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Dr. Rashmi Sarmah
Date of Publish: 2017-02-25

Antareen: A Quest for Social Justice

“No Woman no cry…….. Everything’s gonna be alright!…..” These immortal lines from Bob Marley’s classic, echoes in my mind as I sit through a screening of ‘Antareen’, the soul stirring directorial debut of young filmmaker Monjul Baruah, who brings to life a strong statement made by Sahitya Akademi award winning author Dr. Rita Chowdhury, on a woman’s fight against social injustice inherent in our society in the garb of patriarchy.

The film, based on Chowdhury’s book ‘Torali’, is the portrayal of the hidden strength of a young woman Torali, who is part of a painful journey, through a dark tunnel created by the unjust patriarchal structure, which is often emboldened by submission and silence on part of the victims. But what makes the journey imperative is Torali’s quest to fight this injustice and find her way to the end of tunnel where light awaits her.

Her birth was a result of her father’s injudiciousness, and her life was turning out to be one nightmare after the other trapped in situations beyond her control and imagination. As a child her tender mind was unable to grasp why she was treated differently from her siblings who enjoyed the comfort of her father’s wealthy empire, while she was made to feel unwanted.

Though the lady of the house was kind to her, she had her own limitations as a wife. The girl remained a fighter, always questioning the injustice. The discovery on truth about her birth broke her down for some time. She, though, coped with the fact that her mother is not her biological one, but she is born out of an illicit relation the father had with a worker from his own tea garden.

The girl’s emotions find refuge in the support and respect from friend Akash and his companions who help her find her biological mother and also make her realize her worth as a woman and an able human being. A scene in the film, where the four of them (Torali, Akash and the two friends) stand by the river filling up their canvases with paints, symbolize the unlimited freedom the mind wishes to experience, in order to give the best to life and society.

Gradually her own step sister Rani, stands for her and questions their father’s cruel ways. But Tarali’s fate suffers another blow when both Rani and Akash are killed in Police firing while they are on a protest March. Now forcefully married off to her father’s trusted aid Mrigen, Torali finds herself move out of one prison and enter another; as mental and physical torture refuse to leave her side.

In spite of all chaos, Torali’s determination to fight for her ailing biological mother and get her social justice, causes more complications in her life. She tries to find her way out of this by trusting a senior psychiatrist who betrays her trust to keep his social and professional security intact. Finally as an inmate of a mental asylum, Torali begins her fight against patriarchal inequality and injustice with the pen as her weapon. Her novels, written with a pseudo name, are seen and published by Samiran, the doctor in charge, who even takes up her fight as a fellow human being.

The director, Monjul Baruah recalls, “A first film by a director remains close to the heart for ever, and like any other young filmmaker, I was also chasing this dream of coming up with a beautiful feature film of my own. I was fortunate enough that the film came to me without my struggling to get it. National award winning producer Manavendra Adhikari approached me for this film based on the novel ‘Torali’ by Rita Baidew, one of the great Assamese writers of our times. The film was on his mind for seven years. When he approached me, we did not know each other well, but after seeing some of my production works he gave me the offer. I was speechless, but again, my excitement got subdued by anxiety as I felt this is going to be a very tough and serious film. After all I was going to be the first director to be making a film based on Rita baidew’s novel.”

But soon, Monjul’s fear turned into determination and a meeting with the writer, and her trust on him, got him going. “I visualized the film and slowly wrote the screenplay. Manavendra da’s faith in my abilities as a director has also been a turning point in my career, though it all seems like a fairytale. I shall remain grateful to these two persons. Always.”

The shooting took place in different locations within Assam, including the State Mental Hospital in Tezpur. “All I wish is that once the film is released our audiences accept it well. The film has been screened in festivals across the region and country where the response from different sections of audience was very warm. I hope for the same from my own people,” says Monjul while adding, “The film has been screened in Film festivals in Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Itanagar, Imphal, Tezpur, Tangla and Guwahati, with three best film titles, one best cinematography, one best lyrics and two best actress titles. In Itanagar it also got special Jury mention.”

The dialogues were written by Dr. Rita Chowdhury and Monjul, the Cinematography was done by Sumon Duwerah and music by Tarali Sarma. Sound Designing was done by Jatin Sarma and Debajit Changmai. The team consisted of many other talented minds and hands to whom Monjul remains thankful, and continues to hope that the film lovers of the region watch it and the message in the film gets through to them well.

Dr. Rashmi Sarmah

(Dr. Rashmi Sarmah is a Guwahati-based freelance journalist and communication researcher)

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