Film Review: Porobhat (Of Folk and Flute, 2023): A sincere rendering of the life of an icon

Dipankar Sarkar writes, " 'Porobhat' is an intimate portrayal of the inimitable Prabhat Sarma and explores the inner spirit of the artist through evocative moments and eloquent visual passages. "

Jul 2, 2023 - 10:13
Jul 2, 2023 - 14:10
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Film Review: Porobhat (Of Folk and Flute, 2023): A sincere rendering of the life of an icon
Image: Film Poster

Dipankar Sarkar, noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, evaluates Monjul Baruah’s new documentary Porobhat on the life and works of Sangitshree Prabhat Sarma.

           

Noted Assamese Filmmaker Monjul Baruah, through his documentary Porobhat, pays a lyrical tribute to Sangitshree Prabhat Sarma, whose contribution to Assamese music is rich and immense, and highlights his valuable work and contributions to Assamese society. At a running length of one hour and thirty-three minutes, Baruah provides comprehensive coverage of Sarma's inspiring life journey from a young music enthusiast born and brought up in Barpeta to working as a flautist at All India Radio, Guwahati, to composing music for films, popular songs, documentaries, and the mobile theatre tradition of Assam.

 

The documentary recalls various memorable moments of Sarma’s life with his voiceover, which begin with his 86th birthday to his joining the job of a public relations professional, and various facets of his life have been captured beautifully. Certain segments have utilised animation techniques to recreate a few key moments from the folk exponent and flautist's life. In one such endearing scene, we are informed how the seeds of musical interest flourished in his ripe mind by listening to the life-changing flute recital by Pandit Pannalal Ghosh on the radio.

 

Image: Sangitshree Prabhat Sarma

The major portion of the film also stresses details of Sarma's achievements and contributions to Assamese culture through interviews. Writer and educationist Akshay Kumar Mishra, music directors like Ramen Chowdhury and Anupam Chowdhury, lyricist and journalist Gautam Sharma, filmmaker Dhiraj Kashyap, and other prominent figures of Assamese art and culture take an incisive look into the legendary composer’s reflective artistry and his undying devotion to the medium of music. These notable insights evoke awe, admiration, and nostalgia in the same way that most of his musical compositions have to date, which makes the documentary more interesting. National Award-winning film critic Utpal Dutta explains in detail how Sarma’s background score brought emotional depth to Dr. Bhabendra Nath Saikia's Sarothi (1992) and elevated the dramatic overtone of the film. He further details how, for Dhiraj Kashyap's Muhomukti (2004), the legendary composer took the trouble to make a new instrument and also elaborates on how the legendary composer had the expertise to seamlessly add classical overtones to a song written in the structure of Ojha-Palli, an indigenous Assamese folk dance form. Whereas, interviews with his family members, such as Sarma’s wife Renu Sarma, brother Basistha Dev Sarma, and daughter, popular music director Tarali Sarma, are filled with emotional and touching moments as they describe the struggle and passion of the musician.

From a technical perspective, the cinematography by Prithviraj Dutta, Bitul Das and Prakash Deka brings an intimate insight into the life of an illustrious individual with exquisite use of composition, lensing, and lighting to the interviews. Twenchang’s editing creates a structure that synchronises with the rhythms of the musical life of Sarma. Debajit Gayan's meticulous use of commentary, conversation and sound design enrich the quality of the film.

 

Image: Sangitshree Prabhat Sarma

 

Overall, Porobhat is an intimate portrayal of the inimitable Prabhat Sarma and explores the inner spirit of the artist through evocative moments and eloquent visual passages. It is an engaging compilation of the tumultuous journey of a legendary and iconic music composer from Assam, whose music lives on. This is a documentary that should be considered essential viewing for anyone even remotely interested in the history and musical journey of an individual whose adherence to music is unparalleled.

 

Porobhat is produced by Tarali Sarma, Purabi Sarma and Karabi Sarma Ojha and has got an official selection in the 9th International Film Festival of Shimla 2023.

 

Image: Sangitshree Prabhat Sarma

 

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