The newly released film Aai Kot Nai (Maa), made by Manju Borah and produced by Rajen Bora under the banner of AAAS Productions, is special for varied reasons. The packed gath-ering of viewers that witnessed the film’s premiere at Anuradha Cinema on June 12, realised the deft touches for which this award-winning filmmaker in Manju Borah has been winning accolades with her array of films — Baibhab, Anya Ek Yatra, Laaj, Akashitorar Kathare and Joymoti; besides, of course, Aai Kot Nai — depicting true stories that touch all and sundry.
The most striking feature of this film,which many prefer to describe as a work of art, is that it focuses on a burning problem which does not seem to have a solution due to its sheer nature. But Manju Borah depicts the whole issue, dealing it with an angle so far untouched and that makes the film so special and appealing.
Precisely, the story of Arun Goswami, about the turmoils being faced constantly by the people of the border areas from misled quarters of the Nagaland side, in the form of threats to life, burning of houses, collection of taxes, construction of even government offices on Assam land, which they claim as theirs, among others – gets the subtle touch of the expert in Manju Borah and takes the shape of a work of art, though it is a living and burning topic. The viewers got to see the exact story in its entire hue, but the filmmaker brings forth her arguments for a solution of this vexed issue very strongly. Any sensitive human being with a certain measure of compassion, which we all possess in variable degrees, would surely strive for peace and amity after seeing the film, for then they would realise the futility of harming others for a living or for the sake of patriotism.
The film begins amidst laughter and joy before taking on a serious character after the death of Simanta (Rupam Chetia), a progressive-minded youth who preferred to opt for farming seeing the job scene, about which the less said the better. His love for the Naga damsel, enacted by Pallabi Gogoi, is also shown strongly.
The real story starts with the killing of Simanta by misled Naga youths for not complying totally with their tax demands. Thereafter, it’s mostly flashback and other allied incidents that keep the viewer engrossed all through.
Manju Borah has tried to show the futility of craving for land and killing people. Her subject matter to make the viewers realise this truth is arguably untouched. She has made us feel that the world itself, rather the land, belongs to all and it’s useless fighting for a piece of land, saying “this belongs to us, that’s yours”.
Manju Borah has very touchingly compared the land with the mother, showing successfully that both are same. In other words, we are all the sons of the soil like the sons and daughters of a mother. Therefore, it’s futile to harm or kill people for land – which amounts to killing our own kith and kin and nothing else.
The pregnant mother, the central character of the film, played by Bidyawati Phukan, gives birth to a baby while running for her life during a Naga raid while collecting firewood in the jungle, which the Nagas thought as theirs.
Then, during another murderous raid, when Simanta gets killed, she loses her infant son. Later, learning that her infant son has not perished in the fire as believed, but is with a Naga family, she, along with her husband and a few village elders, ventures to that village and finds her son with a Naga lady who also has an infant of her own. With all passion, she holds her son and tries to breast feed him, unmindful of the fact that she has already dried up. A helpless mother finds herself unable to calm her newfound lost baby down, when the Naga lady takes the crying infant and feeds her in her lap, as if she were the real mother.
The film, thus, ends with this strong message ridiculing all other exponents for whom killing and fighting for land has become a way of life. Though the camera work is sans much variety in angles, mostly composite shots, the sceneries and situations are profound, and the acting simply brilliant, for which the artistes — Bishnu Kharghoria, Indra Bania, Hem Borah, Pratibha Choudhury, Rajen Phukan, Jeffrin, Manju Rajkonwar, Tapan Kalita, Chinmoy, Himsikha, Niyor and Sagar, besides, of course, Rupam and Pallabi – deserve kudos.
Shot mostly amidst the beautiful natural ambience of Baithalangsu, Karbi Anglong, and a little bit in Kohima, cameraman Raju Mishra has done a decent job with his lens work. However, it was the music that failed to give momentum to the story, which could have been exploited to produce some exciting folk blends, unlike the overdose of Oriental strains which Issac Katukapally resorted to while doing the background score.
It’s just a part of the whole story that depicts a tragic truth and the other aspects I leave to the individual views of the viewers. After all, the film has many positives to teach, including unity in diversity, brotherhood, peace and prosperity.