Seeing Jatiswar for the first time today was one of those 'wow' moments that come rarely in life. It's sad that I saw it so late. But better late than never. And more enriching was the adda with Srijit Mukherji, the director of the movie. We met after more than 5 years.
It's no point in writing a review of this film about which so much has been written that there's not much I can add now. But I can't help presenting the excerpts of the enriching adda.
Three (Autograph, Baishe Shrabon & Jatishwar) out of his five films go back and forth in time, delving into and rediscovering something about the past. When told about this, Riju, as I know him, mentioned that's exactly how he is. While working in Calcutta, suddenly something form the past, may be an anecdote from his Bangalore days, may come to his mind and he may keep on drifting between the present and past. And this particular thing manifests so well in Jatishwar, which has parallel narratives from the preset and past, seamlessly woven into a single story.
As the name implies, it's about reincarnation, but that's where its similarity with any other movie of this genre ends. I don't think any other reincarnation movie has handled the cliched theme in the way Riju has done in Jatishwar. He said, most things we do, see, hear, are actually reincarnations of something from the past. A forgotten song may be resurrected hundred years later and presented in a new form. A lost story may surface many years later and touch our hearts. Even genetically, a ancient forefather may reappear on the earth as a totally new person, still with the looks, thoughts and senses of her ancestor. Thoughts seldom die, they just reappear in newer avatars. Everything has reincarnation. Jatishwar presents parallel stories of reincarnation, sometime in the form of a reincarnated song, sometime as a lovelorn Gujrati boy who wants to woo a Bengali girl by composing a Bengali song, sometime as a girl, who in her previous avatar had inspired a Portuguese colonialist who had fallen in love with the Bengali music of the eighteenth century and started composing songs in Bengali.
As is apparent, music plays a very important role in the movie and Suman Chatterjee, who had resurrected Bengali music in the 90s, very aptly created a magic, which fetched him the National Award for best music. The last song, which fetched the National Award for Best Male Playback singer for Rupankar, is indeed a masterpiece, a collage of reincarnated forms of music which may be more than hundred years old. The structure of the song, the melody, the lyrics, remind us of various forms of popular music from the eighteenth and nineteenth century Bengal.
The movie is also an authentic reproduction of a genre of music known as Kabi-gaan (it translates loosely to bard-song), a form of musical duel between two groups represented by their respective lead singers. It was a popular form of entertainment in the nineteenth century. Not much has remained about this form of music and it was a herculean task for Riju to painstakingly do the research and fill in the gap with as much authenticity as possible. In his own words, it was like a detective story, taking insignificant clues from scattered sources and gradually discovering the true essence of the kabi-gaan. It's a great learning experience too for the viewers who otherwise don't have much options to now about this particular form of Bengali music.
Finally a few words about the performance. Prosenjit, in both the incarnations is brilliant. This is perhaps his best performance till date. Others have done a great job too. But the main hero of the movie is perhaps Suman, the music composer, one of whose older songs, also called Jatishwar, was the seed for this movie. The song Jatishwar talks about the love stories which keep on appearing in newer avatars, from time to time across ages, across countries, across cultures. That's also what the multilevel movie is about, at one level.