‘Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls’

A review of Shankhachil – 2016 Bengali film by Gautam Ghose By Abhinandan Bhattacharya

In the surging ripples of the meandering river one is most likely to hear the symphony of the universe. Does the river understand the definition of state or country borders? Can any force stop the flow of the river or refuse to accept the waters of the river because it flowed in from the other side of the border? The map of the biggest delta in the world has undergone a complete change with the water bodies gradually wiping out many differences set by human beings. The tigers and crocodiles have eaten their way into the geography of the region only to remind their human counterparts that there is more to life than engaging in conflicts on grounds of caste, gender and religion.

Shankhachil, one of the most brilliant Bengali films that I have watched in the recent times, is midwifed into existence from the Indo-Bangladesh dispute after the Partition touching upon the very fabric of the sensitive Hindu-Muslim religious bigotry. Dangling on the philosophy of ‘borderless border’, acclaimed Director Gautam Ghose has wonderfully echoed the appeal of ‘Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls’. Extremely well-spun montages have emphasised yet once again that we need to rise above our religious differences and start considering one another as human beings.

A poignant narrative of how a helpless father is compelled to cross border illegally just to get proper treatment for his twelve-year old daughter who is born with a congenital heart disorder. As a respectable school teacher, Muntasir Chaudhury Badol (Prosenjit Chatterjee) lives in his humble dwelling with his wife, Laila (Kusum Sikder) and daughter, Roopsha (Shajbati) in a little hut along the majestic Ichamati River that connects Bangladesh to India. Shankhachil (or Brahminy Kite in English) is a bird symbolizing freedom, a thought which, sadly, resides in a poet’s imagination only. Badol is a true Mussalman preaching about peace and silently sobbing in the face of communal violence that tends to tear the society apart.

A fine specimen of a crossover film and winner of the National Film award in the category of the Best Feature Film in Bengali, Shankhachil, talks painfully of the plight of the immigrants not because of the Partition but because of the prejudiced mindset of the so-called civilised and literate society who derive some sadistic pleasure in inciting communal hatred instead of finding ways to plant a proper pacemaker (read ‘peacemaker’). Muntasir and Laila lose their innocent Roopsha while navigating through this heart of darkness. But he is a proud father as he lost his daughter who had won in a different battle.

All countries look the same. Human beings respond to various stimuli in the same manner in all countries. Must we respond to communal hatred and indifference too in the same manner? Isn’t life too short to engage in such petty things? Does it cost a single penny to speak forth words of love without thinking about your and my religion? Isn’t everyone on earth ‘fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapon, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer’?

It’s time to introspect. It’s time to reflect. It’s time to be educated. Once again.

Abhinandan Bhattacharya is a Secondary school teacher of English Language and Literature training students at the CAIE and IBDP levels at JBCN International School, Oshiwara, Mumbai. He has been honoured with several professional merits in the form of Nation Builder Award by the Rotary Club of Mumbai and the Dedicated Teacher Award 2019 by Cambridge University Press in a campaign run by the University of Cambridge and CUP witnessing more than 40,000 nominations from across 150 countries worldwide. He is a published poet and writer winning the National level Poetry Writing Competition in 2019 organised by Story Mirror Schools Writing Competition. Today, he is a certified teacher trainer and mentor not only to his learners but to countless teachers as well.

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