CiNEmatters Ep 2 | How the Assamese film Maj Rati Keteki probes into the complex issue of identity in the state

Firstpost presents CiNEmatters, a podcast examining cinema from the North East of India. In episode 2, we discuss 'Maj Rati Keteki' (2017), an Assamese film by Santwana Bardoloi, starring Adil Hussain.

Arshia Dhar March 18, 2021 09:52:44 IST
CiNEmatters Ep 2 | How the Assamese film Maj Rati Keteki probes into the complex issue of identity in the state

Illustration ©Adrija Ghosh

CiNEmatters is a podcast by Firstpost that attempts to turn the spotlight on a lacuna in the discourse surrounding Indian entertainment — cinema from the North East, which continues to remain largely inaccessible in the age of OTT, when content in languages from across India and the world is just a click away on our screens.

In each episode, we discuss a new film available for viewing online, going beyond its cinematic scope to explore socio-political and historical nuances.

Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost's YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts.

Listen to more episodes of CiNEmatters here.

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Episode 2: Maj Rati Keteki (2017)

Language/Region: Assamese/Assam

Streaming on: Netflix

Director: Santwana Bardoloi

Cast: Adil Hussain, Shakil Imtiaz, Sulakshana Baruah, Mahendra Rabha, Bibhuti Bhushan Hazarika, Gayatri Sarma, Rahul Gautam Sarma, Kasvi Sonkorison, Pranami Bora

In the second episode of CiNEmatters, we discuss the 2017 Assamese film Maj Rati Keteki, which offers a nuanced take on how social and cultural identities overlap in an individual to influence their lives in ways they are often unaware of. The issue of identity assumes centre-stage in the film, much like it historically has in the state of Assam.

The film is told largely through the perspective of Adil Hussain's character Priyendu Hazarika, a celebrated writer of English novels from Guwahati who returns to his hometown after a decade, to conversations both familiar and unfamiliar. While his city has gone through large-scale cosmetic changes, rendering it nearly unrecognisable on the surface, Priyendu soon realises how its centuries-old feudal structures have remained steadfast.

Maj Rati Keteki is meta-narrative in nature, with the story often mirroring the events in Priyendu's fictional book. The film travels back in time through flashbacks that transport the audience to a simpler, rustic North Guwahati of the 1970s where Priyendu grew up, and juxtaposes those years against present-day Assam.

The past reveals to us characters who react to their surroundings and circumstances in manners that reflect their social situatedness, with caste, religion and gender steering the narratives most prominently.

In this episode, with our guest Sebanti Chatterjee — sound anthropologist and professor of sociology — we examine the film's almost plaintive commentary on how, more often than not, one is barely ever able to outrun the identities assigned to them at birth, for the better or worse. We also review the ways in which social machineries are deployed to further disadvantage the disenfranchised and marginalised, prohibiting them from subverting the stigmas attached to their identities that they have worked hard to embrace, overcome and finally celebrate.

Listen to the episode here —

Subscribe to CiNEmatters on Spotify: spoti.fi/3qRnAAcSubscribe to CiNEmatters on Apple Podcasts: http://apple.co/30txAUU | Subscribe to CiNEmatters on Google Podcasts: bit.ly/3uP4jC3

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