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'Meenalap': A perfect marriage between cinematography and sound editing

  • Published at 07:55 pm June 28th, 2019
Meenalap screening at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy
'Meenalap' director Suborna Senjutee Tushee receives a congratulatory bouquet from film activists, following the screening of her film at the National Art Gallery auditorium in Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Thursday | Facebook

Meenalap was Tushee's final year assignment during her studies at the Film and Television Institute of India, located in Pune. The director tragically lost her husband to an accident during her time there, which also left her in coma. She needed six surgeries to recover, and has devoted her life to film-making ever since regaining consciousness

Bangladeshi film-maker Subarna Senjutee Tushee's critically acclaimed short film Meenalap premiered at the National Art Gallery auditorium in Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Thursday.

This was the first screening of the film in Bangladesh, and the entire auditorium was packed with film personalities and students.

The visuals of Meenalap

The 28-minute long film depicts the simple life of a married couple, Yousuf and Julekha, living in Maharashtra, India, and explores how they deal with pregnancy.

The film's strength lies in the poetic use of beautiful cinematography in combination with sound-editing. Each and every action by the actors, and the sequence of visuals, are meant to be interpreted subjectively by the viewers. 

The characters use minimal dialogue, and there were many beautiful sequences of Yousuf looking at Julekha, wondering in silence. 

Some of the most memorable moments of the film are after Julekha becomes visibly pregnant. In one scene, she takes and signs a maternity leave form from her husband and says goodbye to her coworkers. However, it is then shown that the couple takes turns working on their solitary sewing machine at home, to save up money for the soon-to-be-born child.

In another scene, Julekha lets some rain drops fall on her pregnant belly, seemingly trying to familiarize her unborn child with the world he or she was about to enter. Later, she is seen removing the wet saree and staring at her naked body in the mirror, pondering the changes pregnancy had brought about to her body. The graphic nature of some of the scenes like this one is what led to the delay in the screening of the film in Bangladesh.

The director's remarks on the film

Regarding the delay in the film’s screening in the country, Tushee told Dhaka Tribune Showtime: "I read in the guidelines of Bangladesh Film Censor Board, that there cannot be any nude scene in a film to be screened in Bangladesh. However, how can one look at that naked pregnant woman with any thoughts besides motherhood? Motherhood is beautiful, and the changes in body that women go through because of it are pretty much kept secret by us women. I just wanted to show to the world the beautiful reality of it all."

Following the screening, Shilpakala Academy's Director General Liaquat Ali Lucky, film producer Shamima Akhter, film-maker Nurul Alam Atique and Meenalap director Tushee took the stage to answer some questions from the audience. However, those who saw the film were more concerned with expressing their appreciation for the film’s beautiful sequences than they were with asking questions.

Everyone appreciated the beautifully inter-woven sound and imagery of the film, including the dream sequences, one of which showed Julekha driving a scooter, with her husband riding behind her and looking visibly pregnant.

In answer to why the film was titled Meenalap, Tushee told Showtime: "Well, Meenalap means fish musings, or the noise fish make when they are communicating with each other. Fish migrate from ocean water towards freshwater to lay their eggs. Yousuf and Julekha had also migrated to Maharashtra, and it is there they have their baby. So, I drew a parallel between them and fish. Even the dialogue between them shows that the couple communicates more with stares than actual words. Some of the dialogue is even slightly unintelligible, like fish noises." 

Meenalap was Tushee's final year assignment during her studies at the Film and Television Institute of India, located in Pune. The director tragically lost her husband to an accident during her time there, which also left her in coma. She needed six surgeries to recover, and has devoted her life to film-making ever since regaining consciousness. 

As for the film, it won the prestigious Grand Prix Award at the Eurasia International Film Festival 2018, the Critics Award at the Didor International Film Festival, Tajikistan, Best Film at 6th Siliguri International Short and Documentary Film Festival, the Mt Everest Award for the Best International Short Film at Nepal International Film Festival, Best Short Film at Third Eye Film Festival, Mumbai, Jury award at Islamia International Film Festival in Egypt, and the Ritwick Ghatak Golden Award for Best Short Fiction at the 2nd South Asian Short Film Festival 2019 in Kolkata.