BRIDGE (2022)

Image courtesy – Kristi Pathar
  • Release Date: 30/09/2022
  • Cast: Shiva Rani Kalita, Anindita Das, Kripal Kalita, Partha Protim Bora, Gopamoni Gogoi
  • Director: Kripal Kalita

Kripal Kalita’s Bridge is a heartfelt ode to Jonaki’s dreams and aspirations

— Ambar Chatterjee

Kripal Kalita’s Bridge won the national award for Best Assamese film at the 68th National Film Awards and for good reasons. The film chronicles the journey of Jonaki (Shiva Rani Kalita), a girl with a heart of gold and an iron will as she battles financial hardship, the loss of her father, her mother’s constantly degrading health, frequent attacks on her modesty, and a village full of people who are ready to penalize her for something that she has not done but are not willing to listen to her version of the truth. The film only shows us a brief portion of her journey. We don’t learn of the hardships that she had to endure apart from the ones that she spells out to her mother during conversations. We also don’t know what the future has in store for her. What we see is a slice of her life and sufferings that starts with her chance discovery by a news channel and ends with her taking over the responsibility of rebuilding her life after a ravaging flood takes away all that she ever loved dearly.

Shiva Rani Kalita’s stellar performance as Jonaki: –

Shiva Rani Kalita as Jonaki is the heart and soul of this film. She is so good in her rendering of the character, that I was instantly enveloped by the aura and power of her performance and was intrigued by the character of Jonaki. I just loved the swagger and confidence that Kalita brought to the character. She is never shown to be undermined or disarmed by the grief and tragedy that she is constantly overburdened with. On the contrary, she exudes confidence, strength, and a never-ending supply of zeal and energy that lets her continue doing some of the most physically demanding and off-putting tasks with relative ease and comfort in the film. When asked by a lecherous old man, why a girl as beautiful as her would choose to do such menial tasks, she willfully replies that she enjoys doing it.

Kripal Kalita is successful in capturing Jonaki’s disillusionment in some of the key moments of the film. These are moments that add true tragedy to the film and make the audience uncomfortable. The situations that her character is shown landing up in are almost always thrust upon her by other characters in a more powerful and privileged position in the film. The tragedy of Jonaki is not only in having to deal with these decisions but also in having to reel under the weight of these decisions that aggressively erode her life, dreams and aspirations.  

Image courtesy – Kristi Pathar

There can be no true dread without a glimmer of hope: –

Kripal Kalita understands that Jonaki’s tragedy can never be complete unless there is at least a glimmer of hope in her life. He introduces this hope and happiness in the form of the character of Parag whom Kalita essays himself. In Parag’s company, Jonaki, for the first time is shown dreaming of a better life. When this dream of hers suddenly breaks because of one of the most trivial reasons, the tragedy of Jonaki and her family reaches a crescendo. The feeling running through the family after this incident is wonderfully captured in the very next scene where we see her kid brother, Bapukon, trying to bury a river by throwing sand on it as he believes that it is because of this river that her sister’s future stands ruined.

Dialogues and interpersonal drama: –

The dialogues between the characters and the natural interpersonal drama are some of the highlights of the film. It must be noted that the director completely shuns all theatrics and over-the-top histrionics and concentrates on building the situations and the interpersonal drama in the most unassuming and natural manner. This not only infuses a sense of realism and believability in the film but also gives you a feeling of being in similar situations at some point in time. The characters speak in a language and with mannerisms that feel extremely natural and remind us of similar people that we have come across at different junctures. There are also sequences where there is a complete lack of spoken words. These sequences have a bigger impact because of all that is communicated through expressions and mannerisms.   

Cinematography and Sound: –

The cinematography and the sound design of the film are two of its highlights. Everything about the visuals of the film reminded me of all that is very best in Assamese villages. Even at the height of tragedy, the visuals don’t forget to impress with its expansive scenery, lush greens, and even its inundating water levels that convey the true horror of floods in Assam. The cinematographer attempts to find beauty in the mundane and ordinary and is successful in doing so. As I sat through this film, all I wanted was for the natural visuals and scenery to wash over my eyes and comfort them from the damage already done by the clutter of the highly digitized images that we are bombarded with in every form of media and cinema.

The same can be said about the sound design. The film’s sound design is able to capture the essence of the sounds that characterize an Assamese village and especially the different aspects of the story that the film sets out to tell. These sounds never let you feel the absence of a proper background score and envelop your senses with their power to grab your attention.

Image courtesy – Kristi Pathar

Final Words: –

Bridge is a heartwarming tale that documents the power of the indomitable spirit of a girl whose life is corroded by tragedy and the indifference of the people around her but she refuses to give up and fights on. Characterized by spellbinding performances and superb direction, the film quickly rises above its grounded source material and appeals to audiences at varying levels. This is also a fairly accurate depiction of the Assamese village life and anyone taking cues from it of what an Assamese village is like will not be led astray. Thus, it can be safely said that Bridge has the power to entertain and enlighten. The great time in Assamese cinema continues as Bridge proves to be a worthy addition to the list of the best Assamese films to have come out this year that has artistic, literary, and entertainment value.    

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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