Still from 'Made in Nalbari'

The story of latest Assamese film, ‘Made in Nalbari’, concerns three strangers who are accidental partners on a journey from Jorhat to Guwahati. We witness the story from the perspective of Bibhuti Bhushan Hazarika’s character who is a documentary filmmaker and a photographer and is governed by a tight deadline to reach Guwahati by the next morning. The character of an elderly Arun Nath is also bound home but after a long time, to surprise his wife. Meanwhile, the character of Jintu Kumar Kashyap owns a car which becomes the second thing that connects the three of them. And what about the first? Co-incidentally, all of them share a connection with Nalbari, a town in Assam, in surprising ways.

Although Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika’s character is introduced first and is the one we, the audience, try to follow throughout the film, ‘Made in Nalbari’ is also the story of the other two characters. The balance exists naturally. We also follow how Jintu Kumar Kashyap’s character, from his childhood, dreamt of owning a car and how he went on to meet his life partner. Offering some personal introspection is the character of Arun Nath who’s character is in all experience with all shades of love, life and everything in between. The screenplay has been able to do justice to all the three characters in terms of their shared space in the story.

However, the story could have benefited from a few subplots in the current timeline as it progresses. Instead of only using personal flashbacks to tell the story, some conflict in the film’s current timeline could have provided a foundation for the film’s deeper aspirations and take on the relationships between people.

Nonetheless, ‘Made in Nalbari’, which starts slowly, is engaging and interesting without giving you the feeling or need to decipher a hidden layer or subtext in the story. This is the journey of life, with its soul residing in the personal relationships and its impact on our lives, and the audiences are free to interpret it in their own ways. Jhulan Krishna Mahanta’s screenplay earns brownie points for accomplishing this solely through the conversations between the characters.

Still from 'Made in Nalbari'
Still from ‘Made in Nalbari’

Although the film is titled ‘Made in Nalbari’, the story is not set in Nalbari, but rather in the essence of three strangers on a journey who happen to share a common connection with Nalbari. When they get to know each other, one of the characters jokes: “We’re all made in Nalbari.”

This film has a poetic feel to it and is very real. It is achieved not only through the music and cinematography, but also, and most importantly, through the dialogues, which reflect the everyday-ness of life but are also just about poetic in equal terms.

But the film uses drone shots more than sparingly, every time an open field by road or a bridge comes up. And when the story shifts to explore the younger days of Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika’s character, there is also a lack of era-appropriateness in replication of the surroundings in which the situation plays out.

Still from 'Made in Nalbari'
Still from ‘Made in Nalbari’

The natural acting contributes to the realism of the film. Actor Jintu Kumar Kashyap attempts to follow in the footsteps of Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika and Arun Nath in the film. I’ve always admired Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika’s characters for their ability to balance a soft and easygoing personality with a rock-solid attitude. He manages to strike that balance and shines in such roles. And veteran actor Arun Nath achieves the requirements of his character effortlessly.

To summarize, ‘Made in Nalbari’, directed by young filmmaker Tanuj Nath, is a diligently filmed little film that is subtly touching and mildly moving but falls short of being breathtaking and spectacular. A few scenes, such as the silhouette of a young Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika and Swagata Bharali and the night sequences, are beautiful, but the overall impact is lacking. It is a film that, while not perfect in terms of plot, overcomes its flaws with its sensible message and realistic acting. It is a heartwarming road trip worth