Artistes perform Sattriya
There are very few serious cinematic attempts to project the fate of Majuli, one of the biggest river islands of the world, which is now on the verge of extinction because of largescale erosion by the Brahmaputra.
Winner of two national awards, filmmaker Charu Kamal Hazarika’s The Weeping Island is one such film that makes people think seriously about the impending dangers the great cultural site is facing. The film, which was recently screened at the North East Film Festival at Shilpgram under the auspices of Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation, earned rave reviews and critical acclaim.
The cultural heritage of Majuli — the tradition of a distinctive and rich cultural pattern based on the Vaishnavite faith, propagated by the great socio-cultural reformer Mahapurush Sankardev for more than 500 years — is depicted in a plain narrative style at the outset.
With spectacular visuals complimented by articulate background narration, director Hazarika skilfully takes the viewers to the unmatched scenic beauty of Majuli, situated in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra.
The film dwells on the geographical location of the island on the world map, mea-ns of communication, the native tribes with their distinctive socio-cultural traditions and their livelihoods like fishing, sericulture, dairy farming and agriculture.
Besides, it throws light on the Vaishnavite satras, rituals and religious practices, handloom and handicrafts, mask-making, performing arts like Sattriya dance and music, manuscripts and illustrated books, miniature paintings, artefacts, environment, migratory and non-migratory birds, river dolphins, turtles and flood and erosion through stunning visuals and effective narration.
Dibakar Gogoi’s innovative camerawork and Pranjal Thakur’s flawless editing deserve special mention.
Another significant aspect of the film is Nava Sarma’s wonderful rendition of the background narration.
However, the music of the film left a little to be desired. While director Hazarika’s effort to use music as effects in certain scenes deserves praise, the overall music pattern would have been more close to the essence of Majuli had it been composed accordingly.
The film is unquestionably a sensitive eye-opener to the threats posed to this heritage river island — the nerve centre of the rich Assamese culture based on the neo-Vaishnavite movement, founded in the 15th century.