Director: Debaki Bose; Writer: Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, Debaki Kumar Bose; Producer: Debaki Kumar Bose; Cinematographer: Dhiren Dey; Editor: Rabin Das; Cast: Nilima Das, Anubha Gupta, Rabin Majumdar, Tulsi Chakraborty, Nitish Mukherjee, Reba Basu, Rajlakshmi Devi, Nivanoni Devi, Satya Bandyopadhyay, Nripati Chatterjee
Duration: 02:07:19; Aspect Ratio: 1.222:1; Hue: 60.000; Saturation: 0.003; Lightness: 0.160; Volume: 0.201; Cuts per Minute: 4.359; Words per Minute: 51.061
Summary: Noted novelist Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay's book dealt with questions regarding the desire for immortality through art. In Devaki Bose's film adaptation, the railway porter Nitai (Rabin Majumdar) develops a reputation as a poet participating in the kabigan (traditional musical debates between poets involving improvisation in a question-answer contest). The married Thakurjhee (Anubha Gupta) falls in love with him. To avert a scandal he leaves his village and travels with a nomadic Jhumur troupe of dancers and musicians. The prostitute Basan (Nilima Das), whose advances the hero initially rejects, eventually comes to embody the unity of art and desire. Her death forces him to return home, where he finds Thakurjhee also dead. The performances of the two women, the mute suffering of the mundane Thakurjhee, counterposed by Basan’s delicate frame crippled by venereal disease, and seen as the two sensuous opposites evoked by the hero’s poetry, allow for some graceful moments in the film. The film was known for its music, especially, Tarashankar’s lyrics 'kalo jodi manda tobe', 'ei khed mor mone mone', 'jiban eito chhoto kane', all sung by Majumdar, one of the last actors in the Saigal mould. Bose’s ecstatic soft close-ups, his signature, are available in profusion. He remade the film in Hindi (1954) with Geeta Bali, Nalini Jaywant and Bharat Bhushan.
Release date: 21 January,1949 (Uttara; Purabi; Ujjala)
The first feature film by Debaki Bose's own company Chitramaya, 'Kavi' is considered by many to be one of Bose's finest films. Though critical and historical opinion on the film has changed over the years, the films remains renowned because of its music by Anil Bagchi. Based on Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay's short story, the author himself praised the film in a letter to the director dated 22 January, 1949, a day after its release. Eminent personalities like Dr. Srikumar Bandyopadhyay, play-wright Sachindranath Sengupta, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay were also said to have congratulated the director on the film. (information source: 'Debaki Kumar Basu: A Monograph' by Ardhendu Sekhar Sengupta, NFAI)
The train is a recurrent symbol in the film, used many times in the narrative, bringing in multiple orders of meaning. It signifies both a journey and a capacity for mobility, both integral to the plot where caste is a nascent but central concern along with the idea of progress irrespective of one's background. Both of these are central thematic concerns of 'Kavi'. Besides, in a colonial context, the train also stands for an emerging modernity in British India that could be both a threat and a boon, a struggle between the old and the new which is also central to the narrative.
The protagonist himself, in fact, is first identified in the context of the train. The titular poet is a porter in the station, and a major chunk of the film is set in the station and its surrounding areas among the lives of the various people in this social space.
Rajan is supposedly a war veteran having fought, presumably, during the first World War since the novel is set in the inter-war years. He speaks Hindi or Bhojpuri rather than Bangla, a trope used to underline how he has travelled beyond the boundaries of the social space of the hamlet where most spend their entire lives.
With the 'kabigan' about to begin, everyone in the station has departed to watch the show, sometimes the only source of public entertainment for months on end.
The tea-stall is a space where a diverse group of people would come together, often separated by class and caste in a major way. A social space that is constantly changing, where friendships, rivalries and jealousies play out in equal measure.
While 'sabha-kavi' means court-poet, the man deliberately uses 'sabha-kapi' to insult Nitai, assuming the latter doesn't know the meaning. 'Kapi' means 'monkey' in Bangla, and man's sarcastic comment is directed at the fact that Nitai, a low-caste porter, dares to aspire to be a poet. The man is a brahmin and his comment is clearly a reference to Nitai'c lower-caste status, something we will discuss soon. Nitai's reply is heavily laden with irony, effectively shutting the man up.
