Gangtok: ‘Broken Wings’ is a brave movie with an ulterior intent for a love tragedy. The story tries to showcase the fabled Darjeeling Hills of the 1980s, with the Gorkhaland agitation of that time playing in the background.

The movie is perhaps the first feature-length film to showcase the violence that rocked the Darjeeling Hills. It speaks of the then Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) with their Supremo Subhash Ghisingh also making into the final cut of the movie through archival footage.

But if the audience is headed to the theatre expecting a movie on bloodshed and violence of the time, they will leave the cinema hall disappointed, having to face a poorly-woven love story stretching for two hours.

Protagonist Endo (Mrinal Singh) and Priya (Sunakshi Grover) are college sweethearts who fight their cultural differences first and later Priya’s father, played by talented actor Vinay Pathak, who plays the District Magistrate of Darjeeling.

However, what speaks volumes about the movie is the exhibition of racism and cultural differences between the ruling Bengali populace in Darjeeling of that era shown against the daily wage-earning Darjeeling populace who find hard to make ends meet. The same goes in terms of the love story; Priya finds the privileges of life along with an escape from every situation, while Endo has his family battling to run their ‘momo shop’, all amidst a college-bunking teen madly in love with a ‘girl of a higher class’. The mention of ‘enemy in Kolkata’ or the referential ‘Kaiyaa’ depicting the money-grubbing business community from Kolkata, tells the tale that is perhaps relatable even today.

Film director Shenpenn Khymser, who grew up in the Darjeeling Hills, has depicted Kurseong as the epicentre of his story. He takes the viewers back to the 1980s fashion, the rock music scene of the Darjeeling Hills played in real time by current musicians, along with the drug menace that is still on going in the Hills.

The referential depiction of showcasing the World Heritage Toy Trains of Darjeeling to guitar-clad men walking along Bollywood movie posters of the time stamped on the walls. The walls also showcase the call and demands of Gorkhaland, the green flags of the GNLF and how fear engulfed when engaging with ‘party workers’.

The peaceful assemblies, the call for unity, the exchange of countless dialogues with those in power in Bengal, to the riots and CRPF men breaking protests with tear gas, the movie takes the viewers through a journey which most have only heard about but perhaps never seen.

It also showcases how the cultural development of the era revolved around rock music, how often would we hear of a female drummer in the Indian music scene back in 1980s. Cyanide, a fictional band of which Endo is a part of, portrays the same, while real musicians like Abhishek Gurung, famous for being on ‘The Voice’ reality show a few years ago, competes in the battle of bands along with his popular Gingerfeet band.

The movie also touches a raw nerve with the use of names like ‘SP Handa’ or ‘police officer Tamta’ as these are part of the narratives that have made ’86 Andolan’ a story told in every household in the hills.

The movie showcases the ubiquitous Yamaha RX 100s of those time and how drugs, men and machinery were flown in from Siliguri. The depiction of Siliguri as an escape for those seeking a new life from the hills, is showcased with honesty and as the story finds its place, the two lovebirds find their escape at the foothills of Darjeeling, only to be separated by ‘imported men of violence’ at the time.

Khymser also lays bare the portrayal of men and masculinity.

Following the premiere at Vajra Cinema Hall in Gangtok on Friday, Khymser shared, “With Endo’s character, I wanted to portray a lead character that looks like us…people from the hills. He has depicted our dreams and stories very metaphorically but more so the stereotype of masculinity. I have never seen a guy beating up 7-8 goons at a time. The hero of the movie is an honest depiction of male emotion; they are in tune with their memories, and they cry.”

Sunakshi Grover, who plays the female lead, said working with veteran actor Vinay Pathak “was like acting school” but admitted that she didn’t understand Nepali. The debutant plays her character with conviction but the character fails to connect with other characters in the movie.

In all his attempts at going Indie with debutant director Khymser, Vinay Pathak the actor has very little to give that makes an impact in the movie. The District Magistrate plays along the story line until he becomes the reason for the ending of the story. Pathak fails to deliver the character hidden behind a desk.

In his attempt at portraying the Darjeeling and the violence of the times, Khymser perhaps loses interest in the love story half way into the movie, only to push it to an abrupt end.

Khymser himself claimed that he was not trying to justify the agitation, but the times that served as a backdrop. The stretch to which Darjeeling of the time is depicted, the courage to mention Gorkhaland, to show ’86 Andolan’, to make the movie and the music, perhaps it was Khymser trying to tell his own story through the movie.

But the real tragedy is not ‘Broken Wings’, or even how the movie ends. It is how two songs were clipped from the movie. The abrupt cut undoubtedly is felt and quickly loosens the connection with the story.

The absence of ‘There She Goes’ and ‘Timro Mero’, which Khymser claims to be from his heart, has crippled the movie and Shenpenn’s Magnum Opus. The movie is fighting a legal battle over the ownership of these two songs with Khymser in contention with Indian rock legend late Sonam Sherpa;s wife Dina Ralte who has claimed the songs to be a copyright infringement.

She has that her late husband’s works were used in the film without consent or credit. A Delhi court decided to restrain the defendants from releasing the film if the two songs, Timro Mero and There She Goes, were not deleted till May 19, 2022.

“Defendants can, however, release the film if the aforesaid two songs are deleted from the film ‘Broken Wings’,” the judge had ruled.

Commenting on the two missing songs from the movie, Khymser said, “It has affected the aesthetic, but the soul of the movie is still intact. I am a law abiding citizen but those two songs are from my heart. This film is dedicated to Sonam Sherpa; I wanted to help Sonam who I take as a dear friend along with other talents from the hills. But it’s like a chess game, where people from amongst us are trying to pull us down.”

“In the two songs, the melody and the lyrics are mine from almost 7-8 years ago; Sonam played the session on guitar in 2018. If Sonam were here, he wouldn’t have wanted what has happened.”

Despite the controversy, the movie is being showcased in Sikkim, the Darjeeling Hills and Siliguri, with Khymser eyeing a multi-theatre release across the country and, if possible, the OTT platforms as well.

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