Film Review: Mitha Doi (Sweet Curd, 2021): A tale of a doomed family
Dipankar Sarkar writes, " As the story of the film proceeds, we get the impression of an unsentimental observation of ordinary family life in a small town in Assam."
Noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, Dipankar Sarkar takes a critical look at the short film, Mitha Doi by Bhaskar Deka.
Bhaskar Deka’s short film Mitha Doi is a sensitive and confident narrative that sternly points fingers at the administrators for treating the people who depend on them with cold indifference. In order to avoid taking accountability for their suffering, they discard individuals who are struggling to achieve their most basic necessities. It is an interesting drama that highlights this cruel treatment of the poor by the people in power. What begins as a nuanced story of a happy family ends up being a dark tale of desperate measures taken under desperate circumstances.
The film begins with Tarun Borah (Mintu Baruah) purchasing sweet curd from a shop. His wife, Nibedita (Nibedita Bora), is busy preparing Mutton. Tarun returns to his home, and we discover that his family has been living under an economic crisis. His daughter Sajanta (Priyanka Sarma) has been taking tuition classes for the last month and has brought the mutton with her salary. As the three of them sit for their dinner, we are further informed that it is the marriage anniversary of Tarun and Nibedita. Tarun serves the sweet curd, and the three of them resume eating their dinner under the illumination of a candle, as there has been load shedding. But something sinister is about to happen.
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As the story of the film proceeds, we get the impression of an unsentimental observation of ordinary family life in a small town in Assam. By employing a relatively leisurely pacing technique in the beginning, the director piques the audience's interest regarding the lead characters' mental landscape and motivations, ensuring that viewers stick with the film until the intention of the protagonist is fully revealed. The filmmaker dramatises the suspended lives of the members of the Borah family, focusing on their acceptance of living in destitution and yet being unaware of what the future holds for them. But the second half of the film becomes hyperbolic in structure, and Bhaskar could have made much more effort to retain his command over the scenes. However, in the final sequence of the film, he resumes his grasp over the form of storytelling.
Chida Borah's camerawork captures the director's objective to place the audience in a mundane setting in which the characters are trapped through no fault of their own. The art director, Manoj Bikash, gives the interior of the film a soft touch with minimal decoration. The editing by Dhiraj Mazumdar helps the smooth flow of one scene after another. The sound design by Ibson Lal Baruah fills in a lingering sensation of emptiness within the film. Mintu Baruah plays his character with restraint and emotion. Nibedita Bora and Priyanka Sarma do a middling job with their roles.
Mitha Doi has its flaws, but it also displays the strength of a filmmaker who has told a socially relevant tale without being preachy. We hope that, in the future, he is able to overcome his error and emerge as a better filmmaker.
Mitha Doi has been officially selected in the competition section of South Asisan Short Film Festival, 2023.
Image: film still