Xur Bahini: A rich tribute to Jayanta Hazarika and antidote to biopic trends
Poster for Xur Bahini

Director Pranjal Gayari’s much-hyped new short on Jayanta Hazarika was finally released on YouTube on Friday. The short film Xur Bahini takes its name from a social initiative led by the yesteryear music star of Assam in the seventies to help people in times of crisis. Exploring two narratives of the past and the present, the film tends to connect to this idea of social responsibility and runs on a similar thread of evoking a desire for the greater interest of the society that is beyond the satisfaction or fulfilment of personal goals.

Xur Bahini‘ is a timely homage to an artist of fame where his art isn’t the source of fascination but the desire for a change that helped shape up his voice. And thus, in doing so it is able to break free from the current trend of biopics. Told through the story of a young band of four and their confrontation with a harsh reality of life is a small story of how they go about looking back to this one personality who had wholeheartedly dedicated himself for the cause of society. So rather than Jayanta Hazarika, it is his ideals and spirit that comes alive in this inspiring short film. The approach of the film to tell the story in the way it does is its biggest merit.

The shifting time of the narrative is evident from the trailer itself and is dominant to a reasonable aspect of the story. But the first few minutes of the film are just slideshows in auto transition that negotiates for a necessary build-up. It owes this to some visible inconsistencies in the writing which can only be assumed as a shortcoming born out of its short run time. We are here now and there now and here back again. Only fade in and fade out as means to draw up conversations to achieve the end of introducing Jayanta Hazarika to the situation.

A snap from the film Xur Bahini

The film, however, does achieve sustaining stability once the point is established and the story shifts to the 1970s to present us a pained and troubled look at Jayanta Hazarika in conversation. This sequence is the heart of the film and the glory is attributed to its aesthetic qualities and actor Kamal Lochan’s prowess in portraying the character. He pitches in a subtle but strong accomplishment in just under four minutes and the camera clearly loves his work.

Speaking of the camera, the film registers another merit with its cinematography. There are two key scenes where the composition lays bare the conflict of the two characters in the film. One of them is a shot in the observation chamber of the hospital in which Kamal Lochan precedes the sequential order followed by Prayash Sharma Tamuly and Nirupom Saikia behind him as they watch over their friend.

It justifies the distance and emotional connection of the characters to the situation. Then there are strategically placed arc shots that intensifies the narrative by exploring the setting when Kamal Lochan is in conversation with Luchiyana Das in one scene or revealing a shade of the character’s personality while delivering a speech in another. 

The film also features a beautiful nod to Abbey Road as the characters walk across a pedestrian crossing. It works both literally and figuratively as the band members face emotional crossroads and despite being at odds with each other follows the lead. The conflict of both the past and the present differs. While Jayanta Hazarika’s was social in nature, the challenges our characters face in the present are personal to their band. But it cleverly interweaves them both to each other. And the approach to arrive at a solution remains the same which is faith in a sense of optimism in a down beaten world. Through a fictional underdog story, Xur Bahini offers an inspiring musical tribute to the efforts of Jayanta Hazarika without featuring the man with his guitar but his ideals.

Also read | Mriganka Borah’s poetic tale of love, Riyaz, released on Reeldrama

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