CiNEmatters Ep 3 | In Reema Borah's film Bokul, a closer look at the plight of lives forced to reside on Assam's fringes

Firstpost presents CiNEmatters, a podcast examining cinema from the North East of India. In episode 3, we discuss 'Bokul' (2015), an Assamese film by Reema Borah.

Arshia Dhar April 01, 2021 09:54:59 IST
CiNEmatters Ep 3 | In Reema Borah's film Bokul, a closer look at the plight of lives forced to reside on Assam's fringes

Illustration ©Sourish Mustafi for Firstpost

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 3: Bokul (2015)

Language/Region: Assamese/Assam

Streaming on: Mubi

Director: Reema Borah

Cast: Urmila Mahanta, Kaushik Sharma, Nirab Das, Udayan Duarah, Bhaswati Patowary, Dwijen Mahanta, Ankita Borah, Anupam Borah

In the third episode of CiNEmatters, we take a closer look at the 2015 Assamese film Bokul, a story of three individuals with the same name, living on the fringes of the same town whose feudal structures have marginalised them systemically.

Themes of identity and homecoming overlap with the two films — Jwlwi: The Seed and Maj Rati Keteki — previously discussed on the podcast, as one finds the story largely being framed by the point of view of the character of Raktim (Udayan Duarah), who returns from Mumbai to his hometown in Assam after several years to attend his sister's wedding. Through Raktim, the audience meets the three protagonists — Bokul Ali (Kaushik Sharma), a rickshaw-puller roughly of Raktim's age, who went to school with him and was a bright scholar. Bokul Ali lost his father Joy, a music teacher, to an incident of local communal violence. Then there is female Bokul (Urmila Mahanta) — a weaver, tea-shop owner, and single mother to a school-going daughter. Finally, we meet the third Bokul (Nirab Das), a poor fisherman who lives with a cat and waits endlessly for some news of his missing son.

The term 'bokul', borrowed from the local tree and its piquantly scented flower that is found abundantly across Assam and other parts of east and south India, exemplifies the lives that survive — and often thrive — on the margins of society, forced to turn invisible, much like the film's protagonists. Reema Borah's nuanced, autobiographical screenplay captures this dichotomy associated with the plant — of being a silent non-entity that does not seek much attention despite its omnipresence — and its name through her Bokuls to explicate the cracks in Assamese society.

In this episode, we are joined by Sebanti Chatterjee — sound anthropologist and teacher of Sociology — to talk about why Bokul comes at a crucial juncture in Assamese cinema, and beyond its subject, how its making reveals to us the cultural situatedness of Assam's film industry whose evolution reflects the state's relentless tussle with identity.

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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