A struggle still

A still from Jeeya Jurir Xubaax.   | Photo Credit: 18dfrsanjib1

If you have ever had the chance to travel through rural Assam, you will admire the frames of talented Assamese filmmaker Sanjib Sabhapandit’s latest rollout for being so realistic.

Jeeya Jurir Xubaax or “The Pulsating Mindscape” is admirable for cinematically trapping both the verdant bucolic landscape of the region and its appalling underdevelopment even today. Two minutes into the film, you encounter two giants of filmdom from eastern India — Victor Banerjee and Bishnu Kharghoria — sketching the scene strikingly with these two aspects in full play.

While Victor, as the character Dhon visiting his village after a long while, exults in the beauty of the countryside, even surprising his city-bred wife and son by splattering in a river by a huge tree that flays its leafy arms afar, he is also forced to walk on a shaky bamboo bridge as his cabbie refuses to drive his new vehicle on it. If Victor is surprised by this lack of development even after so many years, Kharghoria, as Kon, is the representative of the long suffering village folk, silently witnessing a world go by that has never had anything promising for him.

Sabhapandit’s film is but not just about a verdant Assam or its underdevelopment. His canvas encompasses more: contribution of Assam to the Freedom Movement; how caste plays a spoiler. The game changer here is a bunch of children — all quite impressive in their acting abilities — who come up with new-age ideas to address the situations that stem from them.

In an interview from Assam, the filmmaker throws light on the idea behind the film, “Assam’s contribution to the freedom movement was ignored, deliberately sidelined. The film tries to re-establish the efforts of the little known people who contributed to it. Through this, the film highlights India’s actual issues.”

A plaque about the contribution of a ‘low’ caste man, Mukundaram Barua, to the freedom struggle accidentally gets discovered in a remote village. Considering the strong public opinion that his honour be restored, the government, in an election year, gets down to work. In the process, the camera pans on people’s apathy, a government that only focuses on winning an election, and all that in between.

He also focuses on casteism. Like innumerable people suffering from it, the four generations featured in the film have also suffered. The spotlight is on the fast disintegrating good old family too. Says Sabhapandit, “The search for the forgotten freedom fighter turns out to be an exercise to understand the family. This is done by the great grandchildren in a very imaginative and innovative way. Our best bet, in spite of everything, is still the young generation.”

What is striking is also how he is attempting to take the film to the audience. Sabhapandit says, “We have no plan to release the film in regular cinema halls in Assam. Instead, we have released it through a mobile cinema hall which is now travelling through the State.” The mobile cinema hall is an impressive medium, can accommodate 700 people at a time, has great sound effects, comes with a collapsible screen that can be easily assembled.

“This is also a necessary move considering only 23 halls across Assam today screen Assamese films, that too for only one or two shows,” says the filmmaker, a management graduate who took to the art after acting in Jahnu Barua’s super flick Kuhkhal.

With English subtitles, he is also exploring a wider audience. “We are working towards PVR release of the film in different metros,” he says.

Into his 10th year in filmmaking, Sabhapandit, who picked up the National Award for Juye Poora Xoon in 2004, categorically states the recognition has not really done anything for him. His is a journey of self-created routes to creative expression. “I am not a film institute trained filmmaker. I don’t live on filmmaking, nor do I work with others’ scripts. Since the days of Kuhkhal, I realised the power, the magnitude and dimension of cinema. I take months to decide on the way to depict a scene, discovering the beauty of the unspoken words,” says Sabhapandit, a former lecturer at the Assam Engineering College who runs a textile industry in North Guwahati for a livelihood.

Being a low budget filmmaker, he is increasingly realising the back-breaking impact and influence of big budget Hindi films on good regional cinema. The answer, he underlines, lies in digital technology.

“With this technology, good regional films will continue to be made at a lesser cost,” he says. It will serve several purposes. “Help people like me for whom the mother tongue is the strongest medium of expression. Help tell millions of untold stories that spring from its diverse ethnicity and culture. After all, India is not wholly a Hindi heartland or made up of only urban metros.”

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 2:45:48 AM |

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