Crossing Bridges review: It's Swades set in a village in Arunachal Pradesh

Suprateek Chatterjee

Aug 28, 2014 12:28:38 IST

Tashi (Phuntsu Khrime) is an inscrutable man who has returned from a job as a web designer in Mumbai (we later learn he was laid off and has been unemployed for about a year). Years of living in the city have changed him – he is now more used to the city’s sickly-sweet ‘cutting’ than the butter tea brewed at home in a little village in Arunachal Pradesh. Crossing a small stream by walking over a log — an everyday ritual for the residents of this area — is suddenly very difficult for him. There is only one place in the village where one can get a mobile phone signal: a point called Buddha Rock, which is a steep climb away.

Directed by Sange Dorjee Thongdok, Crossing Bridges is about Tashi rediscovering his home and the way of life that he has kept at an arm's length. Screened at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2013, this film went on to win a National Award. This week, it will be released in select theatres across the country. The appeal of Crossing Bridges is in its simplicity: a tale of a conflicted young man returning home – a theme explored in several movies ranging from The World Of Apu to Cinema Paradiso – and realising how unsure he is of his own identity.

Crossing Bridges review: Its Swades set in a village in Arunachal Pradesh

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Initially, Tashi is desperate to find something that will take him out of the little village and when there isn't any news from his lawyer friend Amit, who is trying to find Tashi a new job, Tashi is dourness personified. This doesn’t sit well with his parents, who urge Tashi to stay back and take care of the farm that the family owns. One of Tashi's friends describes the life Tashi's parents want for him as that of a cow's or a pig's: a life full of routine and without any adventure.

So Tashi keeps making desperate phone to Amit, whose voice is an important presence in this movie – it possesses a critical Mumbaikar been-there-seen-that quality that is in stark contrast to the wide-eyedness of the villagers, reminding the viewer how far removed the village is from the world with which most of us are familiar.

Crossing Bridges is light on plot and set-pieces, but makes up for these with the simple but beautiful imagery captured by cinematographer Pooja S Gupte. This is a film that unfolds before the audience's eyes with the languid randomness you’d expect from village idyll. Its remoteness means that it has no space for the street-smartness of the characters in Nagaraj Manjule’s Fandry, whose Facebook-using villagers are edgy sophisticates in comparison to the ones in Thongdok's film. And yes, time and again, there are reminders about how mainland India has forgotten about these citizens, who in turn consider places like Mumbai a foreign land.

At a time when movies are pulling every trick in the book in an attempt to lure in audiences, Crossing Bridges relies on getting the basics right and transporting its audience to another world. Produced on a tiny budget, with the director’s own father reportedly providing much of the financing from his own pocket, Crossing Bridges is the first ever feature to have been made in the Arunachali dialect of Shertukpen and the village where Thongdok has set his film serves as a window to not just a place that few recognise, but also to a different way of life.

Updated Date: Aug 28, 2014 12:28:38 IST

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