SAAT Nomboror Xondhanot: A bold and unblemished cultural chronicle
A group of young as well as veteran film directors of Assam has brought fresh hopes for the Assamese cine industry by making aesthetic films braving all odds, at a time when the cine industry in the state is said to be gripped by crisis. Veteran Assamese Director Abdul Majid is one among this set of such bold directors. After a gap of 23 years, the Octogenrian fimmaker has recently made an Assamese film SAAT Nomboror Sandhanot on the theme of the plight of tea garden workers in the prevailing socio-economic condition due to continuation of the legacy of the colonial exploitation on them. From the beginning till the end the theme of the film has been aptly reflected through the characters. Contrary to typical romanticism of the Middle Class, Sat Namboror Sandhanot centers on the struggle of the tea garden workers, who are integral part of the Assamese society but have remained deprived from their legitimate rights despite toiling hard.
The script of film is realistic and bold. The writer’s expertise in turning a complex socio-economic theme into a touching script is highly commendable. The film is free from monotony, belligerence and sluggishness usually seen in a realistic film.
The film opens with usual style while the main story progresses in flashback reflecting colours of life, festivity and celebrations. ex
The main story of the film is reflected through ups and downs in the life of Lilawati (Mitali Roy), a garden worker and the central character. Though it appears to be a film with usual stories of love, marriage, emotion, death anger and anguish, it has raised a number of important issues that concern the society at large, with a strong cinematic essence. These include exploitation of tea garden workers by garden authorities, insecure lives of the workers, indifferent attitude of the garden management, dilapidated condition of education and health care system which naturally allow superstition to take deep roots among the underprivileged workers.
The story of the film goes like this- Lilawati, a grown up girl of a tea garden, is full of life. Like other girls of her age, she too nourishes the dream of her life that was carefully kept hidden in the lush greens of tea bushes. She finds her dream man in her beloved Haru. Apart from being handsome and healthy, Haru bears a good character and is not a drunkard like many other garden youth. They tied nuptial bond and started their conjugal life in a garden workers’ quarter. Lilawati plucks tea leaves and Haru ( Raag Oinitom ) too is a worker in the same garden. Time flies and their third child takes birth nine years after the marriage. The family expands to five members with one son and two daughters.
However, sudden and unexpected turn of events push Lilawati to face hard realities of life. Haru is bitten by a snake and dies for non-availability of anti-venom and proper medical care. Villagers placed Haru’s body on a plantain raft and let it flow on a river at the advice of a local quack. As advised by garden school teacher Lilawati files an application before the garden seeking compensation for Haru’s death as he died while on duty. However, the garden management rejects her plea on the ground that there was no post-mortem report. Lilawati raises her three children fighting against all odds of life.
Lilawati tries to adjust to the realities of life. Tragedy struck her again when she was preparing for marriage of her son Sibu (Zubeen Garg), after her two daughters were married off, when Sibu meets with an accident on the rotorvane of the garden factory and died. Lilawati’s dream is shattered and sees darkness all around. She is devastated by the loss of her only son. Lilawati refuses to go for plucking tea leaves and asks angrily for whom would she struggle hard and lose everything. The garden authorities deceive her once again when she seeks compensation for Sibu’s death. Lilawati takes legal help but in vain. Endless tragedy of losing her husband and son, treachery and deprivation despite hard work robbed Lilawati of her zeal in life. Superstition and faith-healing reduce Lilawai, who now takes refuge in haria ( local rice beer) and wine, into a mentally imbalanced person and she begins her search for the Number Seven in villages after villages.
She identifies the tea garden officials, union leaders and those who cast immoral glance on her as her enemies. And, she reveals their names in front of the quack with hope of punishing them by invoking the God with the help of the quack. But she fails to identify the seventh enemy and that’s how Lilawati’s search for the number seven begins.
The film does not make any direct statement against superstition or exploitation but it is complete in every detail of the ill-effects and consequences of both. The story progress steadily. Instead of sensation and drama, the director has made best use of controlled ex
Towards the end, the film transcends beyond intellectual limits in creating the scene of the mystery of the number seven. The film ends with the Director leaving the task of unraveling the mystery to the viewers through his highly imaginative skill, intelligence and artistic dexterity. It is an ‘atypical ending’ instead of a usual ‘happy ending.’ The Number Seven is an invisible enemy of Lilawati. In fact, the enemy of all exploited. The film has no direct answer to the question as to who is the number seven. However, the film gives the viewers the trace of the number seven from the beginning till end without revealing the identity for even once. The viewer is thrilled when s (he) is able to unravel the mystery. It is a unique end.
One or two scenes of the film, however, have not fitted well due to imperfection in costume and in building of the characters. Particularly, Haru’s healthy physique, bright and smooth skin has given an artificial appearance to the garden worker’s character. Similarly, tidy costumes and healthy look of the child artistes have not matched well with the characters. Multi-coloured and new costumes which Zubeen Garg wears in Sibu’s role create a barrier in accepting the character of a worker who toils hard with low wage.
Music of the film is enchanting. Long shots of lush green tea gardens are fascinating.
Performance of most of the cast is commendable. However, performance of Mitali Roy in the lead role and of Himangshu Prasad Das, in his role as Lilawati’s brother is outstanding. As a viewer a fair conclusion can be made that barring some flaws, Sat Namboror Sandhanot is an excellent film in totality in respect of the theme and objectivity. It is a bold and unblemished cultural chronicle of the socio-economic system which will remain relevant for many years to come.
( Pooja Nirala, a student of Mass Communication and Journalism, is based in Guwahati )