THE SIBUK (2020)

Rishan Doley in a still from The Sibuk
  • Release Date: 06/12/2020
  • Cast: Rishan Doley, Sekhar Bordoloi, Jadav Payeng, Nayan Bordoloi
  • Director: Nayan Bordoloi

“I had an inheritance from my father. It was the moon and the Sun! Now I can roam around the world and spending of it shall never be done!”

                                                                                                                                 — Buddhadeb Guha

Rishan Doley and Sekhar Bordoloi undertook a voyage on an indigenously built raft, “The Sibuk”, from Molai forest near Kokilamukh of Jorhat to Umananda of Guwahati through the majestic river Brahmaputra. The Molai forest is named after the legendary Padmashri Jadav Payeng of the indigenous Mising tribe of Assam. His incredible journey of life includes spending 30 years of his life planting trees and creating a real man-made forest of 550 hectares. Payeng himself set the duo en-route on their expedition gracing the occasion with his hearty and spirited words of wisdom. What follows is Nayan Bordoloi’s (Director, Editor, and Cinematographer) ode to “Mahabahu” Brahmaputra. In “The Sibuk” Nayan emphatically captures the beauty, struggles, fun, and sheer awe of the journey of the two sailors as they realize and experience the true might and grandeur of the Brahmaputra and comprehend why it is known as the river that binds together an eclectic mix of people, topography and a spectrum of cultural diversities along its banks throughout the journey.

“The Sibuk” is as close to reality as one could ask for in a documentary. Right from the first shot of the sailors preparing for the voyage, and the unceremonious arrival of Padmashri Jadav Payeng to flag off the expedition an array of challenges befalls the sailors. Rishan nearly left stranded mid-river as he is unable to keep up with the speed of the raft after helping it reach better-sailable water feels breathtakingly real and tense.

Throughout the course of the documentary, I was constantly getting a feeling of spontaneity from the visuals and the dialogues. Whatever they speak felt mostly unscripted and coming out of sheer emotions from the core of their hearts. It is something that immediately enhanced the potency of their words for me no matter how simplistic they may sound. The camera work evidently feels very on-the-go as the director- cinematographer was capturing things as they presented themselves without trying to mold the reality to suit a pre-scripted narrative.

Sekhar Bordoloi in a still from The Sibuk

Nayan Bordoloi, the director when asked about certain audio bits in the documentary being barely intelligible because of the gushing wind noise overtaking the dialogues admits with a grin. “It’s a documentary and I was doing it as a solo project. We had permission for only 3 people on board the raft”. “So there was no option for a location sound guy. I used a Rode mic which was attached to the camera. Since the film was spontaneous and unscripted, I didn’t get the chance for any retakes”, further added Nayan. “I could have used a lapel mic but it was impossible to attach the same to Rishan and Sekhar at the right moments as everything was unfolding spontaneously and I didn’t have the chance to plan it in any way”. Nayan’s explanation was not only imperatively understandable but it in many ways endeared the film further to me. I had a similar feeling about some of the visual aspects of the film where the focus was off and there were prolonged sequences where there was very little light and the visuals were rendered murky because of its absence. But now I didn’t have to repeat a similar question and knew exactly what the reason behind it was.

In a poignant scene, Rishan emphatically asks himself why the Brahmaputra is called a river and not a sea as he couldn’t see any shores and the massive dimensions of the great river were overbearing enough to instill fear. He still feels that there is a sense of serene beauty in the scary physicality of the river and even though imposing, the river is never short of its own appeal that encompasses one and all seeking a closer look. In another similarly powerful scene, we see the sailors cross under the “Kolia Bhomora Setu” (bridge) as Sekhar expresses his inner feelings about the experience. His words coupled with what we get to see in the background make a potent impact on our psyche. I have crossed the “Kolia Bhomora Setu” many times but never felt as romantic about it as I did watching Nayan Bordoloi’s rendition of it through his lens and sensibility. It is in little bits like this that the greatest strength and charm of “The Sibuk” lies. I have to agree that being born and brought up in Assam will definitely help someone to connect better with the flow and beauty of the narrative of “The Sibuk” but the inherent greatness of the river Brahmaputra and its heartfelt rendering by Nayan Bordoloi is such that it is bound to strike a chord with one and all who is willing to give the film a chance.

I loved how charismatic and intriguing the two sailors were even though they were just playing themselves and did nothing dramatic. I loved how Rishan brought a sense of charm and likeability in his rendering of his feelings and action in the film. Nayan knew how best to capture his spontaneous and crazy ways and Rishan’s rendering gained heavily from his thoughtful handling of his character. One just can’t help but adore the scenes where Rishan catches fish for food but lets a turtle go untouched. Rishan’s songs, some of which are written by him are used from time to time to add a feeling of melancholic beauty to certain scenes. It adds an inherent ethnic feel that goes down a long way into making these scenes work even better.

Nayan Bordoloi, the director, cinematographer, and editor of The Sibuk

Sekhar on the other hand is calm, composed, and more articulate of the two. However, all that goes for a toss when we see him struggle to get the raft ashore in his natural skin with bare minimal clothes on him. It is amazing to see how quickly he can shun his inhibitions and do what is required even without caring about the filming camera. We see his concern and care for Rishan in an earlier scene where he desperately throws a line and calls out to him to fight his way out of a tight corner that he had landed himself on. His monologues are captivating especially because of how well Nayan captures his emotions using close-ups.  

The Sibuk” can better be termed as a “SAGA” which can never be restricted within the conventional limitations of a documentary even though it has a cohesive and structured story at its core. One has to surrender his/her senses to the visuals and the sounds of the film in order to fully comprehend the underlying meaning. Since the screenplay takes a leisurely pace and one has enough time to pay attention to minor details, the film becomes even more enjoyable and affecting. It is the kind of film that captures the true essence of Assam and what the younger generation of the state is fast swaying away from.  It is as much a pleasure to see the experiences of the sailors and the director as it is to realize that there are still people like them who value nature and the mighty Brahmaputra enough to spend time in its folds far away from the hustle and bustle of the city and the many mouthwatering albeit pervasive pleasures that it has on offer.

We should all take out one hour from our busy lives and watch this documentary on YouTube where it is available for free. Far from the dazzling lights and deafening sound of the city life there lies a world, full of life, passionate in nature and eternal in its own beauty which can never be exhausted and can remain as the elixir of life for the upcoming generations in the days to come.

To conclude, it reminds me of a line sculptured out from the heart of a lesser-known yet more loved author — “I had an inheritance from my father. It was the moon and the Sun! Now I can roam around the world and spending of it shall never be done!”

Here is the link to the full film:

 

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