Bisorgo, now streaming on MX Player, is an allegory for art versus an artless existence
Story: During the course of a night, a man on the verge of dying by suicide, stumbles upon various people who attempt to change his decision
Arunava Khasnobis’ absurdist satire Bisorgo contemplates on the moral degradation of a society without art. Spread across the events of one night, Bisorgo follows four men and a woman as they meander in the empty streets of Kolkata, each reassessing their purpose and their contribution to society.
The film begins with Biswa (literal: the world) (Biswajit Ghosh), an artist, who has lost the will to create, and thus wants to end his life. He runs from pillar to post, from the railway tracks to high-rise buildings, to kill himself. But as fate would have it, is apprehended every time. In his quest to find the most appropriate manner to die, he stumbles upon Darshan (literal: philosophy) (Prasun Gayen), a candy seller, who persistently tries to convince him otherwise.
Elsewhere, there is Ishwar (The Almighty) (Debranjan Nag), a curmudgeonly figure who is supposed to be God himself. His aim is to dispense peace through his deputy, a sex worker named Shanti (literal: peace) (Manali Chakravarty). He’s disappointed with Shanti for her inability to soothe more men. It’s heartening that Khasnobis makes a sex worker the harbinger of peace. Yet, she is forced to gratify more men. While this writer understands the importance of show-not-tell, too much of what Khasnobis tries to convey fails to take off from the page.
Another man, called Satya (literal: truth) (Nitish Biswas), is desperately looking for an address, but is unable to find his destination. It is a post-truth world, where Ishwar and his underling Darshan refuse to guide Satya anymore. At one point, Darshan scoffs at Satya declaring he has been incorrectly christened. “You should instead be called Mithya (lie),” Darshan jeers, deriding him for failing to keep an eye on Biswa. Truth has failed the world, leading it astray. But what does all this philosophising amount to?
The quirky characters and their heightened emotions will rattle even the most patient viewer. Make no mistake, there is nothing more gratifying to watch than characters unleash the idiosyncrasies on viewers. But the characterization is flimsy and one-note, and keep on repeating catchphrases that lose steam by the first act itself. Often, in a bid to intellectualise his art versus worldliness philosophy, the filmmaker ends up delivering a vacuous and ambiguous hodgepodge of disparate half-baked thoughts.
Bisorgo may have been a potential genre-redefining film like Safdar Rahman’s Chippa (2019) on paper. But it seems the film lost much of its appeal in translation. The low angle, almost diagonal shots are perhaps an indication of an alternate universe. Shot in a guerrilla style, the film hops from location to another, drenched in the yellow halo of the blinking night lamps. But the night sky, the empty streets and the yellow lights make the city look like a homogenous entity. We travel from Jorasanko Thakurbari to the sinuous bylanes of North Kolkata without quite identifying any of the landmarks. It seems like a creative choice on part of the director to mirror how society itself has lost its individuality in the absence of creative energy. Visually though, the film feels exhausting.
It is a feat to make an 83-minute-long movie seem unbearably lengthy. Often, the filmmaker seems to undermine the substance in favour of style. The music occasionally feels gimmicky, even tacky to an extent. Even if there was a more profound explanation to the choice of music – a mix of trumpet, violin and pipe – it has eluded this writer, like many aspects of this film.
Further, even at the end, you are not sure what Bisorgo has attempted to convey. Is it that – God, the source of absolute knowledge, is dead, so it’s on humanity to steer the race forward; is it that a world without art is not worth living; or is film itself an allegory for a debate on optimism versus nihilism?
Notwithstanding, there are moments in the film that are crafted so well that you can’t help but feel regretful of this missed opportunity of a movie. In one scene, an almost-defeated Biswa confesses to Shanti that he is exhausted, stripped of all creative juices and his husk craves calm. In the background can be heard the tune of ‘Tum bhi chalo, hum bhi chale, chalti rahe zindagi.’ The chirpy music almost mocks the man who has lost the ability to articulate. He does not even remember how to express in words the vacuity he experiences, so he hand-gestures to convey his lack of purpose.
Moreover, Debranjan Nag’s take on the cantankerous Almighty is beautifully bizarre. He ruefully laments how Hindi cinema has shaped people’s perception of God. It is nearly not as funny as the exchange between Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar about the popular perception of Krishna in OMG: Oh My God! (2012), but Nag is consistently delightful even with limited material to bank on.
The rest of the characters are even sketchier. There is no context to why these people, or elements, interact the way they do. Even the division of the movie into three acts feels indulgent and misplaced. In a multi-linear narrative, where the scenes are anyway shuttling from one to another, the acts don’t necessarily serve their purpose to chart the crests and troughs of the story. It’s extraneous and a definitive obstacle towards narrative coherence.
Verdict: It is ironic that a film speaking about directionlessness itself loses its path even before the viewers have gotten the opportunity to grasp the film’s essence. It is an admirable vision, but it would perhaps have been better if the script of Bisorgo spent some more time inside the incubator.