The Baul way of life under the microscope
Question: Who is a Baul? Answer: A Baul is an artiste who sings songs of Lalon as well as other traditional and devotional rural songs. A simple and, frankly, quite typical answer to a question that can possibly stir up a deep discussion. To use the aforementioned overly simplistic description to define Bauls to a group of foreigners would be unjust. To define Bauls, one must understand the Baul way of life and devotion, as well as their way of searching the Divine within. A Baul is more than just a singer.
Hasibur Reza Kallol’s “Andho Nirangom” — the latest film on the philosophy of Fakir Lalon Shai and the lives of contemporary Bauls — starts with trying to define Bauls. An individual from a group of foreigners, who are about to attend Lalon Festival in Kushtia, presents the question to the Bangladeshi acquaintance/guide (enacted by AFM Moniruzzaman Shipu).
Done in a docu-fiction style, the film tries to unravel puzzles induced by Lalon’s doctrine.
As the group reaches the akhra (Lalon’s den in Chheuria), a narrator goes over Lalon’s story. The tourists come across Bauls as well as urban singers.
According to the narrator, Lalon was raised by his mentor Siraj Shai. Siraj Shai apparently found a seven-month-old Lalon by the river, though the last recent film on the mystic bard tries to establish that Lalon was found as an adult by Malam Karikar and raised as a son.
As the foreigners — escorted by their Bangladeshi friend and Baul Shafi Mandal — go out for sightseeing, they come across a boy named Munna. His singing ability mesmerises them. They want to know about him. And from this moment on the main plot of “Andho Nirangom” develops. Going beyond Munna’s story, it is a tale of two Bauls — Mataji (Rokeya Prachy) and her devotional partner Shamsher Shai (Jayanta Chattopadhyay).
The title of the film is borrowed from one of Lalon’s songs: “Chitto Mandotomo Andho Nirangom”. The film, in its on way of course, tries to shed light on Lalon’s deliberate will to remain childless. It is known that Lalon had no child and perhaps, he wanted his disciples to follow his examples. Mataji faces a dilemma when she finds out that two of her disciples have broken the rule. They ask Mataji, “If a child is not born, who would carry on the legacy?”
Apart from direction, Kallol also wrote the story and screenplay. Research for the film, however, seemed inadequate. “Andho Nirangom” is the first feature film produced by Ekushey Television. The main reason the film should be lauded is that it highlights Lalon’s philosophy and the Baul way of life. More educated views and observations on Lalon and Bauls, in the form of films and TV plays, are necessary.
Sanjeeb Ahmed and Reetu A. Sattar, along with Bauls and a group of foreigners have donned other important roles. As the film is on Lalon, music is an important part of it. Popular songs by Shafi Mandal, Anusheh Anadil, Bimol Das, Munna and Mamo will certainly appease the audience.
“Andho Nirangom” premiered on December 20 at Star Cineplex, Bashundhara Mall, Dhaka. The film will be released today (December 23).
-With The Daily Star input