Film Review: Jolsobi (End of Spring, 2022): In Quest for Selfhood
'Jaicheng observes Tapashi with care and sympathy, without passing judgement on whether she is an altruist or an insensitive person', writes Dipankar Sarkar.
Dipankar Sarkar, an Indian film critic and alumnus of FTII asserts, "The rural society depicted in the film is plagued by unemployment, a breakdown in communication, a lack of metropolitan amenities, a reduction in independence, and individuals' varied behaviours."
Stories of women battling gender inequality and trying to carve out an identity in Indian society frequently come to a symbolic fork in their journey, where one path leads to struggle and the other leads to an uncertain future. The lead character, Tapashi (Darathie Bharadwaj), in Jaicheng Zxai Dohutia’s Assamese feature film, Jolsobi, must make this decision every day. She may not even understand the significance of her decisions or the reasons behind them. She is a troubled soul who struggles throughout the film to arrive at objectivity. The 87-minute-long film is a social drama that probes insight into such human behaviour and the consequences of choices.
Tapashi has completed her higher education and driven by circumstances, she is compelled to return home. She hopes to begin a new phase in her life and makes multiple efforts to adjust herself to the ways society in rural Assam functions. But as time goes on, she begins to realize the harsh reality of her native village, where getting a government job is not an easy proposition. Even to get a temporary job at a primary school, she has to travel miles. Her relationships with her family and boyfriends begin to deteriorate, and she is forced to conform to societal norms.
Image: FilmmakerJaicheng Zxai Dohutia
Throughout the film, Jaicheng observes Tapashi with care and sympathy, without passing judgement on whether she is an altruist or an insensitive person. He lets the narrative simply witness and record as honestly as possible the stakes that an intelligent, educated, and hard-working young woman confronts and the repercussions that her decisions entail. By following her with an unbiased approach, the filmmaker makes the viewer question their own convictions and the choices they would have made if they had been in her place. But despite this apparent proximity, her behaviour remains mysterious, just beyond our full comprehension or unreserved sympathy.
The rural society depicted in the film is plagued by unemployment, a breakdown in communication, a lack of metropolitan amenities, a reduction in independence, and individuals' varied behaviours. A key, fundamental dramatic question emerges as Tapashi plods with her stubborn, incisive spirit of a survivor who aspires to thrive. Will she be able to get through this without relapsing, and what will happen if she doesn't? Darathie Bharadwaj's subdued performance unmistakably communicates Tapashi's psychological concerns and helps us understand the turmoil she is going through.
Chida Bora and Jaicheng’s cinematography capture the rural environment with a desaturated colour palette, which accentuates the sombre tonal quality of the film. The night scene, where the entourage of the bride and groom's vehicle is blocked by friends and relatives, makes significant use of light to reflect the mood of the moment. Jaicheng, who has also edited the film, delicately interweaves each of the sequences with precision. Through their layered sound design, Oliver Achatz and Debajit Gayan alternate between silences and natural sounds, keeping the truth true to the reality of the location. The background score by Andreas Lucas creates a brooding sense that adds intricacies to the scene. The sequences are well-written and keep us interested in the story. But the supporting characters lack complexity, and in several scenes, the dialogue has clichéd, theatrical undertones.
Jolsobi unquestionably possesses form, emotion, and performance, and it's worth watching. But one misses the intricacies within the narrative that elevate an otherwise good film to greatness.