Movie review: Gangor based on Mahasweta Devi’s Choli ke Peeche

Literature has no gender, no religion and no boundary. Indian literature, a genre in itself, has been fascinating directors from the overseas film industry and going global through cinematic adaptation. “Choli ke Peeche” (Behind the Bodice), a short story by Mahasweta Devi a renowned Bengali writer, got visual expression on the silver screen through the lens of an Italian filmmaker Italo Spinelli.

Italo Spinelli traveled all the way to India in order to hold his camera lens to the exploitation of tribal women and the contemptuous political situation in the rural backwaters of West Bengal, an Indian state. ‘Gangor‘ based on the short story “Choli Ke Peeche” is a take on the victimization of women through gang rape, a widespread social crime. The movie also focuses on the practice of unethical journalism.

Adil Hussain’s Upin, a veteran photo-journalist, goes to an impoverished region of Purulia in order to do reporting on the violence against poor tribal women. While photographing the women workers at a local firm in Purulia, Upin comes across Gangor sitting in the shade and breast-feeding her child in lap. Upin photographs her with a focus on the moments of breastfeeding. Initially, Gangor refuses to be photographed. Upin ignores her mild refusal and pays to her for the photographs. Neither of them is aware of the future consequences. Upin’s interest in the dusky beauty of Gangor is ambivalent from the beginning.

When an article on ‘Stop Rape’ along with a picture of Gangor breastfeeding her child is published on the front page of a Bengali daily. The lives of Upin and Gangor take an unexpected turn introducing a tragic twist in the story. Gangor’s world turns upside down the moment the newspaper reaches her village.

She falls prey to bitter backlash from the villagers. She loses her daily work at the brick firm. Her misery doubles, when she becomes homeless. The picture of her breastfeeding incites the local police to exploit her physically. The police start chasing her in quest of carnal pleasure. Taking advantage of the ill-fated Gangor’s helplessness, the flesh-hungry vultures in the guise of public life’s saviors take her forcibly to the police station and gang rape her.

In the meantime, Upin realizes the blunder that he has committed by publishing the photograph in the newspaper. He senses what might have happened to Gangor due to his mistake. Stung by repentance, Upin leaves for Purulia and goes to the village in search of Gangor. To his utter surprise, he does not find her whereabouts in the village. No one knows where she has gone or what has become of her. Even her husband and mother-in-law keep mum.

Upin keeps wandering in and around the village in search of Gangor for weeks. He goes with his inquiries to the local police station, but the police officer advises him to leave the place and go back. Upin resolves to carry on his search and go to ‘the bottom of the story’. His determination shakes the officer. Later, Upin gets to know that Gangor has become a prostitute.

One night, he happens to meet her. Gangor ironically praises him for having taken her picture and published it. Out of anguish and anger, she keeps pressing him to photograph her again. She takes off blouse and reveals her breasts bitten and torn by the police during gang-rape. The sight leaves Upin speechless out of shock. Unable to bear the bites of his conscience, he begins running away from Gangor, and a vehicle rushing at a great speed chases him. Unaware of the way ahead in the dark of the night, Upin falls on the railway lines and comes under the wheels of train.

When the incident comes to the media eye, Gangor’s case reaches court. Her rapists are arrested and she is brought to court for justice. On the day of the hearing of her case, a group of women on the court premises take off their blouses in protest against rape, a heinous social crime.

The star cast of the movie is very strong. ‘Gangor’ deserves to be rated highest when it comes to acting. The cinematographer Marco Onorato has done an outstanding job by shooting the rural landscape of Bengal as real-life photography. The screenplay written by Antonio Falduto and Italo Spinelli in collaboration is stout and arresting from beginning to end. ‘Gangor’ is a joint production by Angelo Barbagallo, Isabella Spinelli and Vinod Kumar.

The details of the movie ‘Gangor’

  • Cast: Priyanka Bose, Adil Hussain, Tillotama Shome, Seema Rehmani, Priyanka Bose, Samrat Chakrabarti
  • Production designer: Gautam Basu
  • Editor: Jacopo Quadri
  • Music: Iqbal Darbar
  • Costume designer: Suchismita Dasgupta

(‘Gangor’ was screened at the 17th edition of Kolkata Film Festival)

by Sourav Agarwal, a senior content writer

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2 Replies to “Movie review: Gangor based on Mahasweta Devi’s Choli ke Peeche”

  1. Melvin Koeppen

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