Anam Biswas’ Debi: a promising turn in our cinema history

Muhammad Kamruzzamann | Published: 00:00, Oct 06,2019

Muhammad Kamruzzamann, Humayun Ahmed, Debi, Anam Biswas, Debi: Misir Ali Prothombar, Misir Ali,

The much talked about film of 2018 ‘Debi: Misir Ali Prothombar’ (2018) is an adaptation of a novel by Humayun Ahmed and directed by Anam Bishwas. Through different theoretical lenses, Muhammad Kamruzzamann reviews the film   

Debi: Misir Ali Prothombar, cannot escape the literariness of a novel. It, stunningly, portrays, being a spectacular cinematic reproduction, some of the characteristics of magic realism, the Nietzschean notion of eternal recurrence, and, conspicuously, the Freudian psychoanalysis.

Magic realism

SHAIBAL Dev Roy, in his ‘The Sources of Magic Realism in One Hundred Years of Solitude of Gabriel Garcia Marquez,’ states that the term magic realism is used to elucidate the writing style of juxtaposing imaginary and surreal elements with realistic narrative. Besides, according to J A Cuddon, some of its characteristics are adroit time travels, complex and mazy narratives and plots as well, various use of dreams, myths and fairy tales, mysterious wisdom, the component of wonder or sudden shock, the horrifying and unexplainable events.

However, Frau Frieda, a woman with foretelling competence, in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story, ‘I Sell My Dreams’, literally, trades her dream to earn a living. One day, in Vienna, she pays a visit to the anonymous narrator of the story to inform that she, last night, had a dream about him, and, simultaneously, asks him to leave immediately and not to be back to Vienna for five years.

Likewise, Ranu, in Debi, forbids Nilu to go anywhere by their car, and, suddenly, the car, on the same day, gets hijacked. And Nilu, because of Ranu’s surreal or anti-rational sensibility, remains unharmed. Furthermore, in one of the scenes with Misir Ali, Ranu’s act of guessing the cards, telling Nilu (after having a dream) that a person wants to meet her, and, particularly, telling Misir Ali, over the phone, about Hashem, the shopkeeper, and about his winning a lottery — all these activities of Ranu provide a clear visual that is in one word — inexplicable, because these are surreal elements: dreams, complex mysteries, intermingled with directorial fantasy.

Likewise, the unresolved depiction of twin sisters is worth mentioning element as far as magic realism is concerned.

Eternal recurrence

FRIEDRICH Nietzsche in the section titled ‘The heaviest weight’ of his book, The Gay Science, introduces the notion of the Eternal Recurrence that, in an endless cycle, all the substances keep on repeating. Anam’s brilliant portrayals of Iresh Zaker, in three different wicked characters —the so-called priest (slayer) in the sacrifice scene, Jalaluddin, the molester of Ranu, and an apparently admirer of Nilu, Ahmed Saber — of three different time frames, starting from the year of 1757 to 2018, can be interpreted as a directorial accomplishment in presenting the eternity of patriarchal exploitation of women.

Additionally, Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993) is one brilliant treatment of the concept reincarnation. Significantly, after Ranu’s death, the transformation of the soul (that once has taken shelter in Ranu’s body to save her from Jalaluddin) is indeed an antirational, as well as mystic as the soul chooses Nilu as a shelter, and, later, her voice mysteriously sounds like Ranu’s voice.


AS A technique of interpreting, psychoanalytic criticism, using the practices of Freudian psychoanalysis, tends to understand the behaviour of a person, expressed in an art-form, by studying the repressed in the unconscious of that particular person, and the past as well.

For example, in the film, Ranu’s dream and statement are observed, studied, as well as interpreted by Misir Ali who decodes the dream through exploring the past of Ranu, as well as the socio-historical context of her existence, because he could not rationalise the statement of Ranu being molested by a dead man, in her youth, while taking a bath. Later, Misir Ali investigates and comes up with the finding that Ranu has been molested by Jalaluddin.

Moreover, the post-marital traumatic condition of Ranu can be described as a consequence that has resulted from her traumatised childhood memory — the unconscious. And her marriage can be responsible for the revival of the uneasiness as the young Ranu has gone through a traumatic psychosexual experience. Besides, either the childhood memory of Ranu or the heterosexual journey, as well as both could be equally responsible for the dysfunctional experience.

For example, Naoko, in Murakami’s Norweigian Wood (1987), goes through body-mind uneasiness whenever she becomes conscious of lovemaking because of having a repressed memory of unfulfilled heterosexual desire in her youth. Similarly, in the case of Ranu, the repressed dysfunctional childhood experience could transgress the realm of the unconscious because of being active heterosexually.

Directorial accomplishment

L’ART pour l’art (art for art's sake) was a Eurocentric artistic movement that upheld the artistic values of an art-form rather than being critical about the social impact or representation of life and living. To be art, the aesthetic beauty of art, artistic commitment as an art, as well as upholding the characteristic of art as a creative form of expression were considered enough.

In my opinion, Anam’s Debi: Misir Ali Prothombar, is one such creative endeavour that is complete in itself and, as an art-form, it is a standard that could be admired by other filmmakers to achieve similar artistic expression in the produced art-form.

However, the depiction of the characters — Misir Ali and Anis — could have been more dynamic and multidimensional as well. Apart from that the overall picturisation, cinematography, dialogues, music, and, significantly, the colour of the film rationalise that Debi: Misir Ali Prothombar is indeed a directorial accomplishment.

Muhammad Kamruzzamann is a student of Jahangirnagar University


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