India, 2008, 125 minutes
Tue, Apr 28 / 3:30 / Kabuki / CHAT28K
Wed, Apr 29 / 6:00 / Kabuki / CHAT29K
Fri, May 1 / 8:35 / PFA / CHAT01P
Based on Rabindranath Tagore’s 1916 novella, Chaturanga concerns Sachish, a young, upper caste Bengali who rebels against his conservative father and joins his reformist uncle in helping the lower caste. Sachish further scandalizes the family by offering to marry the pregnant mistress of his cavalier brother. Two unexpected tragedies—the young mother’s suicide and the beloved uncle’s death—turn Sachish increasingly toward the world he has criticized. He joins a religious cult and follows a path of Hindu asceticism that leads to disillusionment, fueled by unfulfilled desire and dysfunctional relationships with his best friend and a young widow. As in his first film, Herbert, Mukhopadhyay proves himself an idiosyncratic filmmaker concerned with the interiors of both places and people. Early on he shows Sachish’s father angrily dividing the ancestral property, then tracks the complex trajectory of his son—an idealist who straddles diametrically opposing habits of mind—from rational atheism to spiritual mysticism. Tagore’s novella has elsewhere been translated as “Quartet,” which captures the “foursomes” connoted by the original title: the four main characters and their interlocking relationships; the four elements of the classical Indian army; and the four-player version of chess. Mukhopadhyay uses an English title of comparable subtlety, referring to the four parts of the novella itself, a story of love both played as a game and fought as a war of ideas and caste struggle. Mukhopadhyay says Tagore’s story has been “provoking” him since his university days. “It interrogates our perception of human evolution [and] proposes an unending journey, a timeless quest.”
In Bengali with English subtitles. Presented with support from Denis P. Bouvier and in association with 3rd i. West Coast Premiere.