Xukula Swapon (A Dream of a Widow, 2022): The Hardship of a Woman
Dipankar Sarkar, noted Indian film critic and an alumnus of FTII, Pune, takes a critical look at the short film, Xukula Swapon .
The Assamese short film Xukula Swapon, produced under the banner of Kamrupa Creations, is an emotional and heartwrenching tale of how a widow crosses multiple obstacles in her life to bring up her daughter. The fifteen-minute-long melodramatic tale chronicles the life of a strong woman whose determination to weather all forms of social and personal adversity without compromising her honour becomes a lesson on how determination is poised to reap the benefits of personal sacrifices. With a running time of around fifteen minutes, this emotional short film is a touching depiction of one woman’s circumstances who continues to struggle for the attainment of a dignified life through the achievement of her daughter.
After the untimely demise of her husband Akan (Pankaj Mahanta) from tuberculosis. Momi (Silpika Madhukalya) has started to farm vegetables in her courtyard and sell milk from her cattle for survival. Bringing up her adolescent daughter, Bidisha (Utsavi Baruah), is the only hope of her life. Mommee wants her to become a daughter and an administrative officer. The village chief, Dhireshwar (Ishan Hazarika), suggests Momee employ her daughter as a maid in someone's house and earn some money. He also made lewd suggestions towards her. But she does not encourage his evil intentions, which irk him. But, as fate would have it, Bidisha fulfils the desire of her mother and becomes a civil service officer. Dhireshwar apologises to her for his improper behaviour in the past. In order to help illiterate widows and middle-aged individuals become independent and self-sufficient, Bidisha finally marks the beginning of a recreation centre for them.
The director Rupkamal Haziarika and screenwriter Silpika Madhukalya have fully utilised their years of experience in producing content for television to create a story that emphasises the emancipation of a helpless woman in rural Assam. A story of this kind should have had heartbreaking sentiments for it to work well, and the calculated screenplay manages to bring out the drama in an uneducated woman’s life very well.
Silpika Madhukalya, who plays Momi and adult Bidisha, performs ably. She brings a balanced mix of righteous anger, resilience, and inner strength that’s absorbing. She is the kind of woman who never loses her moral fibre through each new struggle, showing her bravery by smiling bravely through her tears. The direction by Rupkamal Hazarika keeps us emotionally engaged with the tale of the film. The cinematography by Nahid Ahmed captures the realistic ambience of rural life in austere images. The editing by Hrishikesh Das smoothly adheres to the scenes from the past and present at a brisk pace.
Audiences who like emotional and melodramatic stories will feel for Momi's misfortune and get inspired by her feats. Momi’s story is almost an allegorical tale that mirrors the fate of millions of exploited women the world over. Her valour and willpower in the face of misfortune illuminate her story, which ends up as a strong feminist parable for all and sundry. It also reminds everyone about the sacrifice a mother has to make when she wants a better future for her daughter.
Xukula Swapon has won the Best Short Film Silver Award at the North East Film Festival, Mumbai, 2023.