Bhobishyoter Bhoot is a Bengali satire film directed by Anik Dutta. ASM Riad Arif writes about the socio-political representations of the film and freedom of speech
WE CAN start this review of the film, Bhobishyoter Bhoot, directed by Anik Dutta, released in 2019, with a recent twit by Noam Chomsky where he wrote, ‘Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you are really in favour of free speech, then you are in favour of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you are not in favour of free speech.’
And the questions are — are we really free? Or are we getting the facilities of freedom of speech in this capitalist ear? Freedom of speech is a highly pronounced phrase all over the globe. But only a few get this privilege.
Anik Dutta’s film did not get these all. So he welcomes them at this ghost show for telling the untold stories of life. The director explores a true political scenario in his recent dark comedy film Bhobishyoter Bhoot (The Ghost of the Future). This is a scathing political satire, full of fun, music, and action. The film has mocked political parties and ideologies. But this is not the limit of Dutta’s canvas. Most of the dialogues in the film have a connotative meaning.
A wonderful scenario of people’s struggle is one of the major components of the film as well. Anik’s characters represent our daily life. Unable to keep up with the changing times, many were good as dead while alive. They had to lead a silent life. Voice is not an organic part of the human body, but everyone’s voice matters. You have the right to say what you think, share information, and demand a better world. You also have the right to agree or disagree with those in power.
Journalist Sottojit, typist Akshar Dutta or courtesan Motibai of the movie did not get privilege. They all are some dissatisfied souls. The film starts with a prologue that the spectres of Bengal are facing a great crisis. All haunted houses are gone. The remaining few have become heritage hotels or tourist spots. Their existence is at stake. So they have to reinvent themselves.
They need to become modern. They need to use technology. The ghosts of Bengal have changed. They are almost extinct in distress, homeless and deranged condition. Their survival is death instinct. So sundry ghosts and poltergeists decided to turn post-modernist. That is the primary storyline of the film.
But it is so much metaphorical and the director Anik Dutta uses a very different cinematic language here. The ghost of a ghost appears almost invisibly, before vanishing.
We saw the use of signifiers in a vast. It is not just a linear story of some ghosts. The film stands against the imbalanced urbanisation and capitalism. Even it criticises Marxism and Rabindra fundamentalism. Line after line of dialogues are mixed with loud criticism of the government system.
All the old historical buildings of the city were destroyed. Many were converted into shopping malls or multi-storey buildings. So the ghosts are under threat. They do not have space to live. Some of them decided to live in an old abandoned movie theatre in the city. Different types of ghosts like former politicians, extortionist, cabaret dancers, jatra actors are there. All of them repetitively face certain social and political issues provoking the present times and also marginalised by their shrinking habitat in the real world.
On the other hand, some of them take shelter in an out-of-order refugee camp. They plan to make themselves fit for the new world and fight against the injustices. They plan to make themselves relevant and fit for the future as contemporary ghosts. Each and everyone have a different story. All of their stories were untold.
Sottojit, the journalist is a very powerful character in this film. The director has represented the crisis of 21st century’s media and freedom of expression by the character of Sottojit. At the age of corporate media, a journalist cannot say everything. News is also considered as a product. So you have to colour it. A newspaper editor needs not to have ideology rather he should act like a chief executive officer of a multinational company.
Sottojit took journalism very seriously but one day his editor asked him not to cover any stories against the government. Sottojit was asked to work on page three where he was assigned to cover the rumours and gossips of celebrities. So he said goodbye to the mainstream media and launched his own daily. But he was targeted by the police and they killed him brutally at midnight.
Another issue of the film is professional transformation. The digital age has changed employment. However, the full impact is uncertain in terms of the loss of jobs. What is certain is that many traditional occupations will need reskilling. We are living in historically unprecedented times for job loss. Digital transformation will lead to job losses.
Dutta portrayed the crisis very well, especially, with the suicide case of the typist or with the story of Ananto Paul. Anonto used to repair mechanical clocks. Digital clocks replaced mechanical ones and he lost his livelihood. His only hope was the local replica of ‘Big Ben’. But even that was destroyed. Ananto was depressed and he jumped off the clock tower.
Dutta has a very good understanding of history and socio-political matters. The film did not create any metanarrative of ghosts. The ghost in the film is a part of the reality. If you are enthusiastic about socio-political representation in films, particularly freedom of expression, definitely go for watching Bhobishyoter Bhoot.
ASM Riad Arif is a young communication specialist and cultural activist.
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