That Nitai has understood the man's barbed comment is obvious when he confesses what the word 'kapi' means. By referring to Ram, he instantly evokes the image of Ram and Hanuman, effectively nullifying the man's insult.
The fact that it is Nitai's caste status that is the major impediment to his aspirations of being a poet is clear and the brahmin says as much. Caste is central to the narrative of 'Kavi' with one of the themes being the exploration of an artist's angst when faced with a feudal casteist society. The brahmin's comments are a prelude to this central conflict in the film.
Unlike Nitai, Rajan is both a native and an outsider. Thus, the latter has no patience for the insults directed at Nitai and he is more confrontational about it. His jibe that he always deals in cash is a veiled reference to a stereotypical brahmin's habit of living on credit off others.
Rajan speaks in Bhojpuri with his family too, often shifting to the third person to refer to himself. This continues the joke from the earlier scene where he was referred to as a king who has employed Nitai. At the same time, since he lives in the rail colony presumably, his speaking broken Bhojpuri, like the rest of the workers, is understandable.
The 'Chanditala' or the space around the temple of Chandi, the presiding deity of the village. Such religious spaces in and around temples were major community spaces where all events, be it public or religious, would be organised. Besides, fairs would be set and various makeshift food-shops would operate too during such occasions and the whole village would gather.
Rajan's wife and son with thakurjhi, Rajan's sister-in-law. One of the female protagonists of the film, thakurjhi is never named, instead always referred to by this familial designation. This deliberate ploy effectively renders her into a type more than a character, a cog in the narrative that drives Nitai towards his goals.
The news that the rival poet will not be participating opposite Mahadev is obviously a cause for dissent among the villagers who have gathered. The phrase 'bolo hari, hari bol' is generally used by mourners carrying a deceased to the crematorium. Here, it is used by the assistants of the poet to express their dissent about the fact they are never paid for their performances. In fact, most such poets used to have alternate professions like farming in order to make ends meet during the year.
The medal would be a sign of recognition and hence both Rajan and thakurjhi are keen that Nitai participate.
Nitai and thakurjhi's relationship constantly refers to the one between Radha and Krishna, especially with the number of parallels drawn between them. Thakurjhi sells milk and her huband rears cattle much like Radha's. Much like Radha and Krishna, their relationship too is beyond the limits of the permissible since she is married. At the same time, the temple space where they meet provides this relationship with a sense of divine sanction. The references to 'krishnachura', that is, the gulmohar or flame-of-the-forest completes these allusions as the flower have always been associated with Radha and Krishna and their love.
The exchange of garlands is a crucial aspect of Hindu marriages. Their promise to exchange the medal and the small garland of her head-dress mimics that ritual, and it becomes especially significant since the pledge is done in the temple premises.
Rajan entry could have been considered a symbol of the outside world intruding into their idyllic personal space if not for the fact that Rajan himself has been already established as someone who is both a native and yet an outsider.
'Kabigan' or 'kabir larai' is a form of contestual performance normally performed outdoors under a canopy usually in the dry season. Two professional minstrels (kabiyal or sarkar) and their troupes present an argument on important social and religious issues in extemporaneous Bengali verse and song, with musical and choral accompaniment. The first troupe opens the debate by posing questions, the rival troupe tenders reply, and the arguments and counter-arguments continue. A final session is also possible, with both troupes occupying the performance space together, shows the sarkars resolving their differences. In many instances, like here, the senior poet can resort to libel and offensive verse in order to throw the opponent off.
Here, Mahadev resorts to the latter and takes to insulting Nitai's caste and social background, causing both Rajan and members of Nitai's caste-group to react. With caste being an extremely sensitive issue, used widely for discrimination, their reactions reveal a facet of the social dynamics of the space. One theme of 'Kavi' would be on these lines: caste-politics in a predominantly feudal atmosphere and position of the artist in such a scenario.
There are an abundance of soft close-ups in 'Kavi', a signature visual style that can be noted in many of Debaki Bose's well-known films right from 'Chandidas' (1932), especially in reaction shots of characters. Here the close-ups also highlight Nitai and thakurjhi's relationship.
