Untold stories of a short film named The 6th Element by Arjun Dutta

Smriti Sen Gupta

The 6th Element, produced by Cinesutra Movies in association with Little Duck Productions and directed by Arjun Dutta beautifully narrates the love story of a widow who was separated from her true love at a young age and a social activist driven by the experience of their own life. The catch, however, is that both these characters are women. Simply put, the movie portrays the story of two lesbians as one who was forced to get married against her wishes, finds solace in the company of the other. This film touches the reality of the situation of ‘closet’ homosexuals in our society.

In Dutta’s words “In this fictional portrait we explore the passionate spirit and liberalization of its two main characters Catherine and Mrinalini. Mrinalini a forty something childless widow, the sole and only remaining owner of their big ancestral house, is a woman of few words – soft spoken, sober with an air of mystery around her.

“Catherine an outgoing, outspoken, broad minded German lady, a spinster by choice and a flag bearer for the LGBT community, works selflessly for the upliftment of the deprived LGBT community.

“Catherine chooses India to extend her endeavours to the country with relatively stringent norms for the LGBT community in comparison to the West. She hires a broker and fortunately comes across Mrinalini’s house which has been up for sale for sometime.

“She gets drawn closer to Mrinalini and a forbidden, silent relationship builds between the two.  A relationship beyond physical needs, emotional dependence, a relationship that neither of the two are able to explain but they do understand, there is something to it and whatever they have is Special – special beyond words and actions.

“A poignant depiction of a gamble of emotional investments, whether it’s worth it, we shall see.  The five elements i.e. Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether (sky) also blends with the inner transformation of Mrinalini. These elements play a vital role in the life of Mrinalini. “The Sixth Element’’ depicts love, companionship, friendship, attachment and above all liberation.”

Actress Debjani Chatterjee (Mrinalini) beautifully portrays the subtle inner conflict and struggle of her character. The expressions of being content and yet feeling the presence of an unnecessary, although familiar guilt has been conveyed tremendously, especially in her intimate scenes with Catherine. The director has made the audience’s job of connecting this love story to a heterosexual one easier by presenting the aforementioned guilt in a way which one can compare to that of a couple that has recently met and is afraid of the implications that would follow should the society find out. However, a few exaggerated sound effects, especially those accompanying Mrinalini’s ‘sighs’ can be off-putting.

Although the story revolves mainly around Mrinalini, the portrayal of Catherine in the film is disappointing. An unimpressive element was the short and direct description of Catherine’s life. The presentation of her past was done in a manner which would resemble the conflict that the clichéd Western civilization brat has with their parents and not something that has such a large impact on the person concerned and their family.

Through its background music, well-written script, and complementary acting, the movie beautifully portrays a guilt that lingers behind the honest love between these women. A guilt that although has no reason to exist, emerges out of the restrictions on love that the society has imposed.

Cinematographer, Joy Supratim has effortlessly captured the backgrounds for the scenes. Settings in the movie perfectly highlight the romance and treachery of the situation, proof of this can be given by the fact that all the intimate scenes between our protagonist and her love interest happen inside the 4-walled confines of the house that brought them together. Be it the game they play of writing words on each other’s back, or the scene where Mrinalini explains the five elements (a perfect explanation of the title though); everything is done away from the public’s eye.

The movie plays perfectly on its two central themes: the restraints on the LGBTQ+ Community and the oppression of women in our society.

The 6th Element got nominated in the Cannes Film Festival, while it has won multiple awards.

Following his success in The 6th Element, director Arjun Dutta has completed a feature film named Abyakto (Unsaid), where the castings are Arpita Chatterjee, Adil Hussain, Anubhav Kanjilal, Samontak Dyuti Maitra, Anirban Ghosh, Kheya Chattopadhyay, Pinky Banerjee, Lily Chakraborty, Debjani Chatterjee and others.

Adil Hussain is an Indian stage, television and film actor from the state of Assam, who works in mainstream Bollywood films as well as art house cinema. He has worked in international films like The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Life of Pi. He has acted in English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Norwegian and French films. Adil has studied at the Drama Studio London on a Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarship.

Adil Hussain’s involvement with Arjun Dutta’s feature film Abyakto, certainly gives assurance to the viewers of a strong storyline and script as well as direction skill as the actor would not join in a film unless he was fully satisfied with these things.

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