Standing Tall | A review of Dooronir Nirola Poja

When was the last time an Assamese film intensely portrayed the dream, aspiration, hardship of a devout middle class family head so meticulously? Dhruva J Bordoloi’s recently released film Dooronir Nirola Poja, which clinched three awards(Best Editor and Debut Director, besides Best Supporting Actor to Bibhuti Hazarika) at Prag Cine Awards reminds me of the Dr Bhabendranath Saikia’s evergreen gem Sarathi, in which the protagonist, disheartened by his kin, toils hard to make his dream house, taking refuge in nostalgia of a steamy affair he had in his youth. On the contrary, the protagonist of Dooronir Nirola Poja, Hiranya Baruah helms a closely knitted family of four who comes to his parental house in a small town to join in his mid level officer’s job in an insurance company.

The beauty of middle class rests on its contentment, comradeship and tightly held value system, despite all these no longer remains incorrigible. Materialism and consumerism coupled with insatiable greed makes a dent on all these great virtues, which once glittered this planet with heavenly glow. The narrative of Dooronir Nirola Poja hinges on such a very relevant central theme, which unfolds as Baruah endeavours to readjust with the life of a small town, from gathering essentials for the home to enroll his wards in schools. His new office is pretentiously cosy and his boss Rajen Borkotoky is an old acquaintance but it took little while to develop fissures. Baruah, who held his unflinching morality and principles close to his heart unwittingly offends his boss and peers alike. While they are out to avenge Baruah’s audacity by all means, there he stands like a colossus, resolutely upholding his ideology. The office is of course not without good souls and together with his happy family, they act as an unwavering support system, which keeps him spirited. However, deep inside, the continuous whipping on his guts develop such scars, which result in a heart attack. Baruah recuperates soon but repeated denial from a due promotion demoralises Baruah to the boot; he now desperately yearns to walk beyond the dreadful office. Howsoever unsure, the journey to a distant metropolis along his family exudes hope for his son Aditya as well, who recently triumphed in HSLC results and held his father in very high esteem for his idealism.

Shunning a clichéd happy climax is where the film sparkles; the director seems making such inferences as if it is more a case of systemic failure, which could not safeguard an honest soul. On one occasion, his receiving justice from higher ups suggests that they knew the situation well yet never cared to weed out the wrongdoings. Clearly, the journey he takes on to escape this agonizing and suffocating situation is driven by only a faint hope. It not only epitomises his crumbled faith in the system but also the system’s inability to hold on to an ingenuous hand. Upholding the principles dearly yet, he is not defeated, the system is.

Dooronir Nirola Poja is strikingly different not only on this account. This is a film, which deliberately dispenses with minimalism, stretching the narrative as much possible, to capture all the hues and colours of a laid back small town and in this setting, the genial and cheerful middle class lives. This is understandable why a trained editor turned director savours such wider canvas but to his credit, the very realistic portrayal of the story is something, which also adds luster to the whole narrative. The breezy teenage love story developing pretty naturally within it is something hitherto unseen so far Assamese cinema is concerned. Every time Hiranya Baruah goes through strings of ordeals in his office, the narrative is interspersed with details of his cordial family life, development within and outside school, the growing affection between Aditya and his paramour Anindita or their traversing through verdant village or tea garden landscapes, easing the tension right away. Not only the soothing landscapes, everyone, the Baruah family comes in touch with, are good people; all these are comforting enough to realise that negative people are a crushable small tribe. That the director intends to make the landscape a major part of his narrative is obvious and cinematographer Suruj Deka left no stone unturned to capture this very essence besides succeeding in creating right mood in different situations.

It is indeed creditable for a greenhorn to ensure absolutely natural acting from whole lot of characters. However, Mintu Baruah as Hiranya Baruah, with his nuanced, subtle acting hits the high note. Besides Partha Hazarika and Sonia Sarma also lit up the screen with their soulful demeanour. Arup Jyoti Rabha as the home tutor also delivers superb performance, besides Jaishree Goswami, Raghabi Dutta, Bibhuti Bhushan Hazarika among others.

Despite its very intention, the film could have been a little shorter; fine-tuning by pruning off few avoidable scenes would have shaped the film even better. Juxtaposing a Sattriya dance while Hiranya Baruah suffers from a heart attack is a fiasco, though only the accompanying music sounds appropriate. The desperate bid of Baruah to secure a loan even while he struggles to meet his expenses and to own a land on the outskirt awaiting to witness speedy urbanization is another issue, which remains hazy in the film which sought to portray a hermetic dream house and uncertain final journey as an utopian dream. Despite such minor faux pas, the film could however be well remembered for its very lively, realistic portrayal of lives of a sub-urban town in which an upright crusader’s steadfast adherence to honesty triumphs.

(The review is written by Bitopan Borborah, who is a Senior Journalist for The Assam Tribune)

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