Emuthi Puthi and Guwahati Diaries
Emuthi Muthi still emerges to be a wonderful and memorable film for the humour-filled crisp narrative and the brilliant performances
With moderate success, Guwahati Diaries tries to explore the affinities, frictions and conflicts that the characters have to deal with in their lives in a city which is gripped by sheer materialism as well as hedonism. The highpoint of the film is however the acting of wonderful actors like Urmila Mahanta, Barasha Rani Bishaya, Udayan Duara, Hemanta Dev Nath, Ranjeevlal Baruah and Arghyadeep Barua besides greenhorn, Naaz Sultana.
The genre of comic films had been alien to Assam's film scenario for quite a long time. However, things have changed after Kenny Basumatary arrived on the scene with a series of comic martial arts films, a few years ago. His last film Local Utpat ran for the fifth consecutive week in a few cinema halls of the state. In this genre there is now another film by a young filmmaker Kulanandini Mahanta titled Emuthi Puthi (a very fishy trip). The film is unique in many ways. It was entirely shot with an iPhone. The entire narrative is centered around and goes along with fish. Despite this fact it (fish) remains obscured and serves as an underlying metaphor.
The film lays bare more surprises after the narrative unfolds and takes a pacy turn ahead. Two members of a family, the eldest and the youngest, one being the grandmother and another being the granddaughter, decide to escape their home one fine night. Grandmother Makhani's (Pratibha Choudhury) only great passion is savouring fish, which to her is like the quintessential life oxygen. It is her only purpose of life. However, her old age is an obstruction to this pleasure as she has to contend with multiple ailments. She is compelled to gulp down a good number of medicines despite her strong disgust for them and longs for nothing but a kind of salvation. Before that, she has just one desire, to meet Matsya Kurma, two of lord Bishnu's incarnations. She believes that she can meet them in a big water body situated in Majuli. Ritika (Srishti Sharma), the granddaughter's story is, however, entirely different. Paranoid about her overbearing mother (who obsessively pursues her studies), Ritika with her high dose of romanticism, has been looking for opportunities to flee her home to a foreign country. Eventually granddaughter and grandmother make great company to elope together one night from their home. Nevertheless, like every such carefree journey this one too is fraught with risks, dangers and innumerable pitfalls. Menacingly, they are pursued by none other than Ritika's Police officer mother Indira and despite she and her team sometimes getting closer to the fleeing duo, luck is often on the latter's side. On the way, the duo come across a naive truck driver and when they embark on the truck they meet a fraudster woman who lures people with her noxious lip-smacking delicacies only to loot their possessions the next moment. She however could not make way through Ritika's alertness and intelligence and after facing lots of difficult situations in which the director explores the comic elements to the core and with brilliance, the duo finally reach Nimatighat to cross over to Majuli, their ultimate destination.
However, at the back of this hot-footed outing, the discernible narrative has an underlying connotation, which is like serendipity or a defining moment for each of them. It is during this tense journey that both Makhani and Ritika introspect about their past acts and where these are leading them to. On the other hand, in the pursuit of her mother and daughter, Indira too realises her follies. Separated from home and hearth, both Makhani and Ritika now realise more about the bonding made with love and compassion amongst all of them. On the other hand Indira seems more aware of where she oversteps her limits and commits mistakes in managing her family. She realises that it is her 'too-busy' routine as an overburdened Police officer, which has disrupted the peace of her home for she often carries with her the temperament and frustration of the workplace and unleashes an aura of disquiet at home.
Emuthi Puthi, the hilarious road movie with its smooth sailing and brilliantly scripted narrative however, become grim and sombre once the eloping characters reach Majuli. While proceeding towards the mythical pond (as dusk almost settled over the woods) they come across a ghostly woman who offers them shelter for the night. The next day, Makhani approaches the depth of the mythical pond and as soon as she reached there another mysterious human figure, assumedly an incarnation of Lord Bishnu, takes her into his company and departs. Ritika, despite getting her life's savings from Makhani before her departure, was soon tracked down by the police and in the melee, her fortune went into the water of a river flowing below.
Cinema takes a beating when the 'propensity to extravaganza' or 'keeps nothing for the viewer's imagination or afterthought' creeps into the script. It betrays the very idea that cinema is essentially a suggestive medium, which calls for a minimally insinuated structure. In Emuthi Puthi debutant director Kulanandini Mahnata seems to have gone a little too far while intending to make her film a surreal experience. She unwraps the forest sequence and concludes the film with the last sequence in which the mythical male figure takes Makhani on his boat and departs until it disappears into the morning mist. Despite such gaffe, Emuthi Muthi still emerges to be a wonderful and memorable film for the humour-filled crisp narrative and the brilliant performances from veteran Pratibha Choudhury, Nitali Das, Manisha Bhuyan, Kenny Basumatary, Manoj Borkotoky and Rakesh Boro besides very impressive rookie, Sristi Sharma.
Prasanta Saikia's Guwahati Dairies sounds interesting and evocative as there are very few films in which attempts have been made to portray the City and the lives of people living in it. I particularly remember one of the stories of Three Smocking Barrels in which a mother's agony of living with her drug addict son and his tragic end resulting from his dalliance with a drug cartel was so excellently portrayed that the experience remains etched on my mind to this day.
Guwahati Dairies alternates between three couples' lives among which one is a married couple, one couple is living together and another is a hapless and talented actress trapped with a dubious skirt-chaser (the actress is trapped with him for having taken financial favours during her struggling days). Amongst these, the most tragic character is Jenifa who had to leave her home for her father's scorn for her passion- acting. As her mother was already ailing, she has no one to lean on to and consequently she set out to work in Guwahati, where she succumbs to a vortex of entrapment. It defies logic when Neelakshi opts for marriage with her live-in relationship partner UD, who on the contrary believes marriage, will impede his bid to become an accomplished filmmaker. The marriage of Ravi and Darshana is in ruins because to his horror, Ravi one day discovers Darshana in Alakesh's arm, the philanderer for whom Jenifa embraces death. With moderate success, the film tries to explore the affinities, frictions and conflicts that the characters have to deal with in their lives in a city which is gripped by sheer materialism as well as hedonism. The script has some incongruity but more than that it seems deficient in the plausibility quotient despite it bringing to the fore some valid interpersonal as well as socio-economical issues. The smoking and drinking binges of the characters, both male and female, despite the situations not so demanded, too come up as an eyesore. What is so much missed in Guwahati Dairies is its failure to explore the historic city and its steady modernization (as a backdrop of the stories). There has been no attempt except for a few top long shots of the ensuing concrete jungles and repetitively occurring locations identifiably the road traversing through the Narakasur hill. The saving grace of the film is however the acting of wonderful actors like Urmila Mahanta, Barasha Rani Bishaya, Udayan Duara, Hemanta Dev Nath, Ranjeevlal Baruah and Arghyadeep Barua besides greenhorn, Naaz Sultana.
By - Bitopan Borborah
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