- Platform: YouTube
- Release Date: 23/03/2020
- Cast: Rohini Kumar Deka, Namrata Sharma, Ashim Krishna Baruah, Dariyali Kashyap
- Director: Kripal Kalita
Kripal Kalita’s national award-winning Bridge was taken down from theaters today after playing for just one week. This underlines one of the major problems plaguing the Assamese film industry where its own films seldom get a sufficient number of screens or the necessary amount of time in public view. I wanted to see the film one more time this week but that is not going to happen. This will be the case for many who were busy with Durga Puja and couldn’t find time to go see this film last week. While I was saddened by this unfortunate turn of events, there is at least a short film on YouTube by the very same director that serves as a prequel to Bridge. It might not have the same characters and story, but it is as much a prequel to Bridge as it could be in spirit and heart.
Megh, a short film by Kripal Kalita was brought to my attention by the man himself during a brief telephone call. As I watched the film, I realized that its imagery, emotional depth, a certain turn of events, and interpersonal drama were in many ways a precursor to what transpired over 1 hour and 29 minutes in Bridge. The story of Megh revolves around the plight of a poor villager in a small village of Assam ravaged by flood. His wife abandons him and elopes with a richer civil contractor. The sudden absence of his wife not only shatters the man emotionally but also his family. Desperate, he lands up in Guwahati to look for his wife and bring her back.
Everything that I loved about Bridge is also present in short bursts in Megh. The characters feel real and each and every one of them is performed to perfection. While we can hate the wife for abandoning her family but the manner in which she falls for the contractor raises serious questions about how important it can be for an individual to think for herself too in addition to her family. Can she be at all considered to have sinned if she did it for her own happiness and to escape the drudgery of her current existence? It doesn’t matter how we answer that question. The power of the film lies in the fact that such a question came to the audience’s mind. That in itself documents the finesse of the director in tackling an important aspect of the existence of women on display.
As the villager carries his children to the city of Guwahati and starts looking for his wife, the city of Guwahati presents itself as a living breathing creature that poses challenges at every step for the man and is waiting with its mouth open to devour him. And devour him it does and the manner of it is something that would tear through the hearts of the thinking individuals. The way Kripal Kalita captures the city using overhead shots and putting the villager amid expansive milieus characterized by a sea of people all around him drives home the marauding nature of the city that is not particularly kind to people who don’t have the strength to stand up to it and fight. I will never be able to see a small child work in a roadside eatery and not think about the plight of the villager’s son as depicted in the film.
The performances by the ensemble cast were brilliant. The man who plays the villager portrays grief exceptionally well and in such a controlled manner that its impact is elevated two folds. In the latter half of the film, he portrays confusion, helplessness, and misery just as well. It was because of his conviction that the character became such a tear-jerker for the audience.
The film is 24 minutes long and leaves almost as many questions unanswered as possible but therein lies its biggest emotional punch. It is as if the director was out with a camera to capture the life of the villager at specific times and moments and then lost him to the city. While you don’t get answers to many questions, the film disarms you with its basic human emotions and different facets of life like loss, anger, misery, tragedy, bewilderment, and helplessness. These feelings would not have come out as well had the maker answered all questions.
Having said that, I would have still loved this film to have been a full-length feature film. It was that good. I am adding the YouTube link to the film in the article and I urge my readers to give this film a try. It might just end up tugging at your heartstrings.
Here is the link to the entire film: