Illumination – A review of an ode

Collaborative efforts of Yashika Doshi and Neeraja Srinivasan

Illumination’ is a 20-minute film shot in the style of a personal documentary. The movie revolves around the life of a notable Indian English poet, Kiriti Sengupta. The prominent themes of the movie as a whole are those of spirituality, philosophy, and contemplation which leave you with a sense of tranquillity. After my first watch, the short film reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing as a result of its simple, homely nature and focus on a strong Bengali narrative.  When I finished watching this ode, my initial thoughts were to step back for a minute and think about this line towards the end, “I speak when I write prose, and I read when I write poems.” This is one of those rare times where I felt that I’ll have a new perspective each time I read it again.

And such is the work of Mr. Sengupta – make one pause, step back and introspect. His written work seems to be a reflection of his own characteristics. Both he and his poetry have a peaceful presence. A poet, editor, publisher, translator, curator of a literary festival, he dons many hats and is as skilled as any lover of words can get. To think that a dentist by profession, and with no formal training in writing neither prose nor poetry, his story is inspiring to all. A lesson that I took away from the video is the idea that poetry is subjective. It is a comforting thought since poetry is often perceived as good or bad. Poetry is a language, one that is unique to each individual and molded according to their emotions and experiences. It is a tool that leaves its imprints on people, always leaving us craving for more.

Some of my personal favorite lines from his books are – “The tiny particles scattered in the air absorb the sunlight; they seem to be delighted and drone the song of liberation”; “India meditates across the map, guided or otherwise, sometimes endorsing a pair of faded jeans”; “How many hues have you envisaged so far? I ask about the hues but not your bizarre way of depicting them.” His poetry can be described as Ruskin Bond-esque, the kind that is best accompanied with a cup of hot chai on a rainy day. This film is the perfect watch when you’re looking to relax a bit and take a step back from a mundane, daily routine. It encourages one to keep pursuing their passion because things will always work out if you work hard and stay humble. It could also serve as the perfect classroom film for students studying creative writing or regional literature as it provides them with an insight into the artistic process and headspace of a writer.  


The documentary, in itself, is beautifully made, as it takes the audience on a calming journey through Mr. Sengupta’s inspirations, published work, and literary associations. His son and wife provide personal tributes as the former narrates his poem and his wife shares titbits about the couple’s pre-poetry days. Personally, I also found it quite peculiar that Mr. Sengupta’s entire life was encapsulated within a mere 20 minutes. It helped me gain some perspective and taught me that focusing on the grander scheme of things, rather than brooding over the little details is essential to stay level-headed.  I could not help but wonder if there are certain decisions that Mr. Sengupta looked back on and wished he did something differently or if he’s thankful that a culmination of these decisions, good or bad, brought him to where he is now. 

The use of natural elements like fading trees, the charming evening sky, the usage of warm, calming tones such as yellow and green, and the soothing Indian classical tunes in the background only add on the alluring effect of Mr. Sengupta recites his pieces of work and once again, leaves the viewer wanting for more.

India’s poets are often sidelined in history since our society treats the arts as an unworthy occupation. This tribute is not only a lovely gesture but also a step towards helping understand the fact that poetry isn’t just an occupation to writers such as Mr. Sengupta, it is survival. As his wife mentions, even when it seemed like their life was crumbling around them, he continued to scribble pieces of poetry on his computer. It most certainly seems like poetry to him, is salvation.

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