‘’Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent’’ — Victor Hugo.
If there is one thing that stays with you long after you have watched Rajni Basumatary’s upcoming Assamese feature film, Raag, it is the music. Set in Delhi, the film revolves around the character of Radhika, a Hindustani singer, and her preoccupied, workaholic MNC-going husband, Alok, who fails to acknowledge Radhika’s personhood as a singer and a woman desiring to be a mother. As the story evolves, you come across other interesting characters and discover how their lives are all intertwined with Radhika’s.
If Iqbal, the painter, is a foil to Radhika’s character, Partho, the musician, is her past suitor and a close friend. Then there is Natalie, the Opera flutist from Prague and the now-separated wife of Iqbal. What lies at the heart of the film is a beautiful story told through the strings of music.
Radhika’s troubled relationship with Alok finds her becoming close to Iqbal. But the film doesn’t give an easy understanding of their relationship. Instead, it explores the multiple levels of bonding between Radhika and Iqbal. Iqbal’s question, “What are you looking for? Love, beauty or truth?” is significant both for Radhika and the Assamese movie-going audience.
If Radhika’s reply is ‘’life and nothing more’’, the question also leaves the audience at the point of philosophical and poetic enquiry into the complexities of life, love, bonding and desire. The realm of art, therefore, not only functions as the backdrop of the film but also serves as the healer, the Shaman in a world deprived of human emotions of love and compassion.
Radhika’s character is interesting because it is allowed to evolve. And finally, she finds herself in a position where she has to make a choice. It is this agency in the character of Radhika that inspires. If you have watched Basumatary’s production debut, ‘Anuraag’, you would have appreciated the themes that the film dealt with apart from having a strong, independent female protagonist at the centre.
Raag is truly a musical delight. Chattisgarh-based musician, Avinash Baghel steals away your heart and so do singers like Murchana Barkakati, Dikshu, Anindita Paul and Pragyan Barua. ‘Kiyonu nubuja mur bukure bhakha’ (Why don’t you understand the language of my heart) is my personal favorite. There is beautiful coherence in the cinematography, acting and direction. Ajayan Vincent’s cinematography makes the film a visual treat. Another highlight of the film is its art direction. Deepti Chawla and Archana Malhotra have helped look each of the frames of the film like beautiful paintings. Zerifa Wahid, Adil Hussain, Kenny Basumatary, Kopil Bora, Natasha Mago and others infuse life into the film.
Raag is not only the rhythm of love, but the rhythm of life, passion and the struggle to be one’s individual self in the face of odds. With Raag, Rajni Basumatary has dared to follow a difficult route. Only time can tell if the audience, too, is ready for such an experience. The film hits the theaters in Assam on February 7. The PVR cinemas release the film in metro cities in March.