Crisis brings out the best in people. The reaction to a moment of conflict reflects the human soul. But nature has everything in complements; every coin has two sides- human nature may be pure, may be contaminated by evil. In some critical junctures of life, people are blindfolded by a dark layer of pseudo-moralism creating rift between near and dears. Mrinal Sen presents a middle class household, a day in their pretentious life, how they react when a beautiful, young office going girl doesn’t return the whole night in his realistically portrayed 1979 film Akdin Pratidin.
Hrishikesh Sengupta (Satya Banerjee), with his wife, two boys and three daughters resides in an old North Calcutta house along with a circus of other tenants and the owner. The film starts with his youngest son (Kaushik Sen) being rushed to a local physician after injuring himself in the head while playing. It is a minor injury and the boy is sent home with his middle sister, Minu (Sreela Majumdar). The house is shabby, old and worn out; the family of seven lives in two rooms in the ground floor of the house. Afternoon passes on to evening and the eldest daughter, Chinu (Mamata Shankar) is late: she generally comes at that time every day. Their daily life is depicted very realistically as well as dramatically in the movie. The old father’s pension only caters to the rent; the needs and desires are fulfilled by Chinu’s income from her job. As evening rolls on to night tension descends on the minds of the family members as fear of something bad starts creeping in their minds. Minu goes to the dispensary cum telephone booth to call her elder sister’s office and learns that she has already left. Their father goes and stands in the bus stop in search of her. But their inner anxiety is suppressed in fear that their neighbours might know that the young, unmarried girl hasn’t come home so late in the night. When their young adult son returns late, about whom none bothers, they send him with his friend and his scooter to search for her.
The neighbours have their own theories about the disappearance; which instead of helping the family frightening for them. None but one, a man in thirties, assures them. When the police come, after being informed by Chinu’s brother, they tell the father to visit the hospital as a body similar to the description has been found in the railway tracks. Meanwhile the brother visits the morgue, views the bodies there and vomits in disgust. The father along with the Good Samaritan visits the hospital to find people from different strata there, searching for their daughter, sister or wife. They are relieved to find that the body found isn’t Chinu’s. As they return home and wait for Chinu starts anew, family ties breaks amidst flinging accusations. As dawn approaches, a car stops and the young boy cries in joy. Minu opens the door to the now unwelcomed Chinu, everyone moves away from her, alienates her without wanting an explanation.
But when the owner tells them to vacate citing that this is a gentleman’s home questions the morality of a young woman spending the night out, the brother defends her sister and attacks him. The next morning everything starts as usual, the mother lighting the furnace, some housewives washing clothes and utensils and so on.
The presentation of harsh reality is wonderfully depicted in the film. When a young girl fights and earns for her family like a boy generally does it is alright to everyone. When she does not marry the boy of her liking to cater her family’s needs, everyone dances in joy. But when the same girl whose sole interest is for the well-being of her family, does not return the whole night, her own family questions her character, questions her loyalty. There is a sense inside them that makes them worry about their fate if she does not return at all rather than worrying about her. The neighbours in the building are mostly hypocrites; they don’t help but at the same time don’t leave an opportunity to criticize. The middle class morality with vague values, tradition of no use is prevalent in the film.
The mostly dark lighting is at par with the darkness in the hearts of the characters. The close ups of the characters shows their despair, sometimes hope and their pain.The shooting on location in an old house, the rooms full of day to day items nothing too arty, nothing too expensive showcases the true lifestyle of the lower middle class. The answer that the film does not provide is where actually Chinu was the whole night. But is that important? What’s important is the crisis created by it, how the ugly face of darkness surfaces from the deepest corners of the human heart.
Film Score: 83
Director: Mrinal Sen Screenplay: Mrinal Sen, Amalendu Chakrabarty (story) Cinematography: K.K Mahajan Editing: Gangadhar Naskar Production Design: Suresh Chandra Music: B.V Karnath Cast: Mamata Shankar, Sreela Majumdar, Satya Banerjee, Gita Sen, Kaushik Sen