The rivalries and fights in such contests are restricted to the poets though. For the public, to whom this is a sort of much-awaited entertainment, these personal attacks would not have as much topicality. Rajan, however, is further angered by this.
Thakurjhi too is as angry as Rajan because of the behaviour of Mahadev and his assistants.
Nitai's caste-group are upset by the insults directed at them They belong to the 'doam' caste, who were primarily warriors for the kings in ancient India. After the decline of monarchy, the doams, known for their strength and confrontational nature, were reduced to being robbers and highwaymen - this was one of the primary insults of Mahadev's song. Doams were also the caste who were primarily concerned with work in the burning ghats and crematorium, hence, the social stigma attached to them. Nitai's refusal to back them up in their reaction would thus be seen as denying allegiance to one's caste identity.
Nitai's accusations that people like Mahadev are used to being subservient to something or the other while he is free is also one of the central assertions in 'Kavi' regarding the nature of a true artist.
Nitai's song is also an indirect confession of his love. This is underlined by references to Radha and Krishna again through the images of the flute and the 'kadam' flower. Parallel close-up shots of thakurjhi reinforce this and also heighten the similarly forbidden nature of their relationship.
Nitai's caste disowns him because of his refusal to listen to them and leave the 'kabigan' after Mahadev's insults. Incidentally, while Ramayan and Mahbharat are well-known epics, Manasamangal is significant in this scenario. The mangal-kavyas were known precisely for their synthesis of non-Aryan folk deities within regimented vedic systems of knowledge; in this context they symbolise Nitai's own curiously liminal position vis-a-vis both his caste identity and his identity as an artist and the possibility of finding a balance between the two.
Thakurjhi has been giving some of the milk to Nitai, which explains why there is less money than expected everyday. Her mother-in-law, obviously, is unaware of this.
Her sister, as we have seen in the kavigan scene, is perhaps aware or suspicious of her affections for Nitai, which explains her barbed comment about thakurjhi's perfectly timed visits to the Chandi temple early in the morning everyday.
Brindavan's joke about her being a queen evokes Rajan's earlier use of the same time term for his wife and son. Her reaction, however, is significant because in anger she uses the words 'methrani' and 'chhnachrani'. While the latter simply means a female con-artist or a thief, the former, more significantly, is a reference to the castes who have traditionally been attached to manual scavenging and cleaning of wastes. The term, has always been used pejoratively in Bengal to assert a sort of upper-caste disdain for the lowest of castes in society.
With Nitai having relinquished his position within his community, Rajan has brought him to one of the empty railway quarters to stay. Nitai's comment that he cannot marry and have a family as Rajan has suggested is perhaps better understood in the light of his affections for thakurjhi who is already married.
With his last connection to a social existence, his caste identity, already gone, Nitai's decision to give up being a porter in favour of pursuing his music is perfectly understandable.
There are numerous shots of thakurjhi walking down the train tracks in the film underlining how the railways have multiple associations, both thematic and historical, in the narrative. Also notable: thakurjhi is singing the song Nitai had sung in answer to Mahadev.
It seems quite likely that this meeting over her bringing milk for him is a daily occurence for them. Besides, Nitai also expresses one of his most fundamental conflicts - between his dreams and aspirations and his community and identity.
The mohanta, or the main priest of the temple, and the passenger after him, express one particularly troubling facet of this conflict. One refuses to pay Nitai his dues for his performance, and the other finds it implausible that he might wish to be something other than a porter, both citing his caste as an excuse. What sets back Nitai as an artist is his caste identity and the upper-caste tendency to constantly exploit that.
Thakurjhi, in many ways, stands for the freedom Nitai needs to flourish as an artist: it is necessary but at the same time it is compromised by circumstances. This is perhaps one of the reasons she is never named in the film; she remains an ideal that he must aspire for.
Women of the house of that time were not expected to have tea in front men, especially men who were not family. Thakurjhi's behaviour is thus almost a habit on her part.
Nitai gives voice to the conflict between his station and his aspirations for the first time, also acknowledging how the situation is same with him and thakurjhi.
Much like before, the two are interrupted by Rajan's sudden arrival.
