‘Thinking of Him’ Review: An important film with a rich historical and cultural context

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan 

Pablo César’s Indo-Argentinean film 'Thinking of Him,’ which has finally hit the theatres across India, endeavors to recreate the Tagore-Ocampo encounters by adding a certain element of drama. It stars the legendary Victor Banerjee in the role of Tagore and the Argentine actor Eleonora Wexler in the part of Ocampo. Interestingly, it was during an interaction with Mr. R Viswanathan (the then Ambassador of India in Argentina) back in 2008 that César first learnt about the meeting that took place in 1924 between Rabindranath Tagore and Victoria Ocampo. The research alone took him 5 years as Jerónimo Toubes, his longtime collaborator, investigated the link between Ocampo and Tagore. But the project could only be realized after Suraj Kumar came onboard as the Indian producer for the film. ‘Thinking of Him’ was the closing film at the 2017 IFFI and had its Argentina release a year later but owing to various reasons it couldn’t be released in India and then two more years got lost because of the pandemic. Finally, after a long wait, the film has been released in theatres across India.

Other than the Tagore-Ocampo encounters, the film has another parallel track that’s set in the present with a troubled Argentine school teacher named Felix (Héctor Bordoni) who visits Santiniketan to learn Tagore’s method of teaching. At Santiniketan, he meets Kamali (Raima Sen) who tries to help him in coming to terms with the reality as he continues to battle his inner demons. The film’s narrative keeps switching between the two timelines. All the scenes featuring Tagore and Ocampo are shot in black and white and many of these scenes seem to possess a poetic quality. Consider one of the last sequences of the film wherein Ocampo is driving her car. It is the year 1941. She hears on her car’s radio that Gurudev has passed away at the age of 80. The announcement also mentions about the 3000 songs that Tagore composed during his lifetime. They constitute what is referred to as the Rabindra Sangeet. Ocampo is unable to hold back her tears as music composed by Tagore starts to play in the background (presumably on the radio). It’s a powerful interplay between the sound and the image that can best be described as poetry in motion.    

The sequences featuring Felix are in color and offer an interesting contrast to the aforementioned scenes beautifully shot in black and white. Now, the color scenes are no less beautiful and they succeed in bringing Santiniketan to life. However, the black and white scenes look so majestic that the scenes in color pale in comparison which somewhere affects the film’s consistency. ‘Thinking of Him’ may not be a perfect film but it’s been made with a lot of heart. Making a film on someone like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore is no cinch, let alone a film that’s has such a rich historical and cultural context. Also, it allows us to see the Argentinean perspective on Tagore which is something that needs to be greatly examined in the light of the ever strengthening ties between India and the Latin American countries in the recent years. The film is certainly not meant for casual viewing and the viewers must be willing to fully immerse themselves into the world of the film in order to truly savor its different layers.

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

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