REVISITING BORNODI BHOTIAI

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Arup Jyoti Das

Bornodi Bhotiai, which was appreciated by both the masses and the critics, is undoubtedly that Assamese movie which has defined and given a shape to the identity of Assamese films, much like Local Kung- fu. Bornodi Bhotiai, directed by Anupam Kaushik Borah, is free from both commercial and intellectual burden. The movie just wanted to reach out to the audience and in which it was very successful. Bornodi Bhotiai doesn’t talk about social change or protest, but talks about moving on in life despite life being full of disappointments and ups and downs.

The story of the film is centered around Maukan (Dorothi Bharadwaj) and four friends – namely Simanta (Sonmoni Sarma), Bhaskar (Himanshu Gogoi), Joy (Kaushik Nath) and Tapan (Rajib Nath) all of who are in love with Maukan. Kushal (Kenny Basumatary) and Luit (Anupam Kaushik Borah) are the two other characters who play important role in the story line in its transition point. Luit is more like the Sutradhar in the story line, who appears in crucial junctions of the story, connects dots in the storyline and leads the story forward. The treatment of Luit’s character is very interesting as the character gradually becomes the centre of the story line when other characters (four friends) loss hope and get engaged in their livelihood and other issues. The film, despite using Majuli as its geographical backdrop, has avoided projecting Majuli as a tourist destination. Rather, the film has successfully portrayed Majuli as a place full of life, innocence, fun, desire and dreams despite the sufferance caused by flood and erosion.

The interesting part of the film is the characterization of Maukan. She is a bit mystical and has a touch of witchcraft in her. You will be in love with Maukan because of her honesty, simplicity and sheer beauty; and at the same time you will also be scared of her as whatever she says becomes true – it is as simple as a TV becoming non-functional to something as complex as the death of a person whom she dislikes. The magic realism in the film has created a pure curiosity among the audience and this has successfully bridged some of the gaps in the screenplay. What Maukan wanted in her life was to just get married and to love that person forever. Even the four friends who loved Maukan knew the practical limitation of their love and hence were not able to express their love to her. Indeed, they were engaged in their goat-rearing farm, which they hoped would bring some profit. On the other hand, Maukan settled for an arranged marriage with Kushal, the Govt. official who helped the four friends get a loan for the farm. However, Maukan could not lead a happily married life as Kushal dies mysteriously by just one sneeze. This affirms her witchcraft character as another person died earlier just by a sneeze. Interestingly, Maukan marries again, this time with Luit. This is actually how the film talks about a progressive society without making a noise. The characters in Bornodi Bhotiai are not without flaws. Compared to commercial movies, they are not at all heroic. No character has taken the burden of morality in the film. The four friends want to make some income, even if by claiming a false insurance amount for their goats (by showing them as dead in papers). Kushal doesn’t mind taking a bribe to write off the loan of the four friends.

Cinematically, Bornodi Bhotiai is of high standard.

The use of montage has raised the film’s aesthetic level. The composition of some of the frames are a beautiful treat to the eyes – be it Maukan indulging in self talk and embroidery at the same under the light of an earthen lamp or be it the four friends along with Kushal having light moments – all are good composition.

Bornodi stands for Brahmaputra, the great river. The story, as well as the characters, tries to flow like the river; that is why the film is titled Bornodi Bhotiai. Bornodi Bhotai will not end the crisis of the Assamese film industry. But what it has given to the Assamese film fraternity is confidence and maturity which was lacking for long.

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