While Rajan's use of the term 'kalkutti'(dark) is perhaps done is jest, Nitai quickly jumps to thakurjhi's defense.
A bhojpui folk song of a woman asking her lover, a soldier, to help her pick up a heavy pot of water; like many other such folk songs, the story is an allusion to Radha and Krishna's stories in Brindavan.
The brahmin at the tea-stall had been persistant in his insults regarding Nitai's decision to quit being a porter. It is thus extremely ironic that the news of Nitai's slowly growing fame and demand should come to him first.
This is the first scene where Nitai expresses his love for thakurjhi. The song 'kalo jodi mondo' was extremely popular at the time. A traditional kirtan based composition, it evokes images of Radha and Krishna's love and this is reinforced by the reference to the gulmohar she is wearing.
Yet again, Rajan's arrival completely upsets their idyllic space, even though this time he is carrying good news.
Right at the outset one can identify the changes in Nitai brought on by his new-found appreciation as a 'kavial'. Interestingly, the shawl he is wearing that he later mentions as a gift, in Tarashankar's novel Nitai had bought it with the prize money to assert the appreciation he had received from the aristrocrats. Here, there is not even a hint of something like that and it provides significant insight on the how Nitai's character has been narrativised for the screen.
Nitai's gift is significant to the plot: it will drive much of the action in the near future including Nitai's decision to distance himself from thakurjhi for her own good.
Basan's entry and her first words immediately set her at polar opposites to thakurjhi. With Nitai as a common factor in both, it sets up a conflict which will occupy the rest of the film.
'Jhumur' were a group of travelling entertainers comprising majorly of women and sometimes managed by women who had been dancers in their youth. There would be a troupe poet who would compose songs and the women would dance. In those days, along with kavigan, jhumur was one of the chief sources of public entertainment especially in the rural areas. However, there are certain crucial differenecs too. Jhumur troupes would need to be hired and so there would be a strict commercial angle to it. Also, many of the women would be public women and thus jhumur has always had associations with lewdness and immorality while kavigan would exclusively have religious associations. Thakurjhi's apprehensions arise from probably these well-circulated rumours and anecdotes about the jhumur women.
Basan's sudden arrival at Nitai's place has clearly irked thakurjhi which explains why she decides to return despite having set out for home.
Basan and Nitai's conversation continues the dense allusions to Radha and Krishna already seen in the film. Especially significant is the refernece to 'bashikaran ras' or a love potion and Nitai's reference to Chadrabali in his song. Chandrabali, in Vaishanava literature, is significantly the other woman who causes much tension between Radha and Krishna, even coaxing the latter to spend a night with her which Radha discovers. Here, Nitai, Basan and thakurjhi are very clearly occupying these three pivotal roles.
Narayan's continuous attempts to 'introduce' Basan to his friends is perhaps a subtle reference to the fact that in many cases, jhumur troupes would also be a front for prostitution.
Thakurjhi has come back to assuage her discomforts about the jhumur group, especially Basan. Nitai's assurance consist of a crucial metaphor which will persist in the film henceforth - he compares thakurjhi to the moon and Basan to the flowers of the 'shimul' tree. Interestingly, these flowers are beautifully purple in colour but the tree itself is full of thorns and the flowers have no fragrance.
The arrival of the jhumur troupe has caused a stir in the village especially among the men, who have parked themselves in the tea-stall near the troupe camp, hoping to catch a glimpse of the women inside.
Nitai's dismissal of the idea of joining the jhumur troupe has to do with the reputation and status of such troupes in society, especially among kavials like him.
'Kalomanik' is a name associated with Krishna. Since using that name to call someone would be a sacrilage, Basan uses the name 'koilamanik' ('gem among coal') for Nitai.
Just as before, Nitai's immediate reply angers Basan, unable as she is in keeping up with his talent for verse.
Thakurjhi's mother-in-law assumes that the necklace has been bought by the money she has set aside from the amount that was coming up short everyday.
Thakurjhi's sister, on the other hand, knows about her affection for Nitai. She has not talked about it with anyone, aside from making caustic comments occasionally to Brindavan or her husband.
