Many might have forgotten the sufferings of the millions of people who survived the super cyclone that hit Orissa coast on October 29, 1999 claiming thousands of human lives. But the wound that the killer storm created in the minds of the survivors, particularly the women who lost their husbands and children is yet to heal.
Almost seven years after the tragedy, a sincere effort has been made to capture the plight of the cyclone survivors in an Oriya feature film Kathantara.
The 116-minute film throws light on the trials and tribulations of the cyclone survivors with particular emphasis on Kalpana, a young woman whose husband was killed in the storm. Kalpana'sdestiny is followed from different perspectives and a tale of human predicament is built around her.
The film also depicts the uncertainty prevailing in the minds of the thousands of Bangladeshi settlers living in the hamlets on the Orissa coast for the past several decades, following the issuance of ?quit India? notice against them by the administration. Thus, Kathantara could be termed an attempt to depict the human miseries linked to two sensitive issues.
The film, which is slated for release later this year, is a presentation of Dr Achyuta Samanta, the Chancellor, KIIT Deemed University, who is the founder of Kadambinee Media Pvt. Ltd., has been produced by Iti Samanta, the editor of Kadambinee, Orissa'sNo.1 monthly family magazine. It has been directed by Himansu Khatua, whose debut film Sunya Swaroopa (Contours of the Void) won the national award for Best Oriya Feature Film in 1997. Well-known music director and lyrist Swarup Nayak has scored the music.
Kalpana, a cyclone widow, played by Anu Chaudhury, a leading actress in Oriya films, portrays the mental agony of both a cyclone survivor and a Bangladeshi settler who has been served a notice to leave the country of her birth. She worked hard on her look, walk, body language, dialogue delivery? everything. She'sbrilliant in every scene.
The trauma that Kalpana suffers to avail the compensation amount for the death of her husband, the difficulties she faces while living alone and the feeling of insecurity as shown in Kathantara are quite moving.
While her husband is killed in the cyclone, Kalpana miraculously survives. Her life limps back with the support from Akshaya, her childhood friend, and her compassionate sister-in-law, Rupa, played by Bhaswati Basu.
A cyclone widow herself, Rupa too is leading an equally miserable life, who dares to remarry. But the man who marries her has his eyes set on the money that she received as compensation for the death of her family members. While struggling with her second marriage on the rocks, Rupa advises Kalpana to marry someone to escape from the prying eyes of the local youths.
The film'snarrative, which unfolds with the observance of the anniversary of the cyclone, gives a clear picture of how the arrival of non-government organisations, media persons, politicians and vested interest groups in the aftermath of the storm affected the local value system.
Dipankar, a television journalist from Bangladesh, is engaged in documenting the cyclone anniversary and the status of the cyclone survivors with the help of a non-government organisation. He hears a lot about Kalpana, the much publicised cyclone widow, and takes interest to do a special feature on her.
Kalpana, tired of her own struggle for survival and very much bitter at her meaningless publicity in the media, firmly refuses to narrate her tale of woes before Dipankar.
The Bangladeshi journalist returns to his country, but makes a repeat visit without his camera. Fascinated with Kalpana'sinnocence, beauty and determination, Dipankar meets Kalpana and shares with her a lot of things about himself, his family and life in Dhaka and finally wants to put to end to her sufferings.
Caught between the thought of settling down with a person whom she hardly knows and the anguish of living a life full of misery and the frustration of the never-ending follow up for getting the compensation for the deaths in her family, Kalpana finds herself in a dilemma. But Rupa insists upon her that she should marry Dipankar who comes from the land of her forefathers.
Kalpana leaves for Kolkata with Dipankar. But during a brief stay there when Dipankar is trying to manage the travel documents for her, Kalpana feels that she could end up a misfit in the far-off urban settings of Dhaka and the memories of her motherland and her childhood days in Orissa will haunt her for the rest of her life. She also realises that she is a hot subject for Dipankar who is aiming to draw mileage by marrying her.
Kalpana finally decides to return and leaves the hotel in Kolkata without informing Dipankar. But before she departs, she records her life-story and leaves it for Dipankar to complete his feature.
On her return to Orissa, Kalpana finds the situation entirely different. The process of eviction of the Bangladeshi settlers has started despite protests by the affected people. She is also served a notice to leave the country immediately after she reaches her hamlet.
Kalpana'sdetermination to stay back in her birthplace and to reclaim her rights to live in the land of her birth makes her take a bold step. She visits her friend Akshaya and pleads before him to marry her to save her from leaving the country. And that is the beginning of Another Story.
Thus, Kathantara is brilliantly shot and passionately directed. The real star of a film is it'scontent, the script. Kathantara is a perfect example of that. It is a perfect example of team work. In today'scontext, when we are familiar watching fast-paced films with sleek camera work and stylized editing, the film not only fulfills the above measures, but its narrative is also pretty superb. Debaprasad Dash as a TV journalist from Bangladesh, Chaudhary Bikash Dash as an abusive husband, Rasesh Mohanty as the silent lover and Hadu, in a very small role of a street-smart villager excel in their respective roles. Mihir Swain, Chaudhary Jay Prakash Dash, Mamuni Mishra did justice with their characters. But the surprise packet is Bhaswati Basu as Rupa. She'ssimply superb. Masterly editing by Ravi Shankar Pattnaik and breathtaking cimematography by Sameer Mahajan makes Kathantara a must watch film. The film is rich in background score. Audiography by Manas Choudhry and Gitimugdha Sahani is pretty good and art direction by Amiya Maharana is realistic. Overall Kathantara, the first venture of Kadambinee Media, is a brilliant film.