Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Baran: Redefines the meaning of true love

“Let me let you go, so that I can love you. Let the depth of my love alone secure you for the rest of your life; wherever you are. Let freedom be your bliss and the pain be mine, I’ll remember you and cherish my unsaid love until the day I die.”

By Meenu Prasad

Friday, September 1, 2023

Baran is a 2001 Iranian film directed by Majid Majidi, based on his original script. The film garnered numerous accolades at national and international levels for the director-writer. 

The film is set in Iran at a time when there were several Afghan refugees working illegally. 

The 17-year-old protagonist, Lateef, who is working on a construction site, is introduced in a cheerful manner. He is shown preparing snacks and tea for the workers, as he is the youngest person working on the construction site. 

He is also shown as someone who has regular quarrels with workers on the site, which is intended to establish his immature nature. It is as if to prove that he is a young boy who is yet to grow up a little more – to understand the world and be kind enough to understand any situation – nf yet smart enough to ironically fit in the group.

The plot ramps up momentum when an Afghan labourer named Najafar falls and damages his leg and is temporarily replaced by his son Rehmat. 

The introduction of Rehmat begins to trouble Lateef as he gets replaced by him in preparing food and teas as he is too small and weak. Lateef is hence moved to a more hectic job at the construction site. 

In this part of the story, the director has fit the sequence perfectly to suit the situation. He does this by frequently showing Lateef’s fights at the site with other labourers and Rehmat’s inability to work as labourer on the site by showing how weak he is – he cannot even carry a small packet of cement up the construction site. 

The rivalry between Lateef and Rahmat starts when Lateef slaps Rehmat and calls him an Afghani. The art of storytelling here very well demonstrates that we could infer that Lateef’s wrath stems from the fact that an Afghani has replaced him for a simple job that should have belonged to him, an Irani, in the first place. Additionally, as refugees, they should find challenging employment to support themselves.

The feud between them grows uglier. However; in most cases it is one sided, as Rehmat always keeps a low profile. All that he cares about is a mere income to support his family. 

The story continues until the director decides to reveal the relation of the film title and the plot at a very early stage. Lateef, on one occasion, setting out to cross the boundary and spy, walks inside Rehma’s room and sees a young girl combing her hair in the pantry area. On closer inspection, he realises that the girl is Rehmat, who was actually a girl in disguise. 

Guilt! The shame of offending a lovely young girl!

Even after being pestered repeatedly, she never spoke a word or pondered taking revenge on Lateef.

After that the plot transports us through an emotional ride of a silent romance. 

She begins to notice that Lateef is shielding her from the physical proximity and rude comments of other men around her. As only Lateef is aware that Rehmat is a girl just from that one look at her hair flowing while she combed, he makes every effort to keep her protected.   

That is until a police department inspection… Rehmat gets noticed by the inspector and is made to follow him. Lateef runs faster in an effort to save her and gets arrested; Rehmat flees. 

Lateef starts to miss her presence and spends time on the construction site’s terrace, where Rehmat used to lounge. While there, he discovers a tiny pin with a crystal flower. When he notices that, he smiles and takes it in his possession. 

As Memar, the construction supervisor must lay off all the Afghan workers because Rehmat was so close to being caught by the inspector, they are now even more vigilant, the little boy Lateef goes silent. His brimming love for Rehmat transforms him into a man so mature that he begins to act upon things to get to comfort her family. 

After a fight with Memar, Lateef assembles his annual savings and attempts to send that sum through Soltan, the person who sent Rehmat to work. He, however, takes the money and flees to Afghanistan and leaves him a message. 

Dismayed, Lateef, by chance, discovers Najafar’s (father of Rehmat/Baran) home and overhears him speaking. It is from there that he discovers that Rehmat’s real name is Baran. 

On a land full of refugees the most expensive and worthy thing with a great resale value is an Identity card of an Irani, which Lateef decides to sell – the only thing that he is left with. He sells it for the maximum amount he could obtain for and offers the amount to Najafar.

When Lateef discovers from Najafar that they are departing for Afghanistan, he is devastated and retreats to a nearby pond. We can see Rehmat’s clip plainly clinging to his treasured cap, which is constantly with him; it is the scene where the director admits that Lateef has entirely fallen in love with Rehmat/Baran. 

Rehmat appears as Baran in the truck where Lateef is helping them load their belongings. He runs to pick up the vegetables for her when she drops a filled bucket on the ground. Although their hands cross each other, they never make contact. She smiles at him and gives him a sidelong glance as she gently backs away while lowering her burqa

As she walks towards the truck in the last scene, her shoes get entangled in a bog; Lateef carefully pulls it out, cleans it with his bare hands, and then sets it beneath her foot.

She watches him until he disappears from her line of sight while wearing her shoes back.

With a heavy heart Lateef turns and looks down, where he finds her last footprints. He smiles as the rain begins to wash away the footsteps, as if to prove his innocent, unrequited love.

Majid Majidi has well incorporated the meaning of the name Baran, which literally means rain in Persian, at the climax of the film with a melancholic rain – where the two souls parted with so much love.

 If love does come with pain, what is it worth?