Thought Box

A touch of class

A touch of class

by Khalid Mohamed April 14 2020, 9:33 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 54 secs

Review of Season’s Greetings, a short film which probes sexual identities

Khalid Mohamed

When the camera lingers on the faces of two women – a mother and a daughter about to meet in Kolkata after a prolonged hiatus – you’re drawn close to them. The mash-up of feelings, their mutual regard, and  their deep-rooted differences, are palpable.

This is how it is, perhaps you say to yourself, among many inchoately-ageing parents and their grown-up children. Both generations crave independence on their own terms and yet hope they can keep the umbilical cord intact. In fact,  director Ram Kamal Mukherjee and his co-writer Ranjib Mazumder, convey the uncertainty of feelings at best, when there are pauses in the 42-minute short film Season’s Greetings, scheduled to open on Zee 5 on April 15.

Distanced as we are today from people – our friends, neighbours and relatives – the film reminds us that relationships, nurturing and preserving them, are of paramount importance. Designed as a tribute to the late auteur filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh, the work weaves in the theme of same-gender love and refers to trans-sexuality – without coming apart at the seams.

The result serves as an indoorsy chamber piece – much like Aparna Sen’s Sonata (2017)  – and despite the irksome verbosity at times and excessive dips into prose and poetry (including songs by Rabindranath Tagore), sharply focuses on an evening in the life of its two lead female protagonists.

Suchitra (Lillete Dubey), separated from her husband for over 15 years, lives in a neatly-appointed home in a traditional ‘bari’, attended to by a household help Chapala (Shree Ghatak), a trans-gender. Much fuss and fret is on in the kitchen, to welcome Suchitra’s daughter Romita (Celina Jaitly) and her live-in boyfriend Uman (Azhar Khan). “Omigawd,” the help squeals. “If they get married, will our Romi become a Muslim, perform namaaz?”

She won’t. This point on the rising belief in secularism – among sensible individuals - has already been answered in the film’s opening scene. Romita and her boyfriend work in the UAE, he has popped the question and has no issues if she doesn’t ‘convert’ or change her birth-name. Incidentally, their love-making is aesthetically picturised in a swishy hotel suite and moments later, it’s emphasised that despite their compatibility, both are on the edge about the “welcome back home” dinner.

Will there be recriminations, arguments, the disclosure of secrets and lies?

Cut to the bonhomie at the dining spread, and steadily the table turns. Romita has always been resentful about her parents’ separation, about being denied the joys of childhood which has been incomplete because of a father who just left the home and the hearth one fine day. Reason? Now, that’s where I’ll stop or I’d ruin  the punch-line of this family drama. Indeed, the last 10 minutes or so of the acrimonious reunion between a mother and her child pack in an emotional wallop. Or get to the chase.

Clearly, the effort could have been way more powerful if it hadn’t sought to be obtuse with the overuse of reflections, mirror shots and reams of dialogue. Redeemingly, there are those remarkable pauses and swift flashbacks. Yet intermittently, you do wish the conflict between Suchitra and Romita had been bolder. That’s my subjective view, needless to stress. Director Mukherjee has chosen to narrate an LGBQTI story from behind a curtain so to speak, and reboot the near-extinct mode of subtlety. To be sure Rituparno Ghosh would have approved – whether unconditionally, I’m not so sure.

Given its many pros and a few cons, Season’s Greetings is notches above the commonplace. The director invests dignity and grace to a  plot about sexual preferences, and is ably served by the technical crew, in particular the cinematographer Pravatendu Mondal.

Of the cast, trans-gender actor Shree Ghatak is impressive. Debutant Azhar Khan, over bulging with biceps, does indicate potential. Without a doubt, the show belongs to the remarkably moving performances by Celina Jaitly and Lillete Dubey who play at counterpoint. Ms Jaitly conveys her mood swings strikingly and appears to be drawing from her own welter of personal experiences - of the irreconcilable loss of her own parents. And Ms Dubey is bankably nuanced: uber confident and self-doubtful simultaneously.Those are tough acts to pull off.

So for them, Season’s Greetings under the direction of Ram Kamal Mukherjee, turns out to be a short film with a touch of class.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.