Movie Review: Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa

"Ae rehbar-e-mulq-o-qaum zara,
Aankhen na chura, nazrein toh mila
Kuch hum bhi sunein, humko bhi bata
Yeh kiska lahu hain... yeh kaun mara?"

The much acclaimed film "Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa" is a narration of Sujata Chatterjee's (Jaya Bachchan) discovery of her son's Brati Chatterjee (Joy Sengupta) life. Made in the backdrop of the Naxalite uprising in West Bengal's Naxalbari, the film mostly deals with Sujata's quest for understanding her deceased son's ideologies and outlook towards life. Starting off with a mere corpse number ''1084" (which lends the film it's name), she establishes her son's identity, despite the social barriers surrounding her.

Sujata's character has been defined as a simple-minded mother whose love for her son gave her the strength to not only discover his pursuit in life, but also to find meaning in her own. Adapted from the short story of the same name by Mahaswetha Devi, Govind Nihalani's screenplay brings out a nice diagnosis of the varying ideologies of an entire generation--how a protected and almost shrouded environment can co-exist with an uprising that seeks to change the very foundation of society. The film explodes at a point where Sujata questions this very oddity, thus marking a moment of change in her own life.

The film has some rather intense moments with Nandini (Nandita Das). In almost a monologue, Nandini converses with Sujata where she not only brings to light a revolutionary and romantic episode of Brati's life but also rescues a mother dwelling amidst ignorance and compromises. A stark contrast to the dignified and contained Sujata, is Brati's friend Somu's mother (Seema Biswas) who despite her troubles, has seen more meaning and truth in her motherhood.

Joy Sengupta in a very minimal but crucial role captures the essence of human imagination. He plays with the emotions effortlessly. Seema Biswas in an important role is earnest but still manages to leave an indelible mark in her scenes. The role of an ignorant poor unfortunate woman has been tuned to a finesse by her. Nandita Das manages to bring an aura of dignity to her role. Not only does she enact the role with panache, but also, brings into broad relief the aspirations of the Naxalites and the reasons for their policies and principles. Milind Gunaji portrays his role with admirable restraint and ensures that the character heightens the drama.

On the whole, the movie is a broad swash on the canvas of our times and can indeed be considered as a landmark movie both in terms of the period it highlights and the inner turmoils of the characters it highlights. Socially, the film gains more relevance due to the fact that we are still struggling to eradicate the Naxal menace.

To end the review, one returns from the cinema with Sahir Ludhianvi's sher:

"Yeh hungama bida-e-shab hain, ae zulmat ke farzandon;

Saher ki dosh par gulnar parcham hum bhi dekhenge

Tumhein bhi dekhna hoga yeh alam; hum bhi dekhenge."


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