JOLSOBI (2023)

Darathie Bhardwaj in a still from the film
  • Special Screening Date: – 21/01/2023
  • Cast: Darathie Bhardwaj, Numal Chandra Gogoi, Dulukanta Moran, Durlabha Moran
  • Director: Jaicheng Jai Dohutia

A fantastically directed, deeply personal and heartbreaking story of broken dreams and promises

— Ambar Chatterjee

Jolsobi was a welcome change of pace and narrative style for me. The film-scape these days is overcrowded with breakneck storytelling or films that are so dense in their plots and narrative elements that it is hard to keep track of everything that is unfolding on the screen let alone enjoy and absorb the emotional ramifications or depth of the performances. As I sat through 87 minutes of Jolsobi I could fully concentrate and soak in the performances and the emotional power that they brought to the screen. This was possible because the film maintained a moody pace throughout, kept its story linear and simple, kept its camera movements to a bare minimum, and gave the performances enough time to convey the emotions that are meant to reach the audiences through slow and purposeful editing.

The story of Jolsobi revolves around a free-spirited girl, played by Darathie Bhardwaj, who comes back home after completing her education in the city and is forced to cope with the restrictions and lack of opportunities that are a part of the village life. While the girl tries her best to make something out of her life, she is constantly bogged down by the restrictions around her, her own failure at landing without any substantial opportunities to spread her wings, and finally a crashing break-up that breaks the last bit of spirit left in her. The film ends with her accepting her destiny and learning to groove in the glory of the new creature that she had become but at the same time gasping for breath and grappling for support on the inside. This is depicted in a wonderfully envisioned and executed sequence at the end that takes the film’s ever-present symbolism to greater heights.

Jolsobi is a sum total of all the performances in it and it is the performances and the direction that make it a memorable watch. There isn’t much happening here in terms of the story but the actors are able to make the audience feel every emotion, conflict, joy, and heartbreak that their respective characters are going through. Leading from the front is Darathie Bhardwaj who grabbed my attention in Bornodi Bhotiai by Anupam Kaushik Borah. In Jolsobi we see her as someone whose life is taken apart in a phased manner. She does exceptionally well in each one of these phases. In the beginning, we see her as someone full of hope even though she is a little skeptical. As the film progresses, we see her get frustrated by her circumstances in numerous extremely well-envisioned and better-still-acted sequences.

The death nail in the coffin of her dreams and aspirations comes from three distinctly ordinary but poignant moments — her father getting sick one night, her elder brother passing out when she needed his help to save her father, and finally, her boyfriend refusing to hold on to her in her most desperate moments. She accepts her destiny with bitter expressions on her face and mannerisms but that changes into first a meek look of submission and then a trance-like dance in the last scene of the film when she finally resonates with the nothingness and acceptance of being a failure that her elder brother had mouthed to her in a scene before. Darathie Bhardwaj is the heart and soul of the film and she proves herself equal to the task with a heartbreaking and impactful performance.

A picture from the sets

The supporting cast of the film including Numal Chandra Gogoi, Dulukanta Moran, and Durlabha Moran are equally great. They bring such simplicity and organic realism to their respective characters that it is hard to find fault with their performances or the impact that they are supposed to have with their respective essays.

Jolsobi is a fantastically directed film. It is exactly what its director, Jaicheng Jai Dohutia wanted it to be. He not only directed but also co-produced, wrote, and edited the film. That just goes on to show the amount of creative involvement that he had in every aspect of the film and it shows in every frame. Dohutia set out to make a film about a certain character and her story in a finite period in her life. He used elements from her life in order to build a story around it and infuse it with drama and emotions. He also left a lot of things ambiguous. You may question the character, her life’s choices, her actions, and her final surrender to her fate. You may even find the film one-dimensional and boring if you are not invested in the character and her predicament but you cannot fault Dohutia’s treatment of the subject, characters, and his directing of the actors. That is something that makes this film the best version of itself.  

I noticed a lot of symbolism in the film. Many of them I couldn’t decipher in my first viewing. Some of them I could which immediately enhanced the appeal of a certain scene for me. Symbolism is something that a director interweaves in his narrative depending on his own version of the story and how he wants it to be viewed. It might not mean the same thing to all or might not even mean anything. Thus, it is always a fun element to have in a film and it immediately adds an additional layer to the story and how the characters integrate or react to the different elements of the story. The symbolism is very well done here and, in the cases, where I was able to decipher its meaning, I found that it complemented the story beautifully.

Jolsobi is unlike anything that we see these days. It reminded me of Yasujiro Ozu’s films. Jaicheng Jai Dohutia’s visual strategy is simple. He inserts poignant and vibrant elements from day-to-day life and tries to convey symbolically the current state of mind of a character or the weight of a situation in question. His camera barely moves and when it does it does so with purpose, planning, flow, and inspiration. He keeps the story as simple as possible so that the impact can be as profound as he desires. His characters envelop you in their mundane chores because they are thematically and emotionally rich. Dohutia is able to land a final knockout punch (not in an action film kind of a way) in the climax because of the emotions he was building throughout and the richness of the characters on display. I feel that films like Jolsobi are essential in today’s cinemascape as they not only serve as the perfect palate cleansers but also make you sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the finer aspects of details that we are fast losing out on due to our constant need for instant entertainment and gratification. For all this and more, Jaicheng Jai Dohutia’s film is a must-watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


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