Manda Meyer Upakhyan (Buddhadeb Dasgupta) Retrospective. Imagineindia 2018

Manda Meyer Upakhyan
Buddhadeb Dasgupta
India. 2002. 90 min

Based on a short story by Bengali writer Prafulla Roy, the central idea developed by director Dasgupta, tells the story of a girl, Lati (Samata Das), whose mother Rajani (Rituparna Sengupta) is a prostitute living and working in a brothel in rural India. Rajani plans to offer her daughter to an older man, a rich husband and protector to her daughter. Lati, however, wants to return to school and finish her studies. Unwilling to pay such a price for material success, she runs away to Calcutta. The discovery of this new world is described parallel to other stories of emancipation, such as that of three young prostitutes, of an aged couple going nowhere and man’s landing on the moon. In a surrealistic approach typical of the director, a clumsy cat and an intelligent donkey are also present in the film.

Ganesh (Tapas Paul) works full-time as a driver for wealthy Bengali-speaking, Natabar Paladhi (Ram Gopal Bajaj), who lives in a mansion with his wife, children and grandchildren, and runs ‘Anjali Cinema’ He has Ganesh use his vehicle as a private taxi cab. Amongst Ganesh’s customers are a woman named Bakul (June Malia), who alights near a town of Gosaipara to take up prostitution with Jamunabai; an abandoned elderly couple who are in need of hospitalization — there is none in the vicinity, and they end up secretly riding with Ganesh all the time; while Natabar uses this vehicle to travel to Gosaipara to visit a prostitute named Rajani and negotiate with her so that he can have her 14-year-old daughter, Lati, as his mistress. Things get complicated when Lati rebels against her mother so she can return to school, and a prostitute is about to get killed by her vengeful husband.