Ek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Ratein: Of flawed heroes and redemption

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

By Arpita De for Wishberry
Ek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Ratein, Poster, Wishberry, Sharad Raj, indie film, crowd funding
You... perhaps it was my fancy... Forgive me for referring to it; I fancied you were crying, and I... could not bear to hear it... it made my heart ache: Fyodor Dostoevsky
The 1980s were a turbulent period for India. The art that came out of these times is reflective of the constant ups and downs that the nation’s social fabric was trying to process. The rise of Naxalbari, wars with neighbouring nations, internal communal riots, factory blackouts, the assassination of the one of the most polarising figures in politics that led to a bloodbath, and unease with the administration were just some of the problems plaguing the country. There was growing discontent. Industrialisation, and by virtue of it capitalisation, were on the rise...

What it led to in cinema was the rise of the ‘angry young man’. Mainstream Hindi cinema capitalized on this and thus, stars were born — Amitabh Bachchan. However, what was then known as parallel cinema, also created pieces that concentrated on the angst of a solitary protagonist in battle with demons both inside and on the outside — Salim Pasha (Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro) and Albert Pinto (Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata hai), were products of the times, as well as the result of the trials and tribulations of any artist unwilling to toe the ‘assigned’ line.

Perhaps not a lot has changed in 2017 — because we still witness the same discontent and disillusionment in today’s youth. In such times, who is the protagonist that is most likely to echo your inner turmoil? Is it the mainstream ‘hero’ with his army of faithful lackeys and song-and-dance sequences, or is it someone whose very existence is in question? Today’s hero is disillusioned. He might live but his life is no testimony to a living, breathing, thriving organism... he shuttles between day and night, between sleep and wakefulness, only to pass the time... He is someone like Gulmohar — the protagonist of Sharad Raj’s directorial venture Ek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Ratein, which is currently running its crowdfunding campaign on Wishberry.

Sharad passed out from FTII, Pune in 1992 and has largely been involved with television. He has been a part of 25 shows till now and has also helmed two featurettes — Ek Thi Maria starring Raghuvir Yadav and Irrfan Khan, and Ward No. 6, starring Atul Kumar and Kay Kay.

Inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Dream of a Ridiculous Man and White Nights, along with influences from Munshi Premchand’s works, Sharad Raj wants to create the portrait of the modern man — a man riddled with self-doubt, a man who chooses to remain unaffected by unfolding tragedies, a man guilty of a crime which he committed when he became a mute spectator to violence, a man who seeks redemption, and finally, a man who discovers that selfless love is the answer to the madness that we are faced with, as 21st century individuals. Set in rural Uttar Pradesh, this film traces Gulmohar’s journey as he straddles with the guilt of not saving his lover Anita’s life in the face of communal riots, and how he discovers true redemption in the love of Gomti.

Gulmohar’s story resonates with most of us because in some way or the other we are guilty of doing the same. We simply do not care enough. Here are a few stats:
  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs reported that 278 communal clashes took place in the first five months of the year 2016.
  • In UP alone, there has been a rise of 161% in rape cases in just one year (2014 to 2015).
  • According to International Labour Organisation, “Unemployment in India is projected to increase from 17.7 million last year to 17.8 million in 2017 and 18 million next year”.

Gulmohar is a product of our times — his apathy is the product of a mind-set that is desensitised and attuned to drowning voices in the quest of self-preservation — Ek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Ratein is a tale all of us know all too well, yet find difficult to digest. Therefore, this is a film that needs to see the light of day. And mainstream cinema’s economics would never want to fund a project that questions the guileless happy endings that Bollywood churns out, day in and day out. They want a mirage — not the ugly truth.

Doesn’t this remind you of something?

Cue back to 1976 and a film titled Manthan. Crowdfunding made that film possible when 500,000 farmers of Gujarat got together to tell their story — the story of the White Revolution. They donated Rs. 2 each and post the film’s release also ensured that the cinemas ran to packed houses to recover costs.

In order to know more about Sharad’s ‘Betuka Aadmi’, head over to his campaign page on Wishberry here.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!   

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