“Piprabidya” is a film for crackpots and about crackpots. It is about the hopeless middle-class youth of the country. Their life story is best epitomised in a t-shirt slogan: “no job, no money, no woman”.
Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s peers may be more eloquent, but his one-upmanship lies in his ability to reveal what no one else has attempted in the country – how people behave in the real world.
For Farooki, it’s always character over story. The plot is just an excuse to put the lab-rats in his maze. The poster of the film reveals the basic idea – an ant strays from its colony and proceeds to collect the nectar smeared all over a woman’s voluptuous lips. The ant is responding to its basic instinct. But surely it would be crushed in no time. Unless?
Mithu is the ant, the hopeless middle-class youth (played by Nur Imran Mithu), and Rima is the sugar-woman, the model-cum-actress (played by Sheena Chohan). There is another sugar-woman, Mithu’s ex-girlfriend who jilted him for a more secured life. The sugar-women are guarded by two corporate men – the alpha-ants. The alpha-ants are not necessarily better than the little-ants. But somehow they got the sugar. The ants-in-the-palm metaphor made famous in Luis Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou” refers to both unfulfilled venereal fantasy and decay.
The condition of Mithu is far worse than Somnath of Satyajit Ray’s “Jana Aranya”, who at least had a choice. Mithu is more like the boy from Abbas Kiarostami’s “Traveler”, and has no discernible choice. He is a vehicle without a drop of petrol in the tank and yet his fuel gauge must indicate “full” – a bad case of confidence without competence.
After many unsuccessful attempts to find a job, Mithu ends up at the door of a colourful MLM candy store, which would eventually use the invisible hand of capitalism to pick the pockets of million youths. Mithu’s job is to bullshit people into investing in non-existent products and help the crackerjacks build their pyramids. Of course Mithu is not aware of all this, and frankly, he could not care less, all he wants to do is feed his family- a silent father, a talkie mother and a sissy sister.
For some reason, which I will avoid revealing here, Rima seeks Mithu out and chooses to honey trap him and their gamesmanship of phobia and philia begins. While the two sugar-women immerse him in phantasmagoria, his mother and sister keep pulling him back to reality.
In the most important scene where Mithu and Rima have a one-on-one confrontation, and the audience kept cheering for Mithu rather than Rima. As a matter of fact, the audience had no sympathy for Rima at all, for them Mithu is the real victim. I wonder if that was Farooki’s intention. After all Mithu’s crime in “Piprabidya” is quite different from Sabzian’s crime in Kiarostami’s “Close up.”
At a time when our films are either government funded pathos or tit-for-tat action flicks, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki is the only filmmaker working in Bangladesh who is able to make a film exactly as he wants to make it without any creative compromise. However, that does not necessarily make his films very palatable, and in all honesty, I am fonder of his works for television, such as “420” and “Karam”.
In the theme song “Leje rakha pa” by Chirkut, we hear a female voice warn the ant in mock sympathy about its new wings, perhaps referring to Icarus, a character in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun and perished after his wings of wax and feather burned down by the heat of sun.