Volume 1 : Critic's Column (3)




The Circle : A Perspective

Anasuya Bandyopadhyay

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It’s a girl, a girl again. What is to be done, her in-laws are eagerly waiting, what do we tell them now ? I don’t know. The girl goes downstrairs. CUT. Three girls—one of them trying desperately to call up someone. In the meantime one of them gets caught by two policemen and is taken away. The other two in utter distress. “Pari ! let’s search Pari, we have to find her out. She may help”. CUT These are the first scenes of one of Zafar Panahi’s films ‘Circle’. Not very difficult to make out these scenes, one after another point to a recurrent theme. One girl many girls, her problem their problems and no solutions. Till today we knew we’re humans then we’re males and females but now we first know we’re males or females & only then humans. Here the maker has undertaken a very ordinary theme and has made it extra-ordinary. Again extra-ordinarily he has crafted it and placed it on the screen most ordinarily to enable us understand it. There lies the work of a genius …. to make the very difficult is easy, but to make the easy difficult is really difficult.

SHOT 3 We see in the beginning a student, then a mother, then a mother-in-law : every character is a circular character encompassing almost all the aspects of life.
SHOT 4 Telephoto ; A House ; Camera Zooms in ; A Man Appears : “Can I meet Pari” ? Pari’s father comes out and says “no my daughter has been ruined what more do you want, go away”. CUT
SHOT 5 Two men go in the house, there is a noise, and next a girl about 4.2" height comes out in a blue dress, she looks quite nervous and walks frantically. CUT
SHOT 6 Pari approaches a man and asks for the whereabouts of her friend. “Yes, she may be upstairs” says a policeman. CUT
SHOT 7 Pari finds her. “How are you” ? “I am fine, just come with me inside this room and sit here, please don’t go out, for I’ll be in trouble.” We can understand, this girl Pari is not only denied her privacy but her identity also, it’s a subtle work as a pretext for their punishments and humiliation. “Don’t tell anyone that you’re my friend, just keep quiet. I’m coming.”
SHOT 8 Wideangle : “What’s the matter” ? Pari “I want to abort my child. The friend “I cannot do anything”. Pari asks “why can’t you do ? Your husband’s a doctor, you’re a nurse, see you should help me at this stage”. Friend “look already my husband has been enquiring about you. He doubts about you. I’ve forgotten the past and have not said him that I was a part of this. Eat what I’ve brought”. “I am going, if you can’t help me what’s the use of staying”. CUT No more do we see the screen as a different space after this ; it seems to be a continuation of our space, the world we dwell in, our very own. Their lives don’t seem anything outside our domain, the characters seem to be a part of our own, their lives are like our past, our present and our future. We don’t have to traverse huge mountains and valleys, it’s a journey may be from this side of the wall to other side. It’s a world where I and many I’s are suffering. We’re denied our humanity that which every insignificant creature is even not denied. We’re denied the very birth, we’re cursed from the day we come.
SHOT 9 Pari moves out of the hospital—on the street. We see a small girl with a lady, a few minutes later the child seen crying. “Her mother’s left her” says a ferryman. “May be her mother wasn’t able to bring her up, so she left her”. You would say this is a theme which is coming down since decades. What’s different then ? That’s the basic difference where a very simple and known theme comes out with such a powerful impact that the spectator can’t but react. It’s the vision of a visionary.
SHOT 10 Pari crosses the road; camera moves with her ; she finds the mother of the abondoned child ; “Why have you left your child, don’t you feel sorry ?” Her mother “Only my heart knows how am I feeling for my child but at least if someone picks her up she’ll get to live a better life. Alone I know what hardships I had to endure to bring her up. You won’t understand till you’re a mother yourself”. It’s not an assertion of one person, one mother. Such mothers have so many times been seen by us, but we are least bothered. Not made but we feel spontaneously when time and again the oppression, problems come out. In this film we see there is no unnecessary technical aid, artificial lighting, made locations. This cinema has used apparatus from our life ; like the narrative, the locations (hospital or jail or a station)…. all these are real and they remind us of our lives. The camera has also been employed in a simplistic manner. Intentionally the only technical employment is the 3600 pan around individual characters and at the end around all the characters. This has been used to show the circle perhaps in which a girl is encompassed. It’s the circumference beyond which she is not allowed to go ; like the Lakshmanrekha. People who believe in the theory of relativity, actually get stuck in their own paradox. They say everything is relative. That is the absolute truth. It is self-contradictory. The distinction between right and wrong, dishonesty and honesty presupposes their existence. Changing technology doesn’t change the meaning. Just like changing names doesn’t change an individual. People are changing moral values by giving new names and it is glamorized by media. Liars are given names of extroverts with imagination. Think what good is it if you gain the whole world and lose your conscience. My aim is to awaken that dormant conscience in everyone of you who are living a purposeless life like a living death. We see Pari on the street aimlessly walking, she knows she has failed, her reaching at the destination where the other girls are to complete the circle shows it happens, it happened and it has to happen. For we are taking life as a spectator sport. We are sitting and watching things happen. It is as if we cannot do anything so we are a part of the big film.
SHOT 11 The mother of the little child lights a cigarette narrating her problems to Pari. This shows how inspite of the bindings the girl/woman is revolting against the prevalent system. If this isn’t enough to wake you up then fellowmen sleep for you’re in the state of sleeping the sleep that never knows a waking. When a girl child’s life is doomed from the day she’s born, I being a girl cannot sit and write great essays on issues concerning national interest. National interest ! You make me laugh. What national interest do you talk of : the dress codes — that is building nation, talking via same medium—that is building nation, worshipping same God or having one political leader—that is building nation. Why dumb now ? Nation is built with humanity fellow men.
SHOT 12 Some stalls inside a complex ; Wide angle : A Girl is buying a present for her brother before she boards the bus. She comes back to find that the police are searching someone. She doesn’t go near them and decides to make a move after the police have gone away.
SHOT 13 The bus in telephoto goes off : Camera focusses on the girl who looks miserable and helpless. She seeks Pari to get help. Here too we see how a girl is always within a circumference beyond which whether there is a horizon or not she is not allowed to know. Why so ? She is always restricted within a set of norms. Look out for you’ll hear the cries of many such girls which reverberate through the present silence. You’ll be compelled to hear, how many can you avoid for such cries are everywhere. I know among you sit those who are hesitant to believe from time to time. They think this happens only on the screen for a definite span at a definite space. But you’re wrong. If we fail to punish the guilty, fail to help the needy, fail to give justice to the victimised then you do not understand that you’re one of the great craftsmen who are a part of the plan pretending not to know. But I’ll not stop here, you have to know, what is conveyed ; for you can not escape, you can not but have to hear, have to understand have to act ; otherwise I condemn you as guilty. The spark has been given. Let it kindle with your thoughts and spread all over until and unless the circle is broken.


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