Emuthi Puthi is a film for the heart and not so much for the mind. When I say this, I don’t mean that it is completely outrageous or insults its audience’s intelligence. What I mean is that if you look at it with your mind open and heart closed, you will miss the point that it tries to drive at. And then you will question its ending and various other aspects of it too and that would be a tragedy. The tragedy will not be of the makers as they have already triumphed for having dared to make a film of this nature at a time
like this. The tragedy will be yours for having watched it and instead of surrendering to its surreal quality and heartwarming story to have only questioned its realism and correctness. As I sat through this film with eyes wide open and an ear-to-ear smile, I couldn’t help but notice its many similarities to the traditional Assamese folk tales documented in “Burhi Aiyor Xadhu”. This aspect of the film told me everything I needed to know to be on the same page with an ending that will most definitely be very divisive.

The story revolves around the rebellious Ritika (Srishti Sharma) and her Aita (Grandmother) played by Pratibha Chaudhary who run away from home with their own agendas. Ritika’s mother, Indira (Neetali Das), a police inspector learns of their escape the following day and is quickly hot on their heels. Interestingly, Ritika and her Aita land into one tricky situation after another as they try to get to Majuli. This not only gives Indira a chance to catch up to them but also gives the three characters a chance to recollect their past and look back on the reasons for their current actions. Also for the first time in years, they realize the true value and love that they have for each other. The trip not only ends up defining them as human beings but also teaches them valuable lessons about life and its meaning, camaraderie, trust, and most importantly, the importance of letting go.

The story of Emuthi Puthi is on the move from the very first scene. It has active protagonists that drive the story forward through their actions and never wait for the circumstances to drive them forward. Kulanandini Mahanta doesn’t try to build up the characters or inform the audiences about what their agendas are and why they are doing what they are shown doing. Instead, the characters are developed through the different situations and the interpersonal drama that they are put through as they embark on this whirlwind journey. Flashbacks are used to take us back to the inception of their respective motives for doing what they are doing. This aspect of the film feels very effective, economical and works in the best interest of the story. This also helps sustain interest and explain things about the characters when you desperately need to know something about them. The character of Indira is also developed similarly and by the end of it all, you understand her reasons for being the way she is. There is also an interesting misdirection that the writers conjure up to keep the audiences thinking in a certain way about Indira and another character that is then subverted in the most hilarious manner possible.

The ensemble cast of the film does a sensational job with their rendering of the various characters. This is something that is fast becoming a norm in the Assamese film industry and I am absolutely loving it. Even the minor character actors who appear for just about a few minutes leave a telling impact that either makes you roll with laughter or leaves you interested.

From whatever little information is available online, I learned that this was Srishti Sharma’s first feature film and she absolutely mesmerized me with her rendering of a rebellious kid who is smart enough to catch a plot and is also caring enough to not abandon her grandmother at a critical juncture. While the character doesn’t undergo a huge change through the course of the film, the subtle changes that come about in her characteristics are beautifully rendered by Srishti Sharma with utmost honesty and an unflinching desire to excel. The hard work and heart that she brings to the character show in every aspect of it. I am confident that people will take notice of her essay and this will be a great beginning of a flourishing acting career.

Neetali Das proved her metal in Aamis where she had a rather minuscule role but one that she made memorable with her essay and fantastic comic timing. This time around she gets a meatier role and she digs into it with so much charm and authority that it is hard not to appreciate her for the terrific work. It isn’t easy to be comic and tragic in the span of a few moments and have the desired impact in both aspects. Neetali Das is able to extract both emotions from the audience successfully in her essay and that too within minutes. For all this and more, I loved her essay.   

Pratibha Chaudhary’s Aita is the heart and soul of the narrative. In her simplicity and straightforward ways, the narrative gets its direction. It is also her choice that not only defines the journey but is also instrumental in transforming the lives and relationships of many others. I could just sit there and watch her talk for hours. She is that enamoring and effective. If her act was anything lesser, Emuthi Puthi would not be the film that it ends up being. She mouths some of the most outrageous lines and still makes perfect sense. The divisive ending of the film worked so well for me for the fact that Pratibha Chaudhary’s essay gripped my senses in such a way that I was willing to accept almost any path that her character took. This just goes on to show the power and control that an authoritative performance can have on the audience.

Kenny Basumatary in a short and sweet role brings his trademark charm to the film that is unmissable and highly solicited. Monisha Bhuyan as another character was outstanding. Rubul Boro, the man who made me roll with laughter in Tomar Opekkhyat is in his element here again. There is one more cameo by one of our favorite Assamese actresses of late but I will let that one be a surprise for you all just as it was for me.

My only issues with the film were with its technicalities and some creative choices. I felt that this film had the opportunity and the story elements to be one of the most gorgeous Assamese films ever made. Sadly the decision to shoot it entirely on an iPhone did limit the director’s choices and most definitely the quality of images that is ultimately put on screen. This bugged me throughout the screening and I only wondered how this film would have looked had it been shot using some of the premium cameras in the business.  

Emuthi Puthi is Assamese at heart and soul. No amount of subtitles can help translate the nuances of the spoken words complemented by expressions and mannerisms that only we will be able to understand and enjoy in a manner that it is meant to be. It is our film and we need to watch it to make it a rousing success. While it will appeal to one and all who are willing to accept it with an open heart and flow with its many twists and turns, the film will provide the Assamese people with the kind of experience that only being an Assamese can and having grown up by the banks of Brahmaputra can entail. It might be a rare privilege and we must all make use of that privilege and enjoy the film for what it is. Food for thoughts and sustenance for the soul.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)         

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