Termites

*****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Termites
"Shot through with a rightness, every frame a photograph, every unstill moment a miracle."

The siren and the alarm clock both, their clarion must be heeded. The poster on the otherwise bare wall, the leader's hairline far receded. In the sky some rotorcraft, the bullied air sounds unimpeded. Bring back those pages, the mute man asks, words unsaid, unpleaded.

Raja Chakraborty is that man, a Winston Smith of the subcontinent. B.C.C.T Brother an acronym and fist punching down. First seen in a small mirror, its lens polished in a small room as much of Caravaggio as that reflection is of camera. Two decades ago, the radio blares, on this auspicious day, all "immoral and ungodly art" completely prohibited. Some still resist.

At the beginning, before this, before the pomegranate seeds like those of legend and the splash of differently forbidden red, a piece of information. Made in 50 hours as part of a film challenge, that tight time-frame only truly noticed in the fact that this is just one eighth of an hour itself. As deftly uncovered and assembled as the gramophone, as impactful as the sharp crack of shots. The window barred can open no fuller and the streets are run with mournful colour.

What is behind? What is uncovered? What meaning can we lay on word and gesture? "the war continues", but where is the fighting? The rhetoric of their master's voice has an echo in rebellion. A chorus rises incarnadine, arms raised against seas multitudinous.

Jayabrata Das writes, directs, is more than ably served by Arnab Laha's work as DoP. In words I can attempt to tell you how this is shot through with a rightness, every frame a photograph, every unstill moment a miracle. Young Mouli Saha is smiles and sunshine, through yonder window heartbreak. In these small performances, in these details, triumph.

Though its title is of woodwork the craft I am minded of is not carpentry but cookery. This despite the chipped varnish and overpainted sills, the bare walls and old chairs, the signs of age and wear found or reconstructed with care. Perhaps it is that fateful fruit whose scarlet traces still draw my eye.

I could not tell you how often films have squandered colour and composition in service of goals that resemble art in the same way that shelf-stable service-station snacks resemble food. All saccharine and homogenity, all traces of the unique baked out, processed and packaged and sterile and safe. This is not raw, far from it, each fold and feature bears the mark of craft. It is refined, skilled, a delight, a bittersweet treat.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2021
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The voice reminds the city that all art is banned, but when a young girl discover's one man's secret he cannot remain silent.

Director: Jayabrata Das

Writer: Jayabrata Das, Banibrata Adak

Starring: Raja Chakraborty, Mouli Saha, Debaditya Naha, Manab Saha

Year: 2020

Country: India

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