Film Review: Shonar Khacha (The Golden Cage, 2023): The tussle between past and future
Dipankar Sarkar writes, "The title of the play takes on a metaphorical resemblance as we realise that the golden cage is a representation of the individuals confined within the walls of their spacious home. :
Dipankar Sarkar, noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune reviews the film, Shonar Khacha (The Golden Cage, 2023) by Prataya Saha.
Independent filmmaker Prataya Saha's latest outing, Shonar Khacha, is set in a once enormously wealthy joint family living in the opulent house on a cold winter morning in Kolkata in 1989. In an effort to save the family from going bankrupt, Rudro (Sounak), the younger brother of the family tree, tries to persuade Rajatabho (Deboprasad), the elder brother, to accept the offer of selling the house. But Rajatabho does not give up. Rajatabho's wife, Anjali (Anshulika), is a mute witness as she hears the brothers argue. Later, Rudro makes an attempt to persuade Anjali to influence her husband's decision. Anjali, unable to find any solution, decides to take a drastic step. She walks through every room of the house, thinking back on past events. Through the voice-over narration, we get a great insight into what is going on in Anjali's mind.
Image: Film still
The title of the play takes on a metaphorical resemblance as we realize that the golden cage is a representation of the individuals confined within the walls of their spacious home. This deteriorating space, which was once the elegant, lively home of a wealthy family, serves as the central point of the narrative. The house sits in disrepair, and the surviving members of the family struggle to deal with the gloom of their current circumstances. Therefore, even when Prataya sets out to criticize some of their undesirable characteristics, it is reasonable to believe that there was a pity for this class as he tries to comprehend their fate.
Viewers are taken on a nostalgic journey as Anjali thinks back on her past, remembering the happy and sad times that are a part of her existence. Through the lens of her memories of the bygone days, the audience is made aware of how quickly time passes and how treasured memories can be preserved in seemingly unremarkable characters of her family. The majority of the movie is set within the confining space of the old house and the areas around it. It serves as a reminder of a past that is gradually disappearing and it is in disrepair.
At a running length of ten minutes, it is challenging to fully comprehend and empathize with the difficult choice involving death due to the lack of character development. Further exploration of the family members' emotional turmoil is hindered by the emphasis on the ruin and the house. However, the performances from Anshulika Kapoor, Deboprasad Halder, and Sounak Sen Barat are helpful in building a feeling of unease and anxiety. The memories of days of yore that have given way to a life of mere existence are beautifully captured by cinematographer Subha Dey, accompanied by the melancholic background score by Sanjeev T and carefully designed ambient sound by Apurv Prasania. The film leaves viewers with the thought that if we don't protect our heritage, then who will? By doing so, the filmmaker questions whether resistance to change can hinder progress and lead to stagnation. He sheds light on the aftermath of embracing new ideas and perspectives and does not encourage viewers to break free from the constraints of outdated ideologies and foster a more inclusive and innovative society.
Image: Film still