Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rajula – A Himalayan painting on celluloid...

Imagine bards in the hilly region of Kumaon, Uttarakhand, sing and enact the love story of a brave, ingenious girl and a charismatic king. Or if one has grown up in the lap of Himalayas in Uttarakhand, they are sure to have grown up hearing and listening to the 700 years old folk tale of Rajula-Malushahi by their grandmothers over those cold sultry winter nights. The story is passed on by word of mouth for over 10 centuries from one generation to another. However, a folk tale is just not a story weaved to put kids to sleep. The sheer power of these folk tales lies in the wondrous co-existence of fantasy with reality. It effortlessly merges into one's stream of consciousness thereby shaping their world, as it shows their struggle and how these folk heroes dealt with odds and evens in similar situations and circumstances. This is what director Nitin Tewari attempted to decipher in his debut film "Rajula - A tale from Himalays" as he weaves a story in the backdrop of modern day exigencies that threaten the survival of this precious piece of Indian folklore.

The film is a wondrous attempt to portray the story of Rajula-Malushahi - a charming folk tale of Kumaon through a romantic narrative of the hero Ravi (Karan Sharma) and the girl Bhawna (Ashima Pandey) he befriends in Kumaon valley. Given that the film doesn't have any known face to make it a seller (except for Hemant Pandey who is playing "Puran Mama" in the film) the film is painted on a big canvas with myriad personal experiences and emotions, as the story flows wonderfully incorporating the traditions and the wonderful landscape that the region has to offer. What shines through this film is the epic ballad narrated interspersed through the personal emotions of Ravi, including his parental duty (especially getting his mother her long lost respect in his Nanaji's family) and his personal love.

While the film is rich in elements and suspense, simplicity and elegance characterise this film. The trickiest part was the choice of treatment to the subject. The director integrated the story with the beautiful landscapes of Uttarakhand making them a part or character in the story than just scenery. The use of vibrant, colourful imagery and profound yet simple storytelling, use of old classical cinema style, simple block and pan shots in most of the film were adopted as measures, giving it a realistic visual appeal. The film has shaped brilliantly and depicts an excellent picture of the Land of Gods - Uttarakhand that is known for its natural beauty and the breathtaking sights around the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai as it paints a rich canvas on celluloid.

However, the USP of the film is its narration and the excellent depiction of the Himalayan flora and fauna, the lifestyle and culture of the people of the region. Also worth noting in this film is the sheer artistic richness of the story and the folk songs that are woven in the storyline. The sheer power of the Jaagar Geet and the use of the Uttarakhandi language (Kumaoni and Garhwali) flows effortlessly in the film. The director has made a good attempt to use it in the films' wondrous narrative that oscillates between fantasy and reality as it mirrors the existing reality with the surrealism of folklore amidst the muti-ethnic character of life in Kumaon.

In conclusion, this is a wonderful attempt to revive an ancient story through the narrative of a feature film for those unknown of this folklore. Except for a few technical glitches and a bit of the rapid uneasy camera work, t
he lead actor Karan Sharma who has a theatrical background has done a good job and carries the entire film on his shoulders. Supporting him is the leading lady Ashima Pandey, Anil Ghildiyal (Elder mama), Hemant Pandey and the locals who also doubled as actors for the film. But the sync doesn't fall out of place and gives you a feeling of being there, seen that. I congratulate Nitin Tewari for keeping the soul of the Kumaon region alive by retelling and bringing on screen this beautiful folk tale without losing its soul. Watch it for an experience.

For those who are keen for a peek into the storyline, here it is..

A tribute to both the women of India and the holy land of Uttarakhand, Rajula digs deep into the psyche of love and dedication of a woman. It talks about the changing dynamics in her different relationships when she falls in love, be it with her father or brother or her lover. This love story explores the strength of a woman and the choices and sacrifices she must make to achieve her love.

Ravi, while searching for a unique love story for his new documentary film project, stumbles upon a riveting mythical story of Rajula-Malushahi, a 700 years old folk tale of Uttarakhand. With more than 50 different versions of the story available, no one seems to exactly know what really happened and he decides to dig deeper and explore it further.

Just then he is invited by his uncle, Puran Mama (His mother’s younger brother) for Jaagar, a traditional ceremony of calling the spirits of Gods, being held at his Nanaji (His mother’s father)’s village home. Ravi is reluctant to go as his Nanaji’s family had always treated his mother (who is now deceased) as an outcast after she ran away with Ravi’s father. He is well aware of the hatred his elder uncle, Mathura Mama has in his heart forhis mother, even 25 years after she left their house. Puran Mama convinces him, telling him that time is going to heal everything.

Ravi decides to go to Uttarakhand for his documentary film and pays a short visit first to his Nanaji’s Village. But things take a very ugly turn, when during the Jaagar it is revealed that Ravi’s deceased Nanaji is in unrest after his death and that the gods are unhappy with the whole family. Ravi’s mother is accused by Mathura Mama of being the real reason behind all the miseries and problems the family has been suffering from.

Ravi snaps all his ties with his Nanaji’s family and starts his research on Rajula Malushahi. While researching, he meets, Bhawna and falls in love with her. But she, fearing a backlash from her family on choosing someone not from her caste, resists his love. Ravi confronts her and breaks all his ties with her and leaves in anger.

He continues his research on Rajula Malushahi and discovers the real bond between Rajula and her father, Sunpati. Ravi gets an uneasy feeling about how a father like Sunpati could be so cruel to her daughter that he killed her lover, Malushahi as depicted in most of the versions of the story. And just when his mind starts cluttering with all the doubts and confusions about his mother, Bhawna & Rajula his life suddenly takes a new turn and one by one he starts getting all his answers.

.....specially contributed by Mohan Das

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