Film: "Tasher Desh" ("The Land of Cards"); Cast: Joyraj Bhattacharjee, Rii Sen, Soumyak Kanti De Biswas, Anubrata Basu, Tilotamma Shome, Tinu Verghis, Imaad Shah, Maya Tideman, Roxane Hauzeur amd Audrey Miras; Director: Quashik Mukherjee; Rating: **
You'd either love "Tasher Desh" or hate it, but you can definitely not ignore it. This NFDC (National Film Development Corporation)-presented Bengali film released under PVR Director's Rare Banner is pitched as a quirky adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's edgy fantasy.
The narration has three layers bursting with lessons of life, regarding rules, hopes, desires and fate.
It's a story about society and culture, of brotherhood and winds of destiny, of acceptance and revolution. It's a journey of twosomes and foursomes, of abstract and reality.
It's a tale of a storyteller roaming on railway platforms talking to all and sundry, looking out for his muse to narrate the only story he knows; the story of a depressed, banished prince, Rajputro, and his friend, Sadagarputro, the merchant's son.
It is only after confiding in his friend that Rajputro realises that his miseries are his own calling. So, they invoke an oracle. The oracle passes on the message of liberation. The prince decides to break free, so with the blessings of his mother, he sets out for an adventure.
Unfortunately, they get shipwrecked on an island with people of strange culture. The inhabitants of the island who live by rules that govern their lives call themselves "Cardsa". They capture the two intruders for defying their customs. The two are pronounced guilty and banished.
But before they are banished, the prince asks for a last word, and takes the opportunity to whisper the same message of liberation he received from the oracle to a few of the card women. The result is chaos. The women are completely shaken, and soon the land of cards sees dissent for the first time.
The cards are used as an excellent analogy for society. While Rabindranath Tagore's writing is simple and lucid. Director Q's treatment of the film is very non-figurative, dramatic and musical like in a music video. It is a grand tour of illusion.
The absurdity of the narration would either leave an impact on the viewer or throw him off-guard.
Initially, the dialogues are far in between, intriguing and filled with riddles. The setting is intense, acting exaggerated and costumes bizarre.
The visuals are filled with montages of pseudo-erotic images, some consisting multiple frames. The shots have dramatic lighting and angles. More often than not, the camera work is unsteady and jarring.
The only good thing is the music and of course the lyrics are a part of Rabindranath Tagore's literature.
For those who do not understand Bengali, one needs patience for the film to grow on you to decipher what's happening on screen. And by the time the final song rolls out with patriotic gusto with lyrics that screech: "Break every barrier, let your mind break free/ Do you have the courage? It's a long way to freedom, be free, be pure", and you will probably understand and appreciate "Tasher Desh".
Or else, as one of the characters say at the very beginning of the film, "You will never understand. Nothing is real. In reality, everything is a fantasy, fiction."
Accept the film the way it is.