(1)A boy orphaned at birth grows up making his flower garden, trancing a flower fairy of that garden as his illusioned mother. Like a fresh flower, he scents the world inside him apart from the realities of society. But when his flower is plucked eventually by the force of his fate, he discovers friendship, love, passion and finally hatred that drowns him, tearing his petals, under the water. (2)Phulkumar albeit aims for the subtlest nuances of emotion, is a comedy in the Chekhov's sense of the world - a visceral, inertly brooding study, of a children's coming-of-age in a half formed petit bourgeois limbo. Despite all the third world avant-garde stances this is a simple film, a sweet anti-ironic fairy tale. Written by
Consider the following statement: 'Oh let my camera record the desperation of the small countries. Oh how I hate you, the big nations, you always think that you are the only ones, and others should only be part of you and speak your language. Oh come, come the dictatorship of the small countries (Lost Lost Lost, Joans Mekas). The perplexity and resentment notwithstanding can we take that that the implications of this position only remain confined to artistic discourse or that even to a merely big-nation-small-nation-America-third world-center-margin matrix or rather lend itself to a metaphysical schema, an absolute will to hear oneself speak on it's own terms? Bear the question on mind when you watch Phulkumar because first time director Ashique Mostafa is essentially a rhetorician; getting a grip on his aesthetic strategy, as it were, at least for me, entail also an understanding that the very act of seeing and explaining the world of Phulkumar will not resemble anything that I have learnt before about that world and that in the events that take place on the screen, there is the itinerary of a constantly thwarted desire to make the story explain.
Forgive me; if I make it sound like this film has a slant to sale, because it does not. But, beware, Christmas shoppers, the story told here is the oldest chestnut there is and, that's not the point at all. Nonetheless this is the tale of the short life of one Mohammad Selim who lives with his grandmother in a town so pathetic and maddeningly stifling that it has forgotten it's name and time. The film's slight narrative action dwells around Selim and his flowers, as a matter of fact the turning point of the film takes place when his flower garden is destroyed, as it seemed to be causing allergic reactions to all the adults of the neighborhood.
All and sundry people that consists Selim's small world are somehow lost, exiles from an unstable srifs & the turbulence of the Big World connects and infects Selim's small world through a bridge: - the recurring image of the bridge is key to understand the oppressive isolation & almost classical melancholy of the characters of this film; Shirin also appears in Selim's world through this bridge diffidently wearing a borka (veil) & carrying a huge Belgium mirror in Rikshaw.
We are eventually introduced to the requisite characters the corrupt Mullah who moonlights as the pharmacist, shopkeepers, business woman, thieves, the power monger boss man & his three stooges, - three brothers who while not terrorizing the town are mesmerized to the TV set watching Bollywood musicals - and all these people nourish a furtive lust for Shirin & the rapport between their various personal forms the emotional clutter of the film.
Ashique privileged lyricism over narrative; although he mines social realist Bengali films- Sattyajit Ray, Tarun Sinha etc - for visual ideas his prime metier is Bollywood Brand camp as it is. He is using tools of a lapsed genre to topple a false structure that describe life on screen.
On one hand, he attempts to subvert the empathy of the audience with his characters; empathy that we assume is rooted in the recognition of a shared system of values between audience & filmmaker: the world he presents is more insular than he cares to admit people with unemotive amateurs; the protagonist permanently lodged deep in his own groove awkwardly presents himself to the camera evoking a stilted, blue airtightness of soul. On the other, Ashique deftly handles the disjointed small-scale dramas of the imagined lifes and whats on screen is so beautifully depicted, so elegant & intelligent that despite the nostalgia of/for the cold experimental credentials the mood of sadness & poetry & pulp sustains beyond the temporal frame of the film.
In the end one feels Phulkumar illustrates the taut tension of it's creators militant aestheticism & his need for purity. Phulkumar is a collage of Ashique's soul's contents; where innocence dies, strong & wicked wins, but there are no moral outrage, no bereavement because everything is just an illusion, nothing is real, all that matter is the fragile beauty of the art.
EBADUR RAHMAN, Author & Film Critic
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