Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Hirak Rajar Deshe

#HirakRajarDeshe Sometimes revisiting a classic creation that stands the test of time makes us feel that special awe about the genius of the creator and rediscover many other facets hidden in small little things. One such experience that I had today was wahile watching the movie " Hirak Rajar Deshe " by chance. I don't really remember how many times I have seen the movie because this was a staple for my son during his summer holidays or other vacations . I had first watched the movie in 1980 but even after watching it so many times , I find something new with the movie.

And therein lies the genius of the master . Their creations conquer time and has an universal appeal . To put the perspective of the discussion in its proper context , we need to understand that Satyajit Ray made this movie as a statement against authoritarianism and dictatorship . Like many other people Ray was also disturbed, troubled and anguished with the imposition of Emergency rule by Mrs Gandhi's government. But he did not join a protest march or a political party to speak against it. He just did what he could do best . He made a film . That too a children's film with a structure layered in satire with witty but simple commonplace dialogues . He took so much care to ensure that the format remained simple to avoid censorship and yet convey what he wanted to say.

Hirak Rajar Deshe literally means The land of the Diamond king. The plot narrates the continuation of the adventures of the two protagonists Goopi Gayen and Bagha Bayen from the previous movie named after them . Incidentally , these characters were created by Ray's grandfather Upendrakishore in a tale of fantasy for children.
Goopi , a failed singer and Bagha , a lousy drumbeater were two simpletons who chanced upon the Bhooter Raja , the king of ghosts who transforms their lives by granting them three boons and pairs of shoes each . This enables them to travel anywhere by clapping hands doing a high five , order whatever food they think of and lastly , the power to transfix people by their music . Their lives are totatally transformed and they marry two princesses and enjoy life as kings .

All this happen in the epynomous story and movie Goopie Gyne Bagha Byne (1967) . But HRD begins as Goopie and Bagha venture out to the land of the Diamond King to attend a big function as guests of state .There, their musical performance wins the heart of everybody . But hidden behind the pomp and show of the kingdom lies the grim story of despotic rule by the king. People are signed up as bonded labours to procure diamonds from mines , schools are dissolved and farmers taxed with atrocious rates. The people have no hopes left in the face of oppression unleashed by the Hirok Raja . The diabolical punishment meted out to people in this land for not conforming is Magaj Dholai i.e. Brainwashing through a machine invented by a greedy scientist . The king is a megalomaniac and always surrounded by his pet acolytes . The poet laureate sings paens in his praise and the court astrologer also makes predictions which suit the king .

Goopie and Bagha are startled by the facts which they experience and befriend Udayan Pandit , an ousted teacher who leads the resistance. After he is arrested , Goopie Bagha saves him from being brainwashed and the country is freed from oppression by the King and his cohorts being brainwashed by people's power. The dictatorship of the king ends in dismantling of the giant statue of the king by people joined by the king himself symbolising a peaceful revolution.

The simple story is formatted as a satire and the dialogue is in rhymes . The sheer genius of Ray peeps through this rhymes , some of them have become folklore. Even a person with a low IQ will understand the story without any help whereas the discerning viewer can get the intrinsic message through the layer of satire and buffoonery. Apart from directing the movie ,Ray has written the story, scripted the screenplay , composed the music and and written the songs and dialogues too among other things. Utpal Dutta portrayed the king and perhaps noone else could have done this role any better. Soumitra Chatterjee as Udayan pandit , Robi Ghosh as Bagha and Topen Chatterjee as Goopie are the other memorable actors among a cast of very competent actors. Very interestingly, there is no female character in this movie .

My favourite are the rhyming lines by the king and his minister and I love the scene with the tiger . Singing a song based on Carnatic music , Goopie tries to neutralise a tiger guarding the keys while Bagha helps himself to the jewels . The song, the scene and the acting is superb and most people who have seen the movie will immediately recollect it. Hirak Rajar Deshe was made on a very small budget and was a big hit. It is still shown regularly on TV channels and children love it . Grownups also would not like to miss it once they watch a scene or two .

The beauty of the movie is such that people of any age, race or language will understand this movie . But knowing Bengali will add to the fun ten times over. A very serious message packaged in the most simple satire. After watching this movie one can only wonder at the vast reservoir of talent this person had and why he will always be considered as a towering intellect across the span of time. His other works may have been more acclaimed but Hirok Rajar Deshe stands out due to its simplicity. A childlike creation for the children and yet a big slap on the face of all despots . Chaplin had his Great Dictator , Ray provided us with HRD. Such uncluttered excellence which provides an awesome experience to the viewer.

Try to see the movie , if you can . You will not regret my advice , if you can. And the story will seem so contemporary that you will wonder if it was made 35 years back or is it really pointing to the present day situation. #SatyajitRay .

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