Nitai has overheard the entire conversation, both with Brindavan and between Rajan and his wife. For the first time, the reality of the situation dawns on him, especially the implications and fallout of their relationship in such a limited social space.
His first reaction is thus obvious, he decides to put some distance between him and thakurjhi to ensure that the latter does not face any trouble or insult at home. Incidentally, she has not told him about the altercation between her and her mother-in-law regarding the necklace.
'Laxmi baar' is the name given to Thursday in Bengal, primarily because many Hindu households worship the goddess Laxmi on that day. Basan uses the dictum, that one is not supposed to waste grain and food on thursdays, as an excuse to come back to Nitai.
Concerns regarding public shame and slander are crucial reasons behind Nitai's behaviour after the realisation of the pitfalls of their relationship. His attempts are specifically geared towards avoiding any further slander on thakurjhi, like the one concerning the necklace, because of him. Thakurjhi, on her part, cannot obviously comprehend this sudden change and Basan's presence in such a tense scenario will further add to that.
The jhumur performance in the rail yard; the difference between jhumur and kavigan is further highlighted by the fact that the former has not been organised in the temple courtyard as is the custom with kavigan.
Interestingly, unlike the shots of women in the audience in the kavigan sequences, the audience that can be seen here is predominantly male though there are evidences of women present, especially thakujhi in the very first shot of the sequence. The heavily sexualised and transgressional nature of jhumur is underlined by the raucous reactions of the men gathered there.
Nitai's reluctance regarding singing in the jhumur troupe perhaps stems from the fact that these performances were looked down upon by most artists of kavigan.
The shots of the song are accompanied by parallel shots of a soft close-up of Anubha Gupta's face; thakurjhi's anguish over Nitai's behaviour and his growing closeness to Basan is apparent on her face. Ironically, Nitai's song repeats the metaphor of the 'simul flowers' which are beautiful but have no natural fragrance.
Brindavan, worried about thakurjhi and her absence the whole day, has been frantically looking for her, not having noticed her at the jhumur performance.
In his first meeting with Basan, Nitai had composed a verse on the the Chandrabali episode in Radha and Krishna's life. This scene is a very interesting retelling of the tale that serves to further heighten the metaphor of Radha and Krishna that is prevalent throughout the narrative of 'Kavi'. Basan convinces Nitai to allow her to spend the night there. Importantly, her comments on the lecherous men in the village throw some light on the life of the jhumur performers of the day and how many of them would often resort to prostitution.
To assert this retelling of the Chandrabali episode, the scene immediately cuts to thakurjhi standing by the window, having seen their entire exchange. Nitai too has changed his opinion about Basan, having come to understand some facets of her life and thakurjhi overhears this exchange.
Thakujhi had asked Nitai not to make songs for the jhumur women and Nitai has done just that. Also, the metaphor he has used till now for Basan also changes: instead of 'simul' he begins calling her 'keya', a sweet-smelling flower, signalling the new changes in their interactions.
Thakurjhi had claimed, a few scenes back, that she would never give the necklace back while she is alive. Nitai would clearly understand the implications and meaning of the act of throwing the necklace away.
Common superstitions under such circumstances would dictate that the woman has been influenced by some malevolent spirit, and an 'ojha' or witch doctor would be called to remove the influence. Stories such as the one the mother-in-law tells are quite common in rail colonies, especially those in remote areas.
There are multiple instances where the quack ojha would come perform false rituals which would even involve beating the 'victim' in order to remove bad omens - more often than not doing more harm than good.
Rajan speaking simply and seriously in Bangla, instead of the Hindi/Bhojpuri he has spoken thus far, is a clear indication of the gravity of the situation. As someone who himself is somewhat of an odd man out, Rajan finds it far easier to come to terms with Nitai and thakurjhi's relationship, even coming and asking the former about it. It is perhaps this that also propels him to ask Nitai to marry thakurjhi, assuring him that her marriage to Brindavan can be cancelled. What must also be noted is the clear articulation of caste as an important force to reckon with in such circumstances. While Rajan refers to the 'chamar' (cobbler) caste, one of the lowest, to describe why thakurjhi is being beaten, Nitai himself admits that their marriage is impossible because they are from different castes. We have already talked about the social position of the 'doam' caste in Bengal.
