Two Guyanese Storming into the Movie World
By Ramesh D. Kalicharran
Veteran Guyanese and Indo-Caribbean actor, Mahadeo Shivraj, is producing Dr. Churaumanie Bissundyal’s Ek Chameli Mali Ke Liye (its English name A Jasmine for a Gardener) into a movie unprecedented in the Caribbean, bringing to life the values, music, tears and laughter of people of Indo-Caribbean descent. Though the movie is written in English, it resonates with Hindi cadences, resuscitating seven old Hindi film songs to unparalleled beauty, crowning the talent of all people of Indian descent. The movie will be shot mainly in Guyana, showcasing landscape beauty, monumental buildings, and the social fabric of the country.
The movie announces a novel and dazzling motion picture in the panorama of the movie world, merging the Hollywood and Bollywood approaches into a distinctive Caribbean genre. At first glance, one can sense the Aristotelian design of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense and mystery thrillers courting the song-and-dance opera style movies such as Kashmir Ki Kali, Sangam, and Devdas. With fresh strength and deliberation, it revives dialogue as an important ingredient of drama so that action cannot be superfluous and ineffective. In this way, plot and characterization are fulfilled so that the movie pulses with colour, emotions, delights, and landscape beauty.
The movie centers on the two characters Neetu Raghubir and Ravi Devdas, showing their hidden fears, their needs, their quest for a higher world, and their labour to find a balance between the material world and divine. Neetu, a medical student in New York, becomes tired of her parents’ domineering hammer over her, their boast of wealth, and their rigidity for social success and big life. As a reaction, she quits her studies to challenge her parents then turns to music, an offensive thing to the Raghubir family. Her mother Sharda, appalled at her new path, asks her to return to Guyana for a short holiday. When she arrives in Georgetown, her father Sukul (a Guyanese tycoon) commands her to marry his young friend Govind Somrah, a multimillionaire owning more than a score saw mills and trawlers.
On meeting Govind, Neetu sixth sense tells her that this isn’t the man for her, that Govind only promises a life of luxury, jewellery, and extravagant travels. Though basking in splendour of wealth, he cannot access the simple beauties of the world, cannot hear the music of the wind, see the glory of the moon, or sense the passion of the stars. Then, one morning in the Botanical Garden, after an incident, Neetu meets the gardener Ravi Devdas, a man of music and a seeker of higher planes. Sensing his quest for true happiness, she falls in love with him. Here the movie takes an acute turn, brooding conflicts and crises that will fill scenes with questions, guesses and anticipations, underlining the plot of a wealthy girl going crazy for a poverty-stricken man.
The story meanders into a bigger twist when Govind’s true character begins to unfold, revealing the murder of Pinky Gajadhar. In a back story, before Neetu’s arrival in Georgetown, to get Sukul’s wealth, Govind, as he’s doing to Neetu, tries the same trick with Sushma. The high point of the story puts the hair to stand on end with chattering teeth. Sushma finally gets a nervous breakdown. Then in a blood-curdling conspiracy, Sushma is treated by her uncle Dr.Suraj Gopal, a psychoanalyst. To keep Sushma as a nervous wreck with hallucinations, someone pays Dr. Suraj millions to treat her with dangerous drugs. But one day in a burst of terror, Sushma escapes from Dr. Suraj in an action-packed scene paralleling the best Hollywood thriller movies.
The plot suspense of the movie becomes lurid when Inspector Sunil Singh takes center stage. When he gathers adequate evidence of Pinky’s murder and Sushma’s rape, the movie explodes into a drama surpassing any action thriller.
The story, however, has not unfolded simply as this. Many things will not be made clear until the end, for instance Sushma’s rape, Govind’s nature, Ravi’s married status, and Inspector Sunil’s police game. The movie, though iridescent with humour, drama, action, songs, dances, family message, and cultural mosaics, forges a new genre of suspense model peculiar to the best stories written by Agatha Christie and Perry Mason.
Finally, the story balances protagonist with antagonist, explains the deeper side of each character, links characterization with plot, and shows the interrelation between the psychological, social and spiritual aspects of the world. In a nutshell, this is a movie that seeds a new era to showcase the best talents of the Caribbean with respect to writing, acting, directing, and producing.
Presently, Shivraj is casting and filming in Guyana. This is indeed an achievement for both him and Churaumanie Bissundyal.