Attempt towards sensitive cinema

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 1.06.04

There are a lot of factors that irk the viewers of recent Assamese films. And the latest one is a young, talented director’s inability to attain the expected heights in his maiden feature venture Hepaah.

The film might initially impress the viewers because of its unusual content and pattern.

Director Shankar Borua’s storyline, revolving around a music band from an interior village of Assam, is certainly a fresh theme. The story, however, is not compact and the director fails to capitalise on the subject due to a disjointed script.

Five young boys take to music professionally and plan to launch their band at a concert. A middle-aged man, Kakati, who owns a furniture shop, comes to help them out.With his help and patronage, the boys hold successful shows and eventually Kakati becomes the mentor of the troupe Hepaah a name chosen by Kakati himself.

The eventful sojourn of the troupe begins amid the masses and they find accolades and applause everywhere. But before things can take concrete shape, there comes a rich man, with the proposal of producing an audio album of the troupe. The huge commercial success of the album brings money and means to the group, alleviating their day-to-day hardship.

They begin to lose their commitment to music. Kakati, disillusioned by their attitude, decides to leave them to their fate. But before everything goes out of control, the troupe members make a last effort to hold on to their ideals. But it is already too late. Nothing materialises in the end, only their aspirations, desires remained unfulfilled. Two other elements, romance and violence, have been incorporated into the theme, but the story does not take the desired shape.

The director adopts a simple narrative style. However, his weakness for abstraction in building up sequences turns out to be a major technical constraint. Restless and hasty change of sequences aborts continuity and development of sub-plots.

The characterisation, too, remains unconvincing. There was ample scope to delve into the characters like Kakati, the young mother of a boy who joined the troupe and the main vocalist, which remain unidimensional.

Moreover, one wonders what exactly Kakati’s daughter was doing with that small typewriter, sometimes on the foothill of a mountain, sometimes on bed of a boat floating on a river.

The use of such metaphors is no longer in vogue in Indian cinema.

However, the director succeeds in creating a proper ambience through flawless use of camera, well-designed lighting and enchanting numbers composed by Jitul Sonowal (the lyrics being another added advantage). The film Hepaah, in these respects, may be termed as an exceptional effort.

A seasoned Biju Phukan delivers mature performance, as do Jatin Bora and Geetabali.

The exceptional performances by the new batch of artistes was a pleasant surprise and Gaurab Bania, the actor in Jibon’s role and the actress in the role of Kakati’s daughter, deserve mention.

Borua made an excellent documentary. This maiden feature film by him clearly hints at the entry of another sensitive director in Assamese cinema.

Rong Sarmah