The three books because of which Nitai had accepted being thrown out of his caste group are the ones he packs when he decides to leave in the dead of night - the Ramayan, the Mahabharata and the Manasamangal Kavya. The scenes of his departure are intercut with scenes of thakurjhi who has gone into shock since the night she saw him with Basan and has begun speaking and behaving erratically.
Nitai's song continues the metaphor of the moon that has thus far been associated with thakurjhi. His bidding farewell to the moon is thus a symbolic farewell to thakurjhi, though he is unaware of her present mental state.
The call from the jhumur group to join them in their performance is a fortuitous occurence, especially after he has left everything behind. Nitai's initial reluctance about joining the troupe is obviously because of their reputation; this idea of the difference between kavigan and jhumur has already been discussed.
The train is constantly evoked as a quintessential symbol of journey, sometimes to uncertain destinations like in this case as Nitai travels to join the jhumur troupe.
The line Basan sings is from the Vaishnava padavali, collection of traditional hymns from the Vaishnava canon, sung/written generally addressed to Krishna, by Radha or any of the adoring gopinis of Vrindavan.
Narayan, their earlier poet, is referred to as the snake beneath the keya flowers, an urban legend referring to how snakes would take refuge under the keya bushes in high summer. This association continues the keya metaphor Nitai had ascribed to Basan earlier and also refers to Basan's difficulties in inhabiting a world populated by nefarious men like Narayan. Besides, one can note the obvious changes in Nitai and Basan's interactions especially when Basan addresses him as 'Kalomanik', another name for Krishna, instead of 'Koilamanik'(gem from the coals).
The troupe has already assumed a more intimate relationship between Nitai and Basan, hence the stress that the other two women call him 'brother'.
Thakurjhi's mental state has slowly deteriorated further, with the only coherent thoughts in her mind being that of Nitai, which explains how she can immediately guess that he is with the jhumur troupe. Interestingly, the fleeting track shot of the train tracks is significant especially since the train has been a symbol for their relationship, consistently referring to the distance that has always existed between them because of their castes and her marriage.
A traditional kirtan, referring to the love between Radha and Krishna and the pains of separation. Iconography of Krishna has always considered the god to be dark-skinned, black or even blue - hence the abundance of adjectives related to black or dark.
Thakurjhi has been rapidly getting more unwell, having premonitions of her own death. Driven by superstition as explained before, or perhaps as punishment for her transgressions, she has been also suffering physical abuse as she reveals to Rajan.
Constant metaphors regarding death and premonitions of death dominate the latter half of the film till the climax, especially since thakurjhi has already said that she wishes to die so that she can be born into another caste, that is, a 'doam'.
Narayan's song is an example of 'kheur', a ribald composition directing lampooning Nitai and Basan. It continues the Chandrabali metaphor but uses colloquial expressions deliberately meant to be offensive, asking Krishna/Nitai to reconsider their foolish decision of choosing her over Radha/thakurjhi. It also curses them when they refuse to comply, evoking images of touching the fire to the face before cremating the dead.
Nitai begins to sing what would be a typical kavigan, it begins with an invocation to the gods. He is asked to sing a 'kheur' instead. 'Kheur' would be one of the many types of songs sung during a kavigan, often containing slangs. Kavigan has always been considered an amalgamation of various forms of popular musical traditions prevalent at the time. Nitai's adherence to kavigan simply means an adherence to the more traditional devotional strain. For a jhumur trope, surviving on entertaining the villagers in the fairs, the more popular version of 'kheur' would be more necessary.
In keeping with how climactic the moment is, the scene is short and sudden. The scene where he is shown drinking is shot mostly in the dark, with only the fire lighting up the frame. Nitai is also never shown drinking, just a reaction shot of the man, a sound of a falling bottle and a rapid tilt.
It immediately cuts to the fair and Basan dancing to Nitai's song. The song is still not an example of a 'kheur', but is in fact a simple love-lyric addressed to Basan's beauty, something which would also be popular with the people who have gathered.
'Dohar' was the title of the musical assistant to the kavial. Nitai's insulting question as to why Yama does not come for Narayan is a direct response to the competing troupe's earlier insults. These sort of exchanges would be common among rival jhumur groupes, especially in the same village fair.
