Pavsacha Nibandh review: Nagraj Manjule overturns romanticism of rains with a simple tale on social inequity
Pavsacha Nibandh packs bucketloads of rainy atmospherics and brims with ideas that are given ample time to settle gradually in the audience’s mind.
This review was first published when Pavsacha Nibandh picked up the Audience Award for Best Short Film at Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles in 2018. It also won the National Film Award for Best Director and Best Audiography in the non feature film category.
Pavsacha Nibandh aka An Essay of the Rain is celebrated director Nagraj Manjule’s latest directorial effort. Featuring a charming little boy for a protagonist, it is a simple story that tugs at your heartstrings, packs bucketloads of rainy atmospherics, and brims with ideas that are given ample time to settle gradually in the audience’s mind.
This long short film is quite light on plot. A little boy is given a school assignment to write an essay on the rainy season, and all its myriad bounties. On his way back to his thatch roofed house at one end of this tiny village in the Western Ghats, he runs into his father lying passed out drunk on a street. Hereon, we witness his family’s struggle to try and get through this day when the rain simply does not seem to let. While all that our protagonist wants is to finish his essay in time for school the next day.
Pavsacha Nibandh stands out due to the perspicacity with which Manjule overturns the romanticism attached to the rains by showing how it threatens to disrupt the rhythm of a poor family’s life. Here and there, he throws in class and caste references with a laudably gentle touch. There is even a foreign tourist couple intent upon visiting a nearby waterfall in the pouring rain, while the boy’s mother is moving mountains to ensure that the drunk father reaches home, and does not make a total fool of himself in front of the whole village.
The rain shows no sign of letting up, and indeed does not throughout the film. Manjule seems to have caught on to an unusual piece of irony through this directorial decision. For the falling rain lends the film its remarkable sense of atmosphere, elevated by the meticulous sound design, riveting the audience to their seats. Basking in the glorious rain coming down on this gorgeous landscape, we become witnesses to the daily struggle of a family whose troubles seemed far removed from us before we began watching this film.
Manjule wisely chooses to simply show us the goings on in the household. The shots of pots and pans and water leaking through the roof are juxtaposed against breathtaking shots of the scenery that surrounds this house; the hills and rain in all their glory. Everything in the narrative is dictated by water, whose beauty slowly takes the backseat as the family is beset by one nagging trouble after another by the unrelenting rain. With the father passed out in a corner of the house, the mother is left to fend against the ceaseless onslaught of the rain. She has to rely on the son for help with the housework, whose attempts to write the essay are deferred time and again.
The actors turn in good, convincing performances under Manjule’s assured direction. His gift for extracting drama from the most mundane of occurrences is on full display here. The dialogue-less interludes are filled by the sound of the leaking water falling into pots laid down by the boy. The ceaseless patter makes it seem as if the rain is doing all the talking. Manjule is aware of the key role sound would play in fashioning the impact of the film and he ensures that the sound design is perfected to the degree that it almost acquires a life of its own.
From the get go, Pavsacha Nibandh is a deeply absorbing film, which is admirable considering it does not possess an earth-shaking plot to boast of. It appears as if Manjule was intent on making this film as purely cinematic as possible. It is to its great credit that it succeeds in doing that.
The directorial finesse is matched by a simplicity of storytelling that might as well have done ably without resorting to dialogues at all. We are left mulling over the simple privilege of living in a pucca house that shelters us from the elements, so we can sit behind our laptops, pull that cuppa closer, and gaze longingly at the falling rain from our balconies as we mull over the next line in that poem we are penning in praise of the miracle of the monsoon.
Pavsacha Nibandh is streaming on ZEE5 (Marathi).
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