Maj Rati Keteki is a picture of astounding beauty and depth. Here is a film that will cater only to a niche audience simply because of its content and so to speak of the lack of what we in today’s time call the entertainment quotient. There are no superheroes here. There are no song and dance routines, no toppling villains and shattering glasses. There is no jarring comedy neither do we have any earth-shattering mystery to uncover along with the characters. What we get to see here is a slice of life of a gamut of characters that each have a different story to tell and take us through their respective emotional arcs.
Maj Rati Keteki is so refreshing and palpable that in its duration of 1 hour 57 minutes I was totally engrossed in the characters and their lives. In spite of no major surprises and the drama too being very subtle, there was still something so enchanting and arresting about the whole film that I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it. It felt real. Everything about it felt real and the fact that it is shot in a milieu that is all too well known to me meant that I was able to pick up little nudges here and there that others may miss.
A famous writer comes back to the town that led him to be who he had become. While in the town and going through the routines of “book reading sessions” and speeches and parties, memories from his past stir up as he soaks in the thoughts of the ones he loved, ones he lost and things that he could have done but he didn’t do. He also makes acquaintance with two important people who would go on to shape his future course of actions in some ways; A passionate yet disillusioned writer who is trying her best to publish her first novel and the man who inspired him to be what he was in the first place but who was also only a shadow of what he used to be.
I was enthralled by the little things of this movie. The first scene where Adil Hussain, playing the famous writer lands in Guwahati and is amazed by the changes in the milieu sets the tone for the rest of the film. The subtle look of astonishment on his face coupled with the seamlessly natural dialogs made this scene memorable. The flashbacks are stories in themselves. The cute love story that unfolds between two adolescents is one of the sweetest things about this film. That loves story also rings quite a bell in the end when the girl played by Kasavi Sharma turns away from the boy rather easily. This just shows the fickle nature of youth and how it could shape lives for the better and for the worse.
The camaraderie between two kids one of whom is from an impoverished background and has lived through a great personal tragedy is beautifully portrayed. The kid playing the impoverished boy is particularly brilliant. What happens to him, in the end, broke my heart. I just wished he didn’t end up that way. Another episode involving a good-hearted poor woman who succumbs to her poverty and also her unwillingness to displease her husband was shattering. The same can be said about the story of the little girl who is duped in the name of nail polish and nearly abused but is saved by what her mother always asked her to stay away from. In the present time, the story of the struggling writer played by Sulakshana Baruah who is trying to get her first novel published and has been reduced to a pin-up doll by the publisher is a heartening watch. The last bits when she breaks down made me stands up and take notice.
If one looks superficially at these stories, they are irrelevant and will definitely not inspire any attention. But when you look closely you realize that each of these stories are re-creations of the various choices that we make in our day to day lives and live with the results henceforth. The moment we associate these stories with our lives, they assume importance. When that is the case, you will want to know what happens to a particular character and therein lies the hook of the film. Maj Rati Keteki is a film designed much in the same line as Italian Neo-realistic cinema of someone like Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves) or for that matter of Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali). I can’t express my happiness enough for the fact that they even made a film like this. It’s such a refreshing change from the assembly line products that we are served up in the name of cinema these days.
Santwana Bardoloi, who previously made Adajya, knows her art and she does exceedingly well to throw out every cliché associated with the dramatic style of acting that the Assamese film industry is known for. She makes the people, the dialogs and the situations real and believable. This factor adds credibility to the plot and the drama and also absorbs the viewer in the story. The film is shot well. The atmospheric feel of the villages is brought out beautifully. It is also to be noted that the drama in most of the scenes flows through the performances and the camera gives us the best perspective to view the acting be it through close-ups, mid-range shots or long takes.
Maj Rati Keteki has successfully washed down the bad taste left in my mouth by some of the recently released commercial Assamese films that shouldn’t be called films in the first place. It’s a miracle that a film of this type even got made. It’s an artistic triumph and a cinematic gem that will be cherished as one of the best Assamese films of the year and may be decade. Kudos to the team behind it and especially to Santwana Bardoloi for having the courage and willingness to make a film as offbeat as this one. I hope she makes more like these in the future.
Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)