By Rijuta Dey Bera
Jamshedpur, August 6: Fringed by rolling green hills and intercut by a river whose name translates as “streak of gold,” a sleepy little steel city has once again made its mark on the visual palette of mainstream Indian cinema.
Moviemakers often fall back on the trope of a “small town” to portray an idea of uncorrupted India in contrast to the flamboyance of a big city, but Jamshedpur is a small town unlike any other.
My hometown, carved out of the jungles of Chhotanagpur plateau, is home to Tata Steel, Asia’s first indigenous steel plant, and in my opinion, is the most charming corner of the entire country.
Jamshedpur’s unique beauty and old-world allure is laid bare in Dil Bechara, the posthumous release of the late Sushant Singh Rajput, a movie which reportedly received 95 million views on a digital platform in just 24 hours.
The evening I watched Dil Bechara, Manhattan was set ablaze by the setting sun, and was reflected in its full glory in the Hudson River, which I can see from my apartment.
But it was another meandering river I remembered while the movie played on the TV screen; I was transported to the banks of Kharkai River, which flowed past my childhood home.
The Jamshedpur of my memories reveals itself as Kizzie and Manny, the protagonists of Dil Bechara, traverse quiet, leafy neighborhoods on a bike and a sidecar, sit in silence gazing out at an idyllic lake, and when facing their mortality, do so in Tata Main Hospital, or TMH, as the locals say.
It is that small town where the rickshaw-walla who has ferried you to and fro for years is privy to the secrets of your young life, where peeved boys pelt eggs onto closed windows, and lovers steal a quiet moment in Domohani, on the banks of the confluence of two rivers.
The towering chimneys bellowing smoke from Tata Steel’s factories remind us that Jamshedpur is the beating heart of an industrial giant, but the camera also captures placid lakes, red-bricked club houses, quaint housing colonies and the bustling markets of a town which became home to myriad communities from all corners of the country.
My heart was almost bursting with grief during the song Taare Ginn, which plays like an elegy to the preternaturally talented Rajput, encapsulating all that is pure and good about first love, which in turn reflects all that is unspoiled in this particular small town.
It is not Jamshedpur’s first foray onto the big screen, as it was also the setting for Udaan, a film released a decade ago. Before Udaan, Rituparno Ghosh had captured its verdant beauty in the 2009 Bengali movie Shob Charitro Kalponik.
Both Dil Bechara and Udaan posit Jamshedpur as a place where life-altering events seldom occur, but we witness characters in both films undergo exceptional journeys of self-discovery to break free of physical and mental shackles, as if in defiance of the implied sterile environs of suburbia.
As a Bengali girl brought up in Jamshedpur, I found it difficult to explain to people where exactly I was from once I moved out of India.
Most foreigners knew of the big Indian cities, but drew a blank when I named Jamshedpur, so I usually went with “I’m from a small town four hours away from Calcutta.”
I am hoping for the day when I can take the name of my hometown and not be subjected to quizzical looks. Perhaps Dil Bechara marks that moment when Jamshedpur finally comes of age on the world stage.