Some directors love to tell a story through spoken words. Aditya Vikram Sengupta is not one of them. After his masterful debut Asha Jawar Majhe (Labour of Love), he is back with his sophomore effort Jonaki. The visual style exemplified in Labour of Love has achieved it’s true potential in this surreal drama about dreams.
Aditya lets the images play out their natural duration, and like true visual poetry, a lot of the story pans out in the mind of the audience. All his frames are masterfully crafted like a painting. As a matter of fact, he indeed paints his frames first before the production design process kicks in. Usage of light and shadows to generate depth of frames is very interesting. Jonaki means fireflies in Bengali, and there is one particularly terrific image which etches the name permanently in our memory. This film about dreams has a distinct sleepy quality, and in one of the interviews, Aditya had mentioned that he distinctly wanted the film to have that quality. It reminded me of a quote from Christopher Doyle, long time DOP for Wong Kar Wai, which goes like this. “If you can fall asleep, in a movie, it means that the movie often works.”
Sengupta writes, shoots and edits his film himself. His magnificent vision is ably supported by innovative as well as world-class production design, by Jonaki Bhattacharya, wife of the director. Usage of mosquito nets for the isolation of characters was one such example. Though this film has dialogues unlike Asha Jawar Majhe, this feels more minimalist than the last one.