couple who are carrying the baggage of an incident from the past which continues to sour their attempts to reconcile in the present. The couple continue to juggle with loneliness and suppress their yearning to come together. Abhik and Brinda, who eventually end up not admitting to their feelings in the real world or virtual, inspire the older couple Poromita and Ranjan to consider living a life together. The film ends with Kalyan Ray's character Ranjan attempting to reconcile with his wife after realising that life is too short to be whiled away in carrying baggage from the past.

The film does not get into the details of why Brinda's character meets an unfortunate end and leaves it to the audience to come to a conclusion. The story focusses on the beauty in which Abhik and Brinda connect over virtual conversations on Frida Kahlo's art, relationships, the story of a kite trying to free itself from wires – and this mysterious relationship leaves them wondering about their connection with each other in the real world. The film's artistry lies in its layered conversations on the choices one makes in life, references to photography and rain clouds and the apprehensions of making compromises in relationships. The film is backed by exceptional music given by Shantanu Moitra which seamlessly stitches the characters and storyline together.

The movie is available on Youtube with subtitles and is a must watch for those who have a fondness for stories told with elegance and panache.

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