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aka Pathetic Fallacy aka The Unmechanical 1957 120’(102’) b&w Bengali d/sc Ritwik Ghatak pc L.B. Films st Subodh Ghosh c Dinen Gupta m Ali Akbar Khan lp Kali Bannerjee, Kajal Gupta, Shriman Deepak, Gyanesh Mukherjee, Keshto Mukherjee, Gangapada Basu, Satindra Bhattacharya, Tulsi Chakraborty, Jhurni, Anil Chatterjee, Seeta Mukherjee

Ghatak’s 2nd major film explores the romantic trope of the pathetic fallacy (making nature into a metaphor for human emotions), a figure often used in Indian literature and cinema(cf. the films of Shantaram or Kidar Sharma). However, Ghatak modifies the trope, endowing it with complex historical resonances as tribal culture (here the Oraon culture) and a motor car are put on the side of nature while the ‘human emotion’ side of the trope is represented by greed in the form of rampant capitalism and industrialisation in the shape of bulldozers and the mining town of Ranchi. The plot revolves around Bimal (K. Bannerjee) and his battered taxi, an old Chevrolet he calls Jagaddal. Because he takes his car to be a living being, many believe Bimal to be mad. In a long sequence, Bimal plies his trade, his world intersecting at various points with that of the Oraon tribals. Industrialisation proceeds relentlessly, sowing discord among the tribals, and Jagaddal breaks down irretrievably. It has to be dismantled and sold for scrap. In the end, a child finds the car horn on the street and plays with it, making it emit the call of the ‘Oraon’ horn. Many parallel storylines are interwoven into the basic plot, along with extensive sequences and repeated images of both tribal cultures and landscapes. These strands come together in a scene where Bimal first shares in an Oraon feast and then literally burdens his car with objects of nature after which the car breaks down. The other side of the complex trope is represented by imagery evoking the speed of technologically driven change: electric telegraph wires, a train, the village madman’s (K. Mukherjee) metal basin which is replaced by a gleaming new one at the end. Ghatak commented in 1958: ‘The idea of the machine has always had an association of monstrosity for us. It devours all that is good, all that is contemplative and spiritual. It is something that is alien. [T]his apathy may be due to the fact that all change and the very introduction of the machine age was the handiwork of foreign overlords. It may have more comprehensive causes, encompassing all the pangs of Western civilisation. But the end-product of all these causes seems to be an ideological streak which is doing immense harm in all practical spheres of life’ (‘Some Thoughts on Ajantrik’, in Ghatak, 1987). The film itself suggests a more complex position on the question of industrialisation: not that machines are monstrous (Jagaddal is Bimal’s love object) but that the forces driving the speed of change disregard and thus destroy the slower, more human tempo at which people adopt and incorporate change into their networks of social relations.