Ashish Avikunthak's Rati Chakravyuh again reminds us how certain better experiences in cinema arises out of an act which - many opines - cinema is to oppose: writing. The film is a tour-de-force of language. To be more specific - certain registers of Bengali language which we thought will never return or appear in Bengali cinema: ornate and efflorescent, pornographic and horrific, pedantic and colloquial. To appreciate what these registers conveyed needs multiple viewings, might be even a reading of the screenplay; but an initial impression is that of a vortex of history, recalled through a post-'70s consciousness, articulated when the surveillance of the cultural superego is in its weakest guard. It is hard to recollect any other Bengali film which is relentless in its engagement with the exhilaration of bodies and destruction of it. Yes, as far as an off-the-beaten-track Bengali cinema is concerned, I can recall no other Bengali film dealing with sex and violence in a way that is not bothered whether censorship - during articulation or before exhibition - exists. That this is entirely happening at the level of speech is just a quantitative difference.
|Rati Chakravyuh Trailer|
Rati Chakravyuh deals with lots of cinematic concerns which a sketchy initial impression won't do enough justice, e.g. the notions of cinematic time, narrative temporality, a 'spiral'-ing structure of narrative, the experience of duration, a fictional cinema without perspectives (both optical and the past-present-future of characters and events), the banishment of spatial and temporal background-mid-foreground structure, delayed or denied countershots, voices floating out of bodies, bodies as vehicles of speech etc. Admitting that it is trying to radically change the conventional cinematic experience with considerable success, and playing the devil's advocate, I wish to use this space to trigger certain questions.
|Filmmaker Ashish Avikunthak|
Is the film an instance of an 'autocratic authorship' when cinema is bared-to-the-bones ecriture, the act of ‘inscription’? Without going into the intricacies of what constitutes the 'author/auteur' of a film, and starting from a notion that the person(s) who 'write(s) and conceptualize(s)' is/are the 'auteur' - this film shows how the choice of a rigorous formal device - the circular track around stationed actors in this case - almost exhausts the creative inputs of other collaborators - the actors, the cinematographer - reducing their work into nothing but labour. Both the performances (acting and shooting) and spectation boil down to a patient endurance of duration - one starts looking for signs of fatigue in the actors, a slip in the shifts of focus, an inadvertent pause between dialogues, the camera catching an actor brushing her hair when she suddenly gathers herself in awareness - errors in this perfect feat of a performance. The film turns into a single-performance event where the means might turn out to be an end.
Because what ultimately remain are the words. I am not very impressed by the actors; so the performances add almost nothing. I was a bit tired of the monotony of shot-scales. I would have expected rhythms of changing lightscapes, the tracking shots almost slowing down into stasis sometimes to pick up the motion again. Therefore at the end it becomes a radio-play devoid of any cinema. Something the author(s) inscribed.