Mur Xekh Gaan Review : A Fond Recalling Of The Tunes Of Tragedies That We Carry Within But Certainly With Its Limits
Pragyan Phukan, an Assamese by both mind and heart, feels trapped amidst the repeatedly thrown in shots of tall Mumbai skyscrapers. The landscape opens to the sea but yet he has shut himself in from the inside. For reasons best known to him, he has never visited his hometown in Assam even once in the past 25 years. And for a person who still gets his sweet fix from chira doi jalpan (an Assamese sweet delicacy) and treks five miles to find elephant apple for his tangy fish curry, the helplessness in not visiting his hometown is often a curiosity factor for his son.
A change of his mind does occur and he eventually starts making travel plans to Assam. Although the reason for this is unknown, Phukan seems to be aware that his days are numbered. And as fate would have it, very soon life gives up on him before his feet could feel the evergreen beauty of Assam. Thus begins the film - Mur Xekh Gaan (The Last Song) - as Phukan’s dutiful son, endowed with the responsibility of fulfilling his father’s last wish, makes a visit to Assam and starts searching for the answers that kept his father away from his homeland.
Mur Xekh Gaan (The Last Song) plays with foreshadowing. Whether it is the reference of a photograph that leads the search or the headline making incidents of inter-community clashes, or tales of the village school, all clues lead to one place – the answer that we are searching for. Although the premise feels contrived, Prabal Baruah's script nevertheless strikes me as being much sensitive about the invisible borders between communities in Assam. However, it feels contrived because something felt unnatural and stagey about how Kamal Lochan's loud and outspoken character proceeds to blab about community conflicts in front of a character he has just met and also who has just arrived from Mumbai. In another instance, how miraculously the character played by actor Kamal Lochan disappears because the characters played by Arghadeep Barua and Srijani Bhaswa Mahanta had to meet.
The storytelling starts to sag at this point as the sense of urgency fails to draw close in this section and by the time it speeds up, we are already at climax. What looked unachievable in the first half (i.e., to find any links between his father and the photograph) quickly and efficiently materialises in the second half. The scene at the photo studio could have been shorter and the investigative aspects of the story - longer.
Further, instead of a deliberative end underlining closure and fulfilment, Mur Xekh Gaan, unlike the familiar beats of beats of a family drama, urges a sense of regret and reflection to set in - a regret of not acknowledging the right thing done for the right reason and the reflection of having lived with the guilt of it. This aspect of the film appeals to me. The film is also saved from being either overly maudlin or saccharine-sweet by its simple lack of fake sentiments and melodrama.
The movie skilfully exploits viewers' emotions – whether it be about doubting the family, feeling confused or depressed, or sensing the lively water of the Kolong with a Jyoti Sangeet filling the air in. And director Prabal Baruah has a sure hand in carefully crafting the manipulative insides. He rarely oversteps his bounds and is wise enough to break up the intense scenes with brief comedic interludes with actor Kamal Lochan. The character of Kamal Lochan and his performance is a crowd-pleaser, as evidenced by the brief applause that occasionally broke out during the screening I attended.
However, there are times when it seemed like the filmmaker has abandoned the drama altogether. The back-story of the film is grounded in clear and disarmingly honest lived realities of a bygone era with a terrifying tale of a family torn apart in Assam in the 1980s. But this tale, which would have had the greatest impact of all, and in turn, have justified the intensity of the feelings that prohibited Pragyan Phukan from ever returning to Assam, was greatly denied to audiences. I wish there was more of it! The revelation still works but just that it doesn’t come up as a thump to the chest. As a result, we kind of remain some distance away from Phukan's sense of loss, loneliness, and defenceless-ness in a world filled with unending tragedy and sorrow.
In the character of Pragyan Phukan’s son, maturely enacted by Arghadeep Barua, we find that this tragedy has now become generational. “He is Pragyan Phukan’s son” utters a character vehemently in disgust. This character and the unsettling cessation of how the stain of one man's actions and another’s inability to act spreads through one seemingly happy family and how it causes them to break apart serve as the film's philosophical starting point.
With a very poetic sense to it, we can perhaps understand the sacrifices made by Pragyan Phukan. He was slain forever by the blame that he had willingly or unwillingly taken over. He was alive in flesh and blood, but for the people, he had died a long time ago. Perhaps, some people die this way, before they ever are dead. Or maybe they don't die; maybe they live on, behind some deep dark secrets or buried under the guilt filled memories.
Undoubtedly, the plot has some clichés, such as the use of a female character as a resolution or a refuge from the surrounding craziness. Srijani Bhaswa Mahanta tries to plays the character earnestly but I wish there was more of that character. Also what's impressive about Mur Xekh Gaan is how many of the well-worn clichés are not present in its storytelling. No tearful reunion occurs between the two brothers and no torturous episodes of protracted family reunification. Nevertheless, it still succeeds in registering the true meaning of family values – with sacrifice and forgiveness.
Despite not pioneering any stylistic ground, Mur Xekh Gaan scores for its humorous, comforting, and subtly gratifying experience. Through the story of the incomplete lives that have been lived by two brothers, the film tells the story of the songs of tragedies that we carry inside of us. It is a story of how a father's final song ended up being his son's very first song.