As we ward off the pandemic, it’s high time for Assamese movies seeking audiences to get a theatrical release, writes KALPAJYOTI BHUYAN.
After a year with no releases (excluding the direct-to-streaming releases), Assamese cinema is crawling back to light in 2021 with Goru and Midnight Song. With different content and styles, both the films are expected to revive and extend new life to Assamese cinema as we fight the pandemic.
Polarisation is the problem of our age and the divides on all sides are becoming more apparent than ever before as perceptions are increasingly being shaped along partisan lines. Such divides, conflicts, and preoccupations find a footing in Himanshu Prasad Das’s Goru. As a lost cow is found and brought back home, an issue of ownership arises when a supposedly new owner emerges, claiming his right over the cow. What starts out as a social drama ends up as a political one, as the administrative machinery gets pulled into the scenario. Things get ugly and unruly real fast as the competitors for the legitimate ownership of the cow find themselves at the opposite ends of the spectrum of hate.
Goru is very much a story about ordinary people who arrive at such crossroads or fall prey to contested and manufactured narratives. It is a fairly straightforward story which finds its value in raw and timely observations about the society and the whole political scenario at large. But, it could have been an equally compelling human drama. However, Goru doesn’t have the requisite depth to be one. As a satire, the film’s sole end is not only to make the viewers think in between laughs but also to carve out a reasonable amount of empathy while offering a critique of the lived realities of the present.
The caricatures that operate from behind closed doors, fail to take off and materialise beyond the given anti-Muslim rhetoric. They just happen to be a part of the movie that they are a part of. Goru had all the time to take an easy bite at romance which is depressingly dated, but, there is simply not enough build-up for scenes to arrive at their intended level of intensity later. However, Goru’s contribution to set the ball rolling for Assamese cinema post lockdown won’t be forgotten.
Midnight Song, Arunjit Borah’s feature-length directorial debut, comes in the form of a chamber drama where a practically estranged married couple finds themselves in the doubtful company of a stranger who is welcomed to share the night with them. The specific genre explored here limits its dynamics to a small set of characters, limited locations and a short period of time which makes Midnight Song a story of one night, involving only three characters confined indoors. It is risky but also an innovative take, which makes it more than an honest attempt.
Midnight Song is more about the characters. Monuj Borkotoky is the “stranger” who poses as a social worker frustrated with the system. He is perhaps trying to lose the trail of an angry mob, whose misdeeds he might have uncovered. Rupam Chetia plays Bikramjit Buragohain who is rich, arrogant, self-entitled, and engaged in unlawful dealings, and Kalpana Kalita, his wife, Mou, is conflicted and trapped in an unhappy marriage. Domination or being exploited are themes that run parallel to all the individual character arcs as everything else unfolds over ambiguous terms where the audiences have to piece together the rest and this, too, is a great offering of the movie.
For a build-up, early on, we are given the situation of an exposed ploy of land mafias, to cover up which, certain amends are to be made. And, thus, the characters are already in an interesting premise even before being properly introduced, but then, this very premise remains underutilised. The influence of these external conflicts are used to shape the characters of the story early on but abandoned later. As the situation doesn’t aggravate any further, the conflict never heightens and, as a result, the drama remains flat. However, there’s some crafty skill at display in Midnight Song and the screenplay is engrossing enough to set up Arunjit Borah as a director to watch out for. Now, as movie theatres are being allowed to operate with full capacity, it’s time for other Assamese movies seeking audiences to be released.