Review: Tasher Desh (The Land of Cards)

Tasher Desh (The Land of Cards, Dir.: Qaushiq Mukherjee; Cast: Tilottama Shome, Rituparna Sen, Anubrata Basu, Imaad Shah et al.)

Tasher Desh is Qaushiq Mukherjee’s vivid, violent take on Rabindranath Tagore’s eponymous play.

Qaushiq (or Q) bases his film on Rabindranath’s timeless work and uses the play like a tool to create something very novel, very different. I say tool, but perhaps weapon would be a word closer to reality. The characters are there, but in the form of a story of a storyteller protagonist, who is looking to stage the original play.

Rabindranath’s play is powerful material. A take on static/ oppressive/ non-progressive societies and regimes, it can be inspiring, eye-opening and a call to action all at once. In Q’s hands, it just explodes. After simmering and snorting for the first half an hour, it comes to life with a bang and explodes with colours, sights, sounds and of course, with Rabindrasangeet.

Rabindranath’s play is powerful material. A take on static/ oppressive/ non-progressive societies and regimes, it can be inspiring, eye-opening and a call to action all at once. In Q’s hands, it just explodes

Cinema as a medium can be used to convey messages in myriad ways. Having once been trained in communication engineering, I can’t but draw an analogy. In communications, some property of a carrier signal (say, sinusoidal) – amplitude, frequency etc. is modulated to embed in itself the message in some way. Terrence Malick’s films often remind me of this. Those are like carrier signals rather than the actual message signals. Q’s Tasher Desh is another tremendous example of cinema being used as a carrier signal rather than the actual signal itself. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tasher Desh too tries to give viewers a first-hand experience of what the protagonists are experiencing. As a prince endures a life of boredom and monotony in his high palace, the film gets off to a meandering, super-slow crawl. We get introduced to the two sets of characters and their anguish. The film though, still does not change gears. The prince struggles. Some in the auditorium certainly seem to share his feelings..

And then things move. The dam breaks. The prince and his friend embark on a life-changing journey to a new land. The songs flow. The subtitles go ballistic. The title screen shows up again. Some wonder if it’s all over so soon. But the action has just started. And the heady roller-coaster continues till it ends on a high to a clarion call of breaking barriers.

Verdict: A recommended watch, only for the fantastic fantasy treatment to the classic play which is in itself so rare, if not also for the innovative use of subtitles and great music. Rabindranath remains relevant as before, and this film shows the enormous potential that lies in only reinventing his works. My only complaint with Tasher Desh is the occasional jarring Bengali accent, but surely the positives outweigh the negatives easily here.

Tasher Desh IMDb Link

 

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