The odd seems incredibly normal for the four walls and the shattered roof of this Panoi-Jonki Lower Primary School, which bears testimony to a headmaster’s desperate attempts to win Boomba over and keep the school’s lone pupil from leaving. If Boomba fails to return, the school would be shut down and the headmaster and the teacher would be out of their jobs.
So continues the activities to appease Boomba which range from providing chicken delicacies to paying him a nominal fee for attending school. Here, education is of little importance to Boomba whose fun and frolicking glee takes him high and above through the fields and water. And this is the typical situation for all other children of the village who are in much worse circumstances than Boomba. If knowledge is useless for some, then it is a fearful entity for others. And that is why Boomba uses his textbook pages to sell snacks in his mother’s little shop. Apparently, to fend for his stomach was more important than the functions of education for Boomba.
Boomba Rides starts smoothly with scenic shots of nature in its pristine as we wake up with the struggles of a Mising family run by a widowed mother in a sleepy village of rural Assam where a laidback lifestyle dominates. And from thereon, Boomba, whose mother harbours the dream of getting him educated despite all odds, becomes our constant companion on this ride.
Boomba Ride is a charming film, one that is done with a lot of honesty and from the heart. Inspired by a true story, the reality that the movie tries to reflect is harsh but the movie isn’t. Here, the entire treatment has been toned down and the narrative operates at a very miniature level. For instance, even if we can see the school inspector and his evaluation in process, we cannot immediately sense the pressure and anxiety associated with the result. Because the movie somehow assures us that everything will be fine, Boomba would be alright, and the school would not lose out on hope. A shortcoming or otherwise, the movie can forge such a reassuring bond with its audience.
Most importantly, the film shapes up personalities which in return grants it a personality of its own. Not as naive as he might look, Boomba feels real because of his upfront negotiation tactics with his teachers and the hilarious returns it provides. I also adore how ‘imperfect’ was written into the characters of all the children. They tend to bully, they are mean and selfish and occasionally engulfed in self-doubt.
As for Boomba, he is innocent but also mischievously aware of his importance in keeping the school going. And so do his teachers with their everyday antics. They visit the school inspector’s home in one scene and present him with veggies from their garden in the hopes that he will be considerate while making the ultimate decision regarding the school. Here, the characters are engaging in minor corruption, but filmmaker Bora does not portray anyone in a negative light. The comment is through humour. Additionally, he refrains from blaming the government’s incompetence for the appalling state of the school because he is aware that this is not the appropriate course of action.
This pitiful situation of education at the mercy of everything else was brought about by a vicious cycle of ignorance, which must be broken by positive individual transformation. And in this regard, Bora’s movie is hopeful. And as we try to figure out the confusion centred on this one-child school, the movie takes a journey into the heart of simplicity and honesty. Children’s movies encourage us to think big and dream big and Boomba Ride acts as a euphemism for a harsh truth which forces us not to question the odds but to inspire the change.
Change does come into everyone’s life, but it does so in different ways. However, its abrupt conclusion may not appeal to the conscience especially when an unexpected solution to the problem automatically lands at your doorstep. Many audiences would appear pleased, but such storytelling devices are not thought of as highly as worthy in either literature or cinema. But somehow it works for the kind of film that Boomba Ride is – which is – a socio-realistic fairy tale!
Filmed in Mising language in Bormukoli village in the Golaghat district of Assam, the plot of Boomba Ride is simple and uncomplicated and is constructed around the pathetic plight of state-sponsored education in rural Assam. And director Bora strikes a fine balance between satirizing these problems and simultaneously depicting Boomba’s coming-of-age story. From daydreaming in the fields to becoming attracted to his headmaster’s daughter, Boomba finally comes to grips with life after realizing the importance of money, education, and also the distinction between public and private schools.
Then Boomba sets out on his metaphorical quest in search of the school inspector, who is education personified here. But only when Boomba decides to take this action, the mechanism for change is triggered and so does this ride arrive at its conclusion prematurely. I wish the film had more! But anyway, Boomba is not the intended recipient of this conclusion; it is just for us, the audience. And for Boomba, he has only started to reach out for the branch and climb the tree. His journey has only begun with his destination still far off.
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