A Handful of Stories

Reportage on health, science and politics. And some meditations on film

Author Archive for sohinichattopadhyay

Nine Rays of Incandescence

Nine moments from Ray’s cinema that I return to again and again 1. When Arati’s (Madhabi Mukherjee’s) colleague Edith (Vicky Redmond ) teaches her to apply lipstick in the office bathroom in Mahanagar. The mirror catches the unexpected friendship between a Bhadralok school master’s daughter-in-law on her first job and the ‘smart’Anglo-Indian ‘office girl’ 2. When Shamalendu (Barun Chanda) offers…

Covid Lockdown Leaves India’s Elderly Stranded without Carers or Family Support

India has the world’s second largest population of senior citizens after China — 104 million. The abrupt draconian lockdown left them without any help In the days since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, development sector professional Sohini Sarkar has noticed something new on her mother’s face when…

India’s New Surrogacy Bill Ends $2 Billion Commercial ‘Rent a Womb’ Industry

Under the strict new law, cases like Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan who had a third child by surrogacy would not be permitted If India’s parliament passes a proposed new Surrogacy Regulation Bill, cases such as that of Bollywood superstar Shah RukhKhan, who had his third child va surrogacy, would no longer be possible. The strict new Bill being considered…

Indian cinema legend Soumitra Chatterjee’s death spotlights end of art film era

Chatterjee worked closely with late Oscar-winning director Satyajit Ray, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Worked his entire life in the Bengali film industry, eschewing the more lucrative Bollywood Noted Hollywood director Martin Scorsese once said the four most influential auteurs of the 20th century were India’s Satyajit Ray, Japan’s Akira Kurosawa, Italy’s Frederico Fellini and…

A Rich Tradition of Under-reporting Disease

In a country where doctors can get suspended for Facebook posts on health crises, ‘mystery fever’ is the preferred term to dodge government paranoia In the 1990 film Ganashatru, director Satyajit Ray tells the story of a doctor who finds himself unemployed and ostracised when he speaks about the contaminated water supply in his town. The doctor traces the growing…

The Rehabilitation Scheme for Colonial Statues

How India Quietly Removed the British Colonists from Their Pedestals On the river banks in Barrackpore, a sweltering town some 30km from Kolkata, the statues of 13 dead British men stand high above the ground on brick-red plinths. One is made of marble and 12 are made of metal, but they all have the identical distant gaze – instantly recognisable…

The Unpaid Labour of Housewives

The Bengali films Tasher Ghawr and The Lovely Mrs Mukherjee show the domestic servitude written into subcontinental marriages  Some days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked us down on 25 March with the battle analogy of the 18-day Kurukshetra war, the celebrity housework videos began. Then, the men who did not have cameras installed for easy recording provided dishwashing updates, and…

Why A Woman Who Reads is Still Unusual in Hindi Film

The gift of an Amrita Pritam book in Soni feels like a little revolution. So does the library scene in Manikarnika There is a moment in Manikarnika that nothing had prepared me for. The film is a biopic on the well-known historical figure Rani Laxmibai, a heroine of our high-school history. The trailer underlined the notes of this familiar story, of an…

Nagarkirtan: Unusual Loves and Marginal, Gig Economy Lives

This love story is also a portrait of the urban precariat–the life of a food delivery worker who earns on commission is not so different from the life of a ‘hijra’ who earns for each ‘performance’ I came to Nagarkirtan several months after my homo-unaware parents exhorted me to watch this “adbhut chamatkar” (strange marvellous) film. I call them homo-unaware…

How to Tell a Story of Beauty and Sexual Abuse

Gitanjali Kolanad’s novel Girl Made of Gold tells the story of Devadasis without shying away from the paedophilia and abuse that lie at the heart of a stunning art form I came to Girl Made of Gold after three months immersed in Ashapurna Debi’s magnum opus Pratham Protisruti set in late 19th century Bengal. I thought that no English-language book…