Mac Haque: Sudipa Bose and Babuji Bose thanks for your points.
Essentially the first unforgivable mistake that Gautam Ghose makes is to get into the unnecessary dilemma/debate whether sHAIji was a Hindu or Muslim and there have been no less efforts over 200 years to make either of him. The whole concept of 'jaat' which Lalon resisted and stood up against - became somehow very central to the movie. It is a disservice to Bauliana and one which will be met by stoic hurt among practitioners.
The movie revolves around Lalon's childhood and it would appear as if this is old Lalon's first person account to Jyotindranath (I hope I have got the name right as also Tagore's nephew?) is a hackneyed version and more colorful ones are available on the Net. However there have been significant ground breaking research since and Gautam Ghose could have well looked at them.
On Shiraj sHAI There are no historical records of a man by name of Shiraj sHAi ever being in existence. He was a dARBESH (dervish) not a fAKIR - and that’s an allegorical term of reverence - 'shey-raj-sHAI' or 'the King of Enlightenment' meaning gOD himself - the largest lamp that will keep lighting smaller lamps till end of times. Therefore bringing sHIRAJ sHAI to 'life' is a mere attempt to cater to convoluted hypothesis of the sHADHUs of Harishpuir, Harinakundu - and a larger attempt to make a Muslim out of sHAIJi.
sHAIJi's parents too have been reduced to a farce. His adoptive father was not a weaver, but a Maulana (prayer leader) and herbalist. Matijaan has been depicted as an ordinary woman, a housewife. She was not. She was a fAKIRAANi and indeed Lalon's spiritual mentor. Lalons' knowledge of Arabic and kO'Ran came from Malaam, and mA'AREFOT from Matijaan.
In a round about way Lalon’s grounding on the stations of Shariat came from his father and mA'AREFOT from his mother. Both are complimentary and cannot be viewed in isolation. The metaphoric Shiraj sHAi as far as I am concerned is an allegorical and strongly spiritual culmination of both his parents. That sHIRAJ sHAI never existed is argued by sHADHUs on the following hypothesis:
if Lalon sHAIJi ordered the entombment of his father five years before his own death, and his wishes for his mother to be entombed likewise besides his own grave were carried out by followers five years after his death - why then would there be no sign, no shrine of Shiraj sHAi in existence anywhere in Bangladesh?
The songs in the movie were picked and placed in random without any understanding of the grounded, practiced and perfected structures of Lalon philosophy and its appropriate paradigm/placement during sHAIJi's time on earth and the correlation of each verse to the levels of spirituality which briefly goes as below
a. Trittotyo Baad: 1. Noor Tattya 2. Nabi Tottyo 3. Rasool Tottyo
b. Pancha Leela: 4. Krishna Leela 5. Goishtho Leela 6. Nima Leela 7.Gouro Leela 8.Nitai Leela
c. Then the high, higher and highest engagement or Desh: 9. Sthulo Desh 10. Proborto Desh 11.sHADHOK Desh and the supreme 12. sHIDDHI Desh or enlightenment.
Without understanding of all 12 levels as above which essentially makes it the core and essence of Bengal's Bhaabdbaad - Lalon or his philosophy can never be understood or explained.
On Rabindranath Tagore: Historically there are no records of sHAIJi and Tagore ever meeting face to face. It couldn't have happened in those feudal time...Lalon was a proja (subject/serf/servant) and Tagore a Zamindar(landlord) - and there are stories among bAULs that sHAIJi refused to board a palanquin sent by Tagore to fetch him!
Aside if the two ever met, this would have certainly been recorded by Tagore himself, not his apologists....
The sketched portrait of Lalon is also a myth. Again no historical records of any portrait of sHAIJi being in existence anywhere in the world - painters in Bangladesh agree with me on this one.
Two portraits are in circulation. The first one with sHAIJi sporting a hair bun, has striking Aryan features, high cheek bones, sharp nose and chins - the other (the one we saw in the movie) shows sHAIJi with Mongoloid features. The problem with both portraits is other than the difference I mention - were made by two nephews of Tagore.
Question: How could two blood brothers come up with two completely conflicting portrait of the same man?
Sudipa Bose: Saw the film recently, as an uninitiated viewer liked the film, Prasenjit was impressive, the strain of spirituality was palpable, not having read the book by SG nor having any depth of knowledge or information about Lalon Fakir; found the narrative engaging. But can understand the sentiments and responses you have posted here Mac, often with historical narratives the line of distinction between truth and imagination/interpretation/presentation becomes very thinly etched. The cinematography is quite outstanding, as is with most Gautam Ghosh films.
Babuji Bose: Will entirely 2nd Sudipa's views ... with the add IMHO, that whilst the film focuses on Lalon the man, not his philosophy, as Mac says, but I felt the 20 odd songs do bring out his wltensachaung, though of course they have to be interpreted right - for which over to you, Mac bro :-)
BTW Mac - are the points (1) and (2) historically factual, minimalistically for the second
Keep shining ...
Watched the Moner Manush DVD this morning. I admit that it was long over due, however with anything to do with Fakir Lalon sHAH, I guess I always exercise a bit of patience and wait till the dust of controversies has settled down.
In the meantime have read one too many critiques, reviews and general comments on the movie and some of it was worrying. Several sHADU friends who had seen the movie found it disturbing - so in deference to their sentiments, I couldn't be less cautious.
Over all as a movie, the screenplay, casting, cinematography and choice of location was fabulous. Some of the songs, specially those rendered by my gURU Bhai Latif Shah were a class in themselves as it captured the rusticity of the Nadiya dialect and essentially the 'bhaab' of the songs.
However in the case of the females, they fell short. 'Jekhaney sHAIr bAARAM khana' by Farida Parveen was a nightmare - a hugely put-on voice that irritated me no end. I am sure if Gautam Ghose concentrated and looked for female voices other than a 'name brand' that has fallen out of fashion in Bangladesh in recent times, he would have been surprised. That in turn would have lifted the renditions to greater heights.
As far as spirituality is concerned, the movie was a disaster as there was more emphasis on Lalon the Man than his message. Since it’s a fictional account based on Sunil Gangapadhay’s novel (I have read very few of his books and essays so not in a position to speak for or against the man!) - I would have let it pass, but there were two historical sore points benchmarked quite unnecessarily.
1. The identity of Lalon - which the young Lalon admits in the first person, was that of Shonaton
2. The implied patronization by Rabindranath Tagore's family. The movie ends with a subtle message that had it not been for the largesse of the Tagore family granting the land in Seuria where Lalon's ankhara was situated then (as even now) - the Bauls would have disappeared given the forces opposed to the fraternity, is the final seal. Turns out there are no historical land deeds to support the contention!
Both emphasis therefore defeats the purpose and lofty ideals of Bauliana.