Director and lead actor, Pankaj Soram in a still
  • Release Date: 14/10/2022
  • Cast: Pankaj Soram, Manas M Daimary, Baharul Islam, Kamal Lochan, Darathie Bhardwaj, Sandhya Hazarika
  • Director: Pankaj Soram

Exhilarating, violent, primal! Pankaj Soram’s passion project delivers a knockout punch

— Ambar Chatterjee

Change is good. Trying different things is good. Taking a radically different approach to storytelling is good. In line with what shaheed Manoj Pandey once famously said, “some goals are so worthy that it is glorious even to fail in their pursuit”, Ghost of Maaikhuli is a burning example of one such wholehearted effort. While it might not be a perfect film, what is visible in every frame of it is the maker’s grand vision and the hunger to deliver something that has not been done before in this region. Something that is out of the ordinary and personal. It was awe-inspiring to witness the scale that Pankaj Soram and his team were gunning for with such limited resources at their disposal and how close they actually were able to get to it. Soram is one meticulous human being as was proved by the stop-motion animation short that he once made and one can see that same meticulous nature in the planning and execution of Ghost of Maaikhuli.

I noticed numerous inspirations from films that I grew up watching. The sensibility of the makers was deeply rooted in these films that left indelible marks in their respective genres, spheres, and eras. What was even more impressive was to note that Soram never rips off directly from these films. He takes cues from some of the most memorable visual representations of action, carnage, tragedy, drama, etc. from these films and uses them to suit his storytelling and execution for the plot of his own film. This not only infuses the film with the kind of kinetic energy that was reminiscent of the films that he takes inspiration from but also ensures that the visuals and the execution of the various sequences never feel lifted or picked up from other films but very original and necessary in the context of the film in question.

It will not be a good thing to speak about the plot of the film as even a word spoken about it will lead to spoilers. I advise my readers to go see this film with an open mind and without even watching its trailer. Let Pankaj Soram and his team envelope you with their storytelling and judge them only based on what you see unfold on the screen without the influence of any preconceived notion or idea about what a film like this could be. While the makers have designed the promotion of the film intelligently and have not revealed anything about the plot, except that it all unfolds in a place called Maaikhuli, it is the kind of film that is best seen with little to no prior knowledge of it.

Baharul Islam in a still

I was mighty impressed by the action of the film. Some of the hand-to-hand action of the film was far better than what you get in Bollywood films that are choreographed by foreign talents. The reason for that is simple. Every actor who is required to do action in the film is to some extent a trained fighter and does his or her own stunts. Pankaj Soram, who essentially plays the protagonist of the film is passionate about MMA and it shows in the manner in which he pulls off his action sequences. Manas M Daimary, who plays the toughest antagonist in the film is also a highly decorated MMA fighter. He has put on some serious weight from the last time I met him and with that bulked-up physic and still electric moves, he looks even more imposing and poses a challenge to the protagonist that feels nearly insurmountable. There are three more cameos by different martial artists who leave indelible marks with their swell moves and physicality in the action sequences.

The action of the film is further elevated by the amount of raw physicality that the actors are able to infuse into them. This is because they understand the action and are able to bring in the right kind of physical and emotional punch to the sequences that render them realistic and impactful. It is also a fact that the action is captured in its organic gusto and flow by the efficient cinematography of Chandra Kumar Das. There are long takes where we get to see the men fight it out in clear view without any edits to spoil the fun. This was possible because the actors were doing their own stunts and also because they were so good at it. All these elements combine together to make the action of the film memorable.

Having said all that, the action alone could not have made this film what it ended up being. It was also the performances that contributed heavily to making the screenplay captivating and transfixing the audiences to the story. Pankaj Soram leads from the front and delivers a performance that may feel one-dimensional but was perfect for a story and a character of this nature. He is very natural in his essay. I have met many people who resemble the traits and mannerisms that Soram exhibits for the character of Alex. He carries an irritated and jilted look throughout and it is justified by the chain of events that the character of Alex finds himself in. I loved the brief interaction that he shares with the character of Amy played by Sandhya Hazarika. He also brings out the right expressions and feelings in the action sequences and the scenes leading up to them.

Kamal Lochan in a still

Baharul Islam is delightful as the grey and unpredictable Bakshi. The man is so charismatic and charming that whatever he does feels interesting and intriguing. Kamal Lochan, the angry young man of modern Assamese cinema has a very small role but he breathes fire even in that minuscule appearance. I wish he had a longer role and his character was rounded off better. Manas M Daimary as Nongsha is formidable. However, his ADR should have been done better. There was something about this aspect of his character that felt out of place.

Even with all the heart and hard work that went into making this film, there were some noticeable flaws. The runtime could have been shorter. There were periods in the screenplay when the pace of the narrative dropped considerably and that should never have been the case in a film of this nature. There are plot elements that were not tied off properly in the end. There were many unanswered questions. A few things were sealed off abruptly and that was not in the best interest of the story. A few rewrites would have easily solved these issues and made the film a lot tighter and more authoritative. The dialogue felt out of place in a few sequences. The production value was questionable in a few places which took me out of the experience. This was particularly the case with the props used.

Having said all that, I feel that the above issues were minor hiccups in an otherwise grand scheme of things envisioned and pulled off by a spirited gang of troublemakers who dared to go against the norm and present a film that was radically different and questioned every predefined norm and status quo established at this time and era in Assamese films. For that alone, this film deserves to be seen. Ghost of Maaikhuli felt like a breath of fresh air and established the fact that when spirited minds and kindred hearts pursue something with conviction, they tend to achieve it.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


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