BORNODI BHOTIAI (2019)

  • Release Date: 3/5/2019
  • Cast: Dorothie Bharadwaj, Anupam Kaushik Borah, Kenny D Basumatary, Sonmoni Sarma, Kaushik Nath, Himanshu Gogoi, Rajib Nath, Manisha Bhuyan, Diganta Konwar
  • Director: Anupam Kaushik Borah

Local Kung Fu, Kothanodi, Local Kung Fu 2, Suspended Inspector Boro and now Bornodi Bhotiai. Assamese cinema has received a number of shots in the arm over the last few years and what makes me even more excited about this changing face of Assamese cinema is the minimalistic filmmaking approach that all these films have in common. Content is king. The performances are the driving force behind each and every one of the above-mentioned films. And most importantly they are all mighty entertaining. I have been hearing great things about Bornodi Bhotiai ever since it started appearing on the horizon and now having finally seen it, all I can say is that it deserves every bit of the praise that it is getting.

Bornodi Bhotiai chronicles the journey of a group of individuals and documents a few years of their lives as their lives unfold with the flowing mighty Brahmaputra River that is as much a part of their existence as it is a cause of their miseries and conflicts. A young girl is looked down by everyone in Majuli as she wished an old man death seconds before the man sneezed his way to his heavenly abode. She is secretly loved by four best friends who are open about their feeling with one and all except the girl. An insurance agent who is highly educated gets a shot in the arm when the old man dies shortly after making a policy leaving his son rich after him. A government official comes to Majuli looking for a bride and having a good term of service with a department that gives him ample chance of merry making. All these stories and a lot more converge on a common string that is the Mahabahu Brahmaputra.

Bornodi Bhotiai is one of the funniest films to have come out this year. I was in splits for the most part of it. Unlike Rima Das’ Village Rockstar, where I was unable to comprehend a lot of the dialogues that were being mouthed, Bornodi Bhotiai’s dialogues, even though deeply rooted in the lingo of Majuli, is lucidly understandable. A lot of the film’s comedy is extracted from simple and routine give-and-takes between the characters involved. There are some lines that made me roll on the floors laughing simply because of the way they were delivered by the characters. The feel here is very close to what the real socio-cultural life of Majuli is and yet it has an appeal that will make its way to the heart of one and all. However, some prior knowledge or basic idea about life in Majuli will help viewers enjoy these bits and the film as a whole a lot more.

Bornodi Bhotiai may be a comedy but it never forgets to draw our attention to some of the biggest problems plaguing the world’s largest Riverine Island. People defecting out of the place because of dwindling ways to earn a decent living, the yearly rains and resulting floods that are a cause of diseases, loss of landmass which is a further hit to the employment, lack of proper medical supplies and services and a serious lack of attention to its problems by the ruling machinery are all there but presented in a manner that is not preachy but in ways amusingly sarcastic. Even the sarcasm is well guided and never tries to ridicule but only point. The director lets us decide whether to laugh and forget or carry it with us out of the theater.

The ensemble cast is exceptional. Anupam Kaushik Borah leads from the front but it took me a while to realize that he was a major player in the scheme of things. He is wonderful in a role that has a lot of different shades to it. There is comedy, there is tragedy and then there is this feeling of want which is beautifully conceptualized as a medical condition. Dorothie Bharadwaj is equally great. She gets the core of the character spot on and makes us invest our interest and emotions in her story. There are some other aspects to her role which was stunning but I cannot get into those points here without giving spoilers and hence I will refrain from it. The four actors playing the group of friends are the comic backbone of this film. They are so lifelike and hilarious that they each deserve a standing ovation for their respective acts. Kenny D Basumatary has a smallish role here but he is a screen stealer whenever he comes on screen.

I went into this film blank with little to no idea about what it was about. Also, it helped that I didn’t know any of the actors except Kenny D Basumatary and hence was able to accept them for the characters that they were playing. I believe most of the actors are new here and even the most ardent Assamese movie fan will not have any priors with them and hence will be able to feel a similar freshness and radiance to their act that I enjoyed so much. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bornodi Bhotiai can be enjoyed the most when you get into it without any prior knowledge of it or any pre-conceived notions.

The music and cinematography of the film are enchanting. I just loved the way the makers were able to gel the music with the settings and the visuals. Each and every song of the film is an inseparable part of the narrative. I was pleasantly surprised by a song that shows the residents of Majuli in their organic vitality. That’s something we don’t see too often in a fictional feature film and must have taken a lot of courage to put it where it was. Suffice is to say that Majuli is a character in this film more than a topography and that has really helped the film become even more affecting and haunting.

I have only two nitpicks with the film. After the interval, the proceedings slow down a bit leading to the narrative dragging a little. There is a part where the dialogues and the lip-sync of a character goes amiss for about 10 seconds. When you have made a film that is this good, these small issues have to be ironed out otherwise they can easily take the viewers out of the experience. But these nitpicks will never mar all that is good about this film.

I loved Bornodi Bhotiai from start to finish. This is the kind of cinema that one should be looking to make. Anupam Kaushik Baruah has proved yet again that even with meager resources one can pull off wonders in cinema as long as you find your voice and people who are willing to toil for your dream. This is a film that proves that one can make neo-realistic cinema that is entertaining. Bornodi Bhotiai is a must watch.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Feedback: aambar03@gmail.com

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