Exploring Modernity & Its' Side-Effects In Aparna Sen’s 'Yugant'!

By Dipankar Sarkar. Posted on May 07, 2016

Yugant (The End of an Era) is Aparna Sen's fourth directorial venture. Unlike her previous films, Yugant was not shot by the veteran Ashok Mehta. In fact from this film onwards, Sen started working with different cinematographers that included Abhik Mukhopadhyay, Hemant Chaturvedi, the acclaimed Bengali film director Goutam Ghose and others.

The narrative of the film follows the travails of a couple & their failed relationship. While their past life is shown in a series of flash-backs, the sea polluted by conspicuous consumerism, symbolizes the current state of their relationship.

Two Individuals, Two Mindsets

The two protagonists of the film, Deepak (Anjan Dutt) and Anusuya (Roopa Ganguly), are an estranged couple who decide to spend a week together in the fishing village, where they had spent their honeymoon seventeen years ago. The narrative of the film unfolds in a day's time.

The film represents a clinical study of the marriage between two artistically inclined people. As the story unfolds through flashbacks, the progression of events leading to the schism between the couple is shown. Despite angry denunciations flying back and forth and the sense of grievance on both sides, the difficult truth is that both of them are to be equally blamed for the failure of their marriage.

The temporary reunion between the couple, seems like a brief moment of togetherness before the final separation. As individuals, there seem to be no obvious flaws in their characters. But on close scrutiny, we find their egos unmanageable and that forms the very core of their struggles.

With each moment they spend together only seems to dredge up old quarrels. After seventeen long years of marriage, they've grown apart and must now decide, if they can still find a reason to stay together.

One particular scene from their past displays their arrogance, when Deepak doesn’t allow Anasuya to travel to Bangalore because of her pregnancy. He disconnects the telephone and locks the door. Anasuya tries to reason with him, both physically as well with her logical arguments.

But she can't get him to change his mind and her immediate reaction to the situation is consuming a handful of sleeping pills, which doesn't have the intended effect, thanks to the timely intervention of her husband. As her revenge, she aborts the child without informing her husband.

The Personal & The Professional

Deepak and Anasuya carry contradictory tendencies in the practical manifestation of their respective professional ideals, which is another reason for the ensuing variance amongst them. Deepak works in advertising industry whereas Anasuya is a classical dancer of repute. Though both the professions are creative in nature, yet given an opportunity, they leave no chance to pass derogatory remarks on each other's profession and ethical values.

In the sequence where a party is thrown to celebrate Deepak's award winning campaign, at one particular moment Anasuya calls people working in advertising as ‘pimps in the disguise of creative artists’. While in another scene, the now emotionally affected Anasuya confides that she was deeply moved after watching the plight of the dying seagull drenched in oil due to the spill taking place during the Gulf War. She also says it served her as an inspiration for a wonderful creation. It's now Deepak's turn to accuse her of using tragedy to fuel her dance compositions.

A World Torn Apart

Nature serves as a very important motif in framing the situations in which the two lonely souls find themselves in. The sea acts as a symbolic agent, an  observer of the couple attempting to salvage their marriage. As the film begins, we are informed that the trucks carrying the hacked down pine trees are from the location where supposedly a five –star hotel will be erected in distant future.

Even the character of Bhaiya (Kunal Mitra), an activist fighting against the building of the dam that has caused loss of land and malnutrition among the helpless inhabitants of that place, and his subsequent death highlights the disintegration of their marital relationship in the larger context of the disintegration of ecology and values all around.

The film revolves around the failure of modern civilization, tying the first Gulf war & the ecological disasters while steering towards the final moment of the narrative to an apocalyptic ending. With a reference to the Gulf War, the director draws a parallel between the distance that has formed between the couple, the distance between mankind and nature and the idea that mankind can no longer understand its own nature, let alone the natural world.

The appearance of the tortoise towards the end and the coincidental spotting of the reptilian Deepak, as prophesied by the fisherman, brings a drastic change in Deepak's life and his relationship with Anasuya, serving as a dramatic closure of the film.

The film was honored with two awards at the 43rd National Film Awards in 1995. Sen won an award for the Best Film in Bengali whereas the the Award for Best Choreography was given to Ileana Citaristi, who till date remains the only National Award recipient of Italian origin.

Yugant was also screened at international festivals like the Alexandria International Film Festival, Fribourg International Film Festival. Citaristi was also awarded the Padma Shri for her contributions to the Odissi dance form by the government of India and her other credits include M.F. Husain's Meenaxi and Gautam Ghose's Abar Aranye.

Dipankar Sarkar is a graduate in film editing from the Film & Television Institute of India. He was selected in 2007 for the Talent Campus organised by the Osian Film Festival. He's currently working as an independent film and video editor.


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