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Real direction and very real performances...

Ek din achanak ("Suddenly one day"), by acclaimed art-house director Mrinal Sen is a contemplative psychological study that spends a troubled year with a family unmoored by the mysterious disappearance of its patriarch.

 

Ek Din Achanak in Hindi can be loosely translated as, "One day, without warning." This movie beautifully captures the differences of life in a typical middle-class home in a nondescript city in India. The subject of the movie is a retired professor Sriram Lagoo) who walks out on a rainy day and disappears without any reasons. The story unfolds as the family reacts to this disappearance first with shock, then sorrow, resignation and finally acceptance. This story is told with the lyrical background of rain and the pace is leisurely. No explanations are given, nor any analysis performed. The director tries to keep the movie focused on the central theme without degenerating the plot to a thriller. Munmun Sen shines as the student whose relationship with the professor is left unsolved.

 

One evening, in the midst of torrential rains, a professor (Shreeram Lagoo) goes out for a walk and fails to return.  As the evening stretches into days and the days into weeks with no sign of him, the member of his family struggle both to regain their footing and to understand what might have caused him to leave.  Slowly they return to their quotidian activities.  The professor's son Amit (Arjun Chakraborty) establishes his fledgling business; his younger daughter Sima (Roopa Ganguly) resumes her studies at college; and his elder daughter, Neeta (Shabana Azmi), the backbone of the family, returns to her office job.

 

Behind the facade of normalcy, though, the family is deeply wounded.  Amit enjoys success in his business but is bitter and dour.  Neeta has a very patient and supportive boyfriend (Anjan Dutt) but the relationship is stuck in a holding pattern.  And their mother (Uttara Baokar) suffers debilitating depression.  Their hesitant attempts to piece together the Professor's state of mind before his disappearance raise more questions than they answer:  Was he having an affair with a former student (Aparna Sen)?  Was his academic career crumbling?  Was he a plagiarist?

 

The most memorable scene is the exposure of a Guru and superstitious people who frequent them. At one time it appeared as if the Guru would turn out to be the father himself since he is not seen at all but the story line is much better than that outcome. When a visitor to the Guru becomes sick everyone calls for a doctor rather the Guru who is supposed to have supernatural powers.

 

The film's conclusion may be unsatisfying to those accustomed to having all lose ends tied up neatly, but each member of the family does undergo an evolution of sorts, as slowly they encounter the doubts they have been harboring in their hearts, doubts about the Professor and about the nature of their relationships with him and with one another.

 

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