The opening of the door is a deliberately sexual symbol, as Basan invites Nitai into her hut.
In the next few scenes, Nitai and Basan's rapidly evolving relationship is intercut with thakurjhi being turned out of her house on the same night to heighten the dramatic irony of the sequence.
It is revealed that Basan is very ill. She refers to Narayan and his friends being responsible for it and there is a suggestion that she is suffering from a venereal disease.
Tying the 'gnatchhara' or the loose ends of their clothes is a form of common-law marriage quite prevalent among the Vaishnavites. It is symbolic act, a promise of faith in a union which is otherwise not officially recognised. Interestingly while we get to know Nitai and Basan's course of action in the next scene, thakurjhi will not be seen until the last act of the film.
The jhumur troupes would generally follow the line of villages between the zillas of Burdwan, Nadia, Murshidabad and Malda, during the festive months till August, performing in the various fairs in the remote villages. This would be a yearly ritual and many people would in fact spend their whole lives in such troupes.
Three separate sets of scenes are superimposed in this sequence to show Nitai and Basan in their travels. Shots of Nitai, and Basan dancing in the fairs, are superimposed over the names of the districts they travel through till they come back to Katoa again, suggesting the passing of a year.
Basan's dreams of settling in Nabadwip involves a lifestyle that is typically Vaishnavite. Nabadwip is the birthplace of Chaitanaya and was an important centre of the Vaishanava and Bhakti cults. Basan's dreams of settling down and Nitai's song about the fleeting nature of love itself, carry hints of imminent tragedy.
Since Nitai has joined the jhumur troupe, he has fallen in the eyes of other kavials who would look down upon the commercial aspect of jhumur and similar performances. Besides, with Nitai's fame quite well-known it could be another reason why the kavials are reluctant to let Nitai sing in the competition.
Basan's illness has begun to take its toll starting with the paranoia that Nitai is going to abandon her. Later, Nitai would refuse to go and perform at the competition partly due to his promise while tying the knot with her earlier and partly due to her rapidly deteriorating health.
The images and moods Basan refers to are almost always associated with omens of death.
For this whole sequence the shot of the solitary violinist in chiaroscuro would serve as a metaphor for death. It plays soon again after Basan's death.
In her last moments Basan refuses to acknowledge and pray to Krishna, even though it is only momentary. It is an accusatory act for all the injustices she has had to suffer. She relents almost immediately and the camera suggestively pans to the image of Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda.
Nitai's comment is a reference to his earlies promise to thakurjhi that he would one day get her a gold medal.
The scene repeats multiple motifs from the early scenes of thakurjhi and Nitai, perhaps to heighten the tragedy of thakurjhi's implied death. The song 'O amar moner manush' plays again and the scene where they had supposedly first met is heavily referred to as a dazed thakurjhi walks to the gulmohar tree - with the railway tracks featured prominently throughout.
The shots of thakurjhi, with the close-ups in soft focus, in her harrowed walk to the gulmohar tree, are very familiar images from Devaki Bose's oeuvre. First, and perhaps most prominently, used in 'Chandidas', the near-ecstatic images of suffering in love are very powerful images of Vaishnavite thought where separation and longing have more central roles to play in love and poetry than union with the beloved. These images and their allusions to the suffering of Radha are visually quite central to some of Devaki Bose's most renowned films: 'Chandidas'(1932), 'Bidyapati'(1937), 'Kavi'(1949), 'Bhagaban Sri Krishna Chaitanya'(1953).
It is precisely this idea, of separation and death as the true essences of love, that informs the final sequence of 'Kavi'. Nitai and thakurjhi's relationship has been framed within the 'parakiya' love tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and many incidents in the film are direct allusions to the Radha-Krishna paradigm. Their final separation is thus integral to the plot.
The railways, tearing through the little hamlet, and the gulmohar tree have acted as dominant symbolic tropes in the first act of 'Kavi'. While the former had been a nod to the love of Radha and Krishna that frames the narrative, the latter had been a symbol of the social and historical context of the narrative as mentioned before. These feature prominently in the last scene with thakurjhi's funeral pyre under the gulmohar tree and the final shot of the empty train tracks.