Hope in the Times of Crisis | A review of Xhoixobote Dhemalite

By David Lagachu

There are many things to admire in Bidyut Kotoky’s second directorial feature ‘Xhoixobote Dhemalite/Rainbow Fields’ be it the no holds barred treatment of a sensitive subject matter like the rise of extremist groups and insurgency during the Assam movement and how he maintains a middle ground in his treatment of the reality inspired story in a film that is admittedly semi-autobiogrpahical. The violence, the unrest and the revolution against illegal immigrants just serves as a background for the award winning director to tell a humane story of friendship, peace, hope and multiculturalism. His choice of actors – who comes from different states and linguistic backgrounds – put forwards a message of cultural diversity without being preachy or loud.

First and foremost mention is for Victor Banerjee, the veteran Bengali actor, who plays a stage actor in the film and whose life changing advice on the significance of Bhaona, Stage Plays/Natok and Cinema in our life inspires the young protagonist Niyar to take interest in the creative and performing arts. Niyar along with his close friend Pulak and a couple of other boys from their class take it upon themselves to stage a play. In the process of putting together the play, they take cues from Bollywood films like Barsaat Ki Ek Raat, Taraana and Silsila; an act which signifies and highlights the unifying aspect of cinema as an art form and also the influence of Hindi films in the heart of the Assamese people.

Bidyut Kotoky shines the most in showcasing the familial bonds between the siblings, parents, grandparents and friends. The adult Niyar is played by Nakul Vaid, who on getting a letter informing the death of his childhood friend Pulak decides to go back to his childhood abode to find answers to the questions arising in his mind and to get a closure. The film travels back and forth between the past and the present and is verbally graphic in its details of children talking about counting dead bodies and finding a human finger inside a fish. After witnessing bone-chilling violence from a close range while on their way to school, Niyar’s sister Kuwoli is shocked to the extent of rendering her speechless for days. Kotoky’s film also deserves applause for mentioning past unfortunate events which people don’t usually talk about for political as well as moralistic reasons. He also doesn’t advocate for extreme nationalism as there are enough instances in the film which highlights that diversity and multiculturalism is as natural as history (the Indo-China and Indo-Pak war) and that senseless violence can never be the solution to a society’s problems.

One significant aspect of the film is that the language used by the characters is very colloquial and relatable; a mixture of Assamese and not-so-perfect English does the trick. The music by Anurag Saikia is melodious but one gets the feeling that it is underutilized or misplaced in the narrative as there is no scope for traditional song and dance in the film. ‘Xhoixobote Dhemalite’ also marks the debut of renowned super model Dipannita Sharma in an Assamese film and she is remarkably subtle in her mannerisms and diction. There are not enough adjectives to praise the child actors especially the ones who played Niyar, Kuwoli and Pulak. Naved Aslam who mostly appears in Hindi films is notable as Niyar’s father whose non-Assamese origin gives a deeper curve to the story. Nipon Goswami makes his presence felt in a brief but necessary role. The film also acts as a mirror to the present society we live in which is not much different from the early 80s.

In spite of having an overall tensed and melancholic tone, the film ends on a positive note with Niyar’s character emphasizing that dreaming of happiness and good times will result in its manifestation in the real world. Currently, when the whole world is going through a crisis and division, segregation and annihilation of people on the basis of caste, creed and religion has become the norm, the film serves a tool to spread the message of ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.

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