Love & The Madman



Malli opens the door to the cage. The girl’s face is seen. Brimming with her smile. The cage again. Sumitesh waved his arms and made fluttering noises to create the atmosphere.

The birds are afraid to leave the cage. Mallinath brings them out one by one and releases them.

The girl claps and dances. The Turkish cigarette hangs from Mallinath’s lips, broken. All four birds beat their wings but because they have no experience in flying, they tumble downwards in a heap, their wings locked, their feathers flying.

The empty cage. Mallinath’s face. He’s saying something, but Sumitesh was silent. Therefore the dialogue remained unsaid to us too.

As soon as the birds fall into the grass and bushes below, some other birds or grotesque bird-like creatures emerge suddenly, as though they have been waiting in the twilight for the budgerigars. Some of them are furry. Without feathers. A few resemble flying lizards. Others have teeth like hacksaws between their parted lips. They tear into the four budgerigars, eat their flesh, drink their blood, mangle their bodies.

The empty cage, again. Mallinath’s face beside it. His eyes popping out. The young woman walking off towards the staircase. Mallinath’s eyes, again. Sumitesh said:

This is the time, this is when Malli kaka went mad. The film ends here too.

But what were those things that attacked the four birds and ate them? Were they birds too?

Birds, but not quite birds. All pre-historic birds. Birds like those don’t exist any more.

Can’t we find out their names?

Of course we can. Archeopteryx, aptornis, paleocarsonis, hesperornis, sinosauropteryx prima, pterodactyl.

We hadn’t heard of any of them besides the pterodactyl.

Once again, cake and milk with cocoa were brought for us. We ate and drank. All of us were feeling a little queasy.

Later, when we grew up, all of us became even fatter. But not milk, now we drank alcohol. Still our stomachs kept turning.

Sumitesh had the film digitally restored afterwards, creating a soundtrack with surround sound in stereo. It was originally available as a video cassette, and later as a compact disc.

The film was shown quite often. By turn on different channels. On STAR Movies, on TCM, on HBO, on MGM, etc. We were reminded of Malli kaka’s laughter whenever we watched the movie. We even felt a stab of fear.

But we never let anyone know. 

NABARUN BHATTACHARYA is a poet and novelist in Bangla. Harbart, his first novel, won the Narsimha Das Award, Bankim Puraskar and Sahitya Akademi Award. He has published seven novels, over 60 short stories and three volumes of poetry. He lives in Kolkata.


ARUNAVA SINHA is a translator of classic and contemporary Bangla fiction. His latest published translations are Harbart and When The Time is Right. He lives in New Delhi.


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