In this critique, Dipankar Sarkar offers an analysis of Sanjib Gogoi's short film titled "Summer of Soul."
There have been a number of films made in Assam that deal with the disastrous impact of floods in the region. These films have shed light on the struggles faced by people, raising awareness about the urgent need for better infrastructure and disaster management in the state. So, is there a need to make another film on a similar subject? Has the filmmaker brought a new perspective to the issue-driven subject? The answer to these cynical questions would be: After all, it depends on the perspective and the unique approach taken by the filmmaker. This is where Sanjib Gogoi's short film, Summer of Soul, stands as an unusual take on the topic, where the image sets the backdrop of the story. The short film is more concerned with the impact of the flood on a poor family than with the urgent need for better infrastructure and disaster management in the region. By focusing on the personal story, Gogoi's film offers a unique perspective that goes beyond mere awareness-raising, aiming to inspire action and change.
As the film begins, we are introduced to the family of a farmer, consisting of three members—a man, Dhan, his wife, and their little daughter, Bristi—who brings tea for her parents working in the fields. At night, the Dhan tells his wife that if everything goes well, then he will admit Bristi to a private school for a better future. But the wife expresses her scepticism regarding the climate, which might again wreck havoc in their lives. Dhan has been associated with the cultural activities of his village, which has brought him recognition but has not benefited him financially. Bristi expresses his wish to join an art school. A radio announces the threat of water being released from a neighbouring state, threatening to flood the village.
With a running length of around ten minutes, the treatment of the film is driven by a simplicity of thought that do not culminate into contrived storytelling. with a delicate balance of good intentions and engagement. Unlike most films made on similar subjects, this could’ve very easily been a sappy, sentimental film – but the filmmaker never compromises the idealism in his story for an easier, cheaper way, without losing sight of the character’s integrity avoiding any cheap and easy traps.
The casting of the film has a realistic feel to it that does not border on sentimentality. Dhanneswar Phukan, Bhonikon, and Bristi Gogoi embody their characters with such delicateness that it is easy to forget they are performing. The casting choices enhance the overall believability of the film, adding richness and legitimacy to the storyline. The cinematography of the film, by Himangshu Duwarah, also has a simplistic approach that synchronises with the theme and placid life of the village. The editing, by Sanjib Gogoi, and sound design, by Priyanka Gogoi, seamlessly allow the scenes to flow into each other and create a cohesive narrative.
At the recently held Jio MAMI film festival in Mumbai, Summer of Soul won the best film award in a contest curated by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films.