Baandhon is the first Jahnu Barua film to get a multi-city release outside Assam. Thanks to PVR Directors Rare. For cities and show timings, do check the poster below. And here’s Pradeep Menon on the film.
The media, social and otherwise, has been abuzz with the latest Hindi release; an exciting, talented director’s sophomore feature, one that is making critics and audiences alike gush over gorgeous frames, celebrate the coming of clean cinematic craft, and most importantly, reminisce about romances of the days of old.
Indeed, sometimes one can’t help but feel that, in this day and age, we’ve all forgotten how to fall in love. We’ve forgotten what it is like to drown oneself in that heady rush of a new romance, embrace unbridled passion today like there isn’t a tomorrow and push the limits of rational behaviour in the pursuit of real life moments that make us feel like we’re living a movie.
But here’s the thing about romance – it always dies away. No question about it. So what remains then? What happens when you spend years, or even decades, with a person? Hopefully, once the romance, the passion and the giddy joy of the other’s company gradually ebb away, what you’re left with is respect, stability, comfort, and, if you’re extremely lucky, a lifelong friendship.
That, precisely, is what Jahnu Barua’s ‘Baandhon’ (“Waves of Silence”) is about. On the surface, it appears to be about the complex relationship shared by a married couple; a man and a woman who’ve spent nearly their entire life together. But if you really pause to think about it, it is quite simple. Their love has evaporated perhaps, but they are left with the next best thing – companionship.
Baandhon spends more than half its run-time soaking itself in a single fight between an aged husband and wife; a couple that has already been bereaved of its offspring, and is now solely alive for their grandson, who studies in IIT Mumbai. However, right from the outset, we know that this fight isn’t for real. They’ve done it to death umpteen times before, and it is perhaps the only thing that keeps them going on a daily basis. One ticks because the other is.
But, before we even see the couple for the first time, we are told the date of the fight. 26th of November 2008; a day that sent waves of silence of its own, all around the country. And immediately, you know that this is a story that is always going to end in some sort of a tragedy.
Barua, then, with his decades of filmmaking experience and multiple National Awards, chooses to douse his narrative in such minimalism and sparseness that not only is there never a twist, but there also isn’t even the anticipation of one. The terse inevitability of the path the film traverses is always writ large over the goings-on, and yet, Baandhon gently attempts to reaffirm faith in humanity while admitting that somewhere along the way, humanity has failed.
Reminiscent more than once of Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Saaransh’, yet largely steering clear of some of the harsh questions and issues that Bhatt’s film raises, ‘Baandhon’ roots itself in economy of craft and storytelling. Even the background score of the film tries its best to camouflage itself behind the visuals; so rare for Indian cinema today, which nearly always attempts to elevate every emotion with over-the-top mood music embellishment.
There isn’t an overt attempt at displaying craft or technique here. Baandhon could easily have been a play. It is set mostly in Guwahati, before the climax, if I can call it that, shifts to Mumbai. Yet, there is no attempt to give the film a texture that sets it in a particular time or place. It could be happening anywhere, at any time. The 26/11 backdrop gives it a real world context perhaps, but even that could just as easily have been a fictional human tragedy that only needed Mumbai to be the place it occurs in. This of course, is clearly intentional on Barua’s part. If you’ve watched ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara’, you know that he’s fully capable of creating a perceptible flavour of place and time.
Baandhon also has no solutions on offer. In fact, it hardly asks any questions. All the film does is give us a brief window of a few days, into the life of a man and woman who, after 73 years of their life, have only each other, even if their journey brings in their path a few kind souls who unselfishly look out for them. It is in these side characters, the ones that attempt to show you that humanity has hope after all, where the film really falters. Our cynical selves will find it hard to swallow the genuine goodness that the peripheral characters go out of their way to shower on our protagonists.
It doesn’t help that most of these side characters aren’t particularly well performed either. Even Bina Patangia, who plays one half of our couple, has an adorable character to fall back on, but her performance itself is mostly functional. Only Bishnu Kharghoria, who plays the husband, truly manages to turn in a memorable performance.
Despite some almost naïve writing and characterization, it is in its silences and pauses that Baandhon’s honesty shines through. This honesty draws you in and makes you want to sit right next to the couple as they deal with loss. Yet, just before your hand reaches out to caress them, you realize that they still have each other. And as you draw your hand back and walk away from them, all you really tell yourself is that perhaps that is all one needs – another person to fall back on, forever.
( To read more posts by Pradeep, you can check out his blog here)