Melodrama as a legitimate dramatic form has continued to play a vital role in rural Indian theatre and folk dramatic forms. Ghatak goes back to these roots in his presentation of a familiar struggle for survival, which has lost its dramatic force and pathos through repetition in real life.
In Meghe Dhaka Tara, day-to-day events transform into high drama: Nita's tormented romance is intensified with the harsh sweep of the whiplash on the soundtrack; Shankar's song of faith in a moment of despair reaches the height of emotional surrender with Nita's voice joining his and Nita's urge to live becomes a universal sound of affirmation reverberating in Nature, amidst the distant peaks of the Himalayas.
These very attempts of Ghatak to show loud expressions were a lot more humorous than their actual function. The exaggerated expressions carried on for a long time in the film and in a way made the viewer disbelieve the character the actors were trying to play. The humour in the film when actually attempted fails miserably too.
In many sequences the drama build up was sudden and gave neither the characters nor the viewers time to sink the seriousness of the situation.
The three principal women characters in this film embody the traditional aspects of feminine power. The heroine, Nita, has the preserving and nurturing quality; her sister, Gita, is the sensual woman; their mother represents the cruel aspect. The incapacity of Nita to combine and contain all these qualities is the imminent source of her tragedy. The other male characters are deeply influenced by the above female characters and their lives in a way revolve and dance to the tunes of their female counterparts. The father who plays an open minded man with his love for literature; Shankar, an aspiring musician who is scorned upon by many for his idleness and Sanat, who promises to marry Nita but ends up marrying her sister.
The film has layers upon layers…take for example the mythological use of ‘Uma’ and the songs dedicated to her, twisted to cruel irony or Tagore’s beautiful poems, politicized through visual subversion.
The beautifully written screenplay with exuberant characters is failed by the cinematography of the film with continuous jerks in the continuity of the film, many breaks in the line of actions, which disturbs the audience’s mind. Many point of view shots looked odd and after a point in the film got very tiring and rather irritating. Composition is another evil in this film, which the makers probably never understood, and always had the viewer’s eyes exhausted in search of the character. Told that these were deliberate attempts by the makers it never came across at all.
Although the film contained some beautiful scores, the actor (Shankar) lost the dub and hence the high-pitched songs lost their effect, as he couldn’t fortify the passion and rhythm the songs contained. The songs were as good as nothing when losing their effect in the movie. The sound design added to the viewer’s plea to let him leave this film. Many loud and unnecessary sounds in the middle of nondramatic scenes lead to nothing but a headache. One song that I honestly appreciated was the baul track in the middle of the film, which was sung by an actor playing a baul and was beautifully composed and shot.
Although a great story of Nita told by the end of the film, I wish they had avoided these little technical glitches in order for this film to showcase some great cinema and talent. Ghatak although directed this film rather well lost out in a few sequences and scenes but still had the emotions of the story felt by the viewer’s. Worth the watch for its screenplay and overall feel, but I would suggest carrying patience with you if you do intend on watching it again.