Guwahati, December 31: The month of December has always been a special time of the year. It’s that time of the year when the vigour and spirit of holiday, celebrations, and festivity dominates our life. It’s that time of the year which not only brings us refreshments and contentment but also encourages us to leave behind our sorrows and misfortunes and embrace the new dawn of optimism. However, for cinephiles, December marks the beginning of the season of awards with award shows and TOP 10 Lists dropping one after another.
This list is one such effort to acknowledge the best Assamese releases of the year and send a message to the mass to make the unknown known and also to help Assamese Cinema expand and flourish in the upcoming years. It must be noted here that this list is entirely subjective and as we know, choices and preferences vary from person to person. So, if any particular movie did not make it to the list, it doesn’t mean the dismissal of its quality or rejection of the hard work of the team.
10. Mission China
It would be and unjust and unfair to define Mission China as only a film. Written and directed by Zubeen Garg, Mission China is the most expensive and widely marketed movie ever made in the history of Assamese cinema. The merits of the film lie in its technical achievements. It has great technical wizardry to boast off including impressive camera work which is accompanied by beautiful locations, and aerial cinematography. While this film is stylish, it lacks the required genre mechanisms and urgency one would expect from an action-thriller. As a result, it dispenses with nearly all other elements of an adventure thriller. Mission China is the result of Zubeen Garg’s selfless dedication towards his land and language. It is a message to all the filmmakers and producers of the region about – not how to make a film but how to sell a film. By creating a storm at the box office, Mission China has opened many doors for the development and future of our regional cinema.
Dur is a story about love, relationships and realizations. Written and directed by Shinyor famed Kangkan Rajkhowa, it is another movie which has taken Assamese cinema to new heights. Released on January 13, it is the first movie to employ the Arri Alexa camera. Yes, the same camera which was used to shoot Hollywood blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy, Oscar favorites like Birdman and Bollywood entertainers like Happy New Year. Led by the honest and heartbreaking performances of Amrita Gogoi and Udayan Duarah, Dur tried to redefine the genre with a new twist but somewhere in between it lost its momentum. Nonetheless, the film must be appreciated for its cinematography, music and art designing.
8. Local Kung Fu 2 / Rum Vodka Whisky
The eighth position is a tie between two comedies – Local Kung Fu 2 and Rum Vodka Whisky.
It took four years for Director-Actor Kenny Deori Basumatary to return to the big screen with the first ever sequel of an Assamese film – Local Kung Fu 2. Local Kung Fu 2 like its previous part which was a trendsetter, is equally entertaining and gives a lot of scope for comedy. It brings great action as well as awesome comedy. The movie has top notch stunts combined with one-of-a-kind comical moment which makes it an enlightening combination of action and comedy. Produced by BP Deori, Kenny Basumatary and Durlov Baruah, Local Kung Fu 2 is a formulaic but entertaining action comedy which takes crowd funding and independent cinema to new heights.
On the other hand, directed by Prasant Saikia, Rum Vodka Whisky is an experimental cocktail of romance, drama and comedy. The approach and treatment of the subject by Saikia doesn’t fall in the familiar territory of the audiences of the region and thus the result is divisive. Some will appreciate it while some may disparage. But this 103-minute sparkler isn’t about plot or its tricks. It is about the extraordinarily amusing characters played by Hiranya Das, Queen Hazarika, Udayan Duarah, Priyanka Bhargav, Ananta Sarania, Rupam Barua, Prakash Medhi, Durgashri Borah and the quirky atmosphere it inhabits. Rum Vodka Whisky has managed to visit such places which are still unexplored by our cinema.
7. Priyar Priyo
Tackling two elements and balancing it perfectly is not a job every filmmaker can accomplish. But veteran filmmaker Munin Barua perfectly blends comedy and a social message in Priyar Priyo. It is a movie which addresses the issue of identity crisis which is wrecking our society and culture in the disguise of a comedy. The film has its fair share of bummers in the form of its long duration and the over stretched first half but it is the brilliant acting by the cast, especially Pranjal Saikia and Zubeen Garg which holds things from falling apart. The music by Zubeen Garg is also another merit of the movie.
6. Shakira Ahibo Bokul Tolor Bihuloi
Shakira Ahibo Bokul Tolor Bihuloi is a pleasant break from the usual movie plots of Assamese movies. It is a story about a small fictional village, Bokultol, located in the heart of Assam. Written and directed by Himangshu Prasad Das, Shakira Ahibo Bokul Tolor Bihuloi is a light-hearted satire, which gently unveils serious problems like Bihuconomics of Bihu sanmilans in the state, corruption of politicians and their greed for power and most importantly the exploitation of the villagers. An adaptation of Himangshu Prasad Das’ popular drama of the same name, the film is crowd funded and taking into consideration its limited (or no) budget it will be not fair to judge the technical aspects of the film which are surprisingly good. Given the inflation of production and marketing spends, it is a miracle that a film like this with no stars to boast off got made and got a release.
5. Beautiful Lives
Based on the 2008 serial blasts of Guwahati, Beautiful Lives is the story of Ajay, a 28 year old auto rickshaw driver, his mother Dashami and how their life changes after the blasts. The film questions about his sexual urges/needs and its acceptance in the society while his mother struggles to get the compensation announced by the government. At a time when Assamese filmmakers are refraining themselves from breaking the limitations of creativity, writer-director Kangkan Deka makes a daring attempt by making a film with such bold content. Beautiful Lives is a well crafted movie which ventures deep into the intentionally ignored part of an individual or society. It also shows the dark side of the patriarchal society and how it is always the women that get sidelined or criticized. Striking just the right tone, Beautiful Lives admirably treats such thorny subjects as it treats everything else. Beautiful Lives must be applauded for its unique depiction of issues which are still very much taboo for the region.
4. Dooronir Nirola Poja
Dooronir Nirola Poja is like a gust of fresh breeze in the Assamese cinematic environment suffocated by potboilers. Dramas, movies, TV, in fact, all forms of storytelling tell us a lot about who we are and who we can be. We look for heroes, we look for role models, we look for clues about what is possible in our life and sometimes we end up finding ourselves. Written, directed, edited and produced by Dhruva J Bordoloi, Dooronir Nirola Poja tells such a tale. Set in the town of Tezpur, the film brilliantly captures the struggles and life of a middle class family true and accurate. What stands out in Dooronir Nirola Poja is the realistic treatment given to it. It makes the movie relatable and it feels like home. Everything shown and every character shown are so practical that even for a moment you do not feel that you are watching a fictional story of an imaginary family and it is this utilitarian touch which makes the movie a winner all the way.
3. Sonar Baran Pakhi
Sonar Baran Pakhi is a biopic on the life of the legendary Goalpariya folk singer of Assam, Pratima Barua Pandey by Bobby Sharma Baruah. A winner at many national and international film festivals across the world, Sonar Baran Pakhi is a brilliant portrayal of the famous singer of Hastir Kanya (Elephant’s Daughter) who popularized Goalpariya folk songs. The film shows the life of the singer in three stages with the roles played sensitively by Sushmita Ray, Pranami Baruah and Arati Baruah. The main excellence of the movie lies in its screenplay which intersects between the three stages of her life. In short, we are not just fed with various information and details but we are made to experience and relive the character which helps us to understand the actions and decisions which shapes her life further. This is why the movie holds a profound impact on the viewers. The production designing is also praiseworthy which successfully transports us back to the 1940-50s. A poetic life deserves a poetic biopic and Sonar Baran Pakhi paints the perfect picture of Pratima Barua Pandey.
An adaptation of eminent litterateur Dr Rita Chowdhury’s story, Antareen is the story of Torali, whose life is a quest for sanctuary from her father’s loveless world and how the intent to uncover her father’s transgression gets her trapped in a mental asylum. It’s not the most unique premise, but director Monjul Baruah who has also written the screenplay takes the story in unexpected directions, avoiding narrative clichés and handling the subject matter with surprising grace. Women have been subjected to societal tortures in the name of tradition for ages. The subjugation continues in every sphere of their life including in their families as well. The emotional backbone of the movie, Urmila Mahanta gives a seriously committed, seamless and career-defining performance. Antareen challenges all the odds by defying from the track which describes the role of women in films as merely supporting the men. It is a movie that everyone must watch so as to take away something that will help us ensure that our girls become strong women. Afterall, life imitates art and Antareen is that finely crafted and evocative piece of art which enables us to realize the truth.
Some honorable mentions – Mriganavi, Othello, Aei Matite.
And here’s the one that took the (biggest) piece of cake.
1. Maj Rati Keteki
The Best Assamese Feature Film winner at the 64th National Film Awards , Maj Rati Keteki, is a poignant tale about a writer, Priyendu Hazarika, who returns back to his hometown after a gap of 10 years and how his past still influences his present. Dr Santwana Bardoloi, who returns to the director’s seat after two decades has created a piece of art which is so elegant and yet heartbreaking that it will take another two decade for a movie to stand up to it. It is a movie which sneaks up on you, pulls you to its world and doesn’t let you go. It is a study of the various depths and shades of human character, a social commentary of social evils, oppressed caste and religion, and a philosophy of the eternity of life all baked into one single narrative. It’s in the film’s final minutes that every little thing starts to come together, and you realize everything you’ve been watching has been laying the emotional foundation for what happens next. Every scene, every shot, every character choice had an express purpose, even if in the moment it felt somewhat aimless. This is what makes the movie so memorable and unique. Maj Rati Keteki is an immeasurably moving picture which will lose none of its power in the ruthless wave of time.
Tell us your favourite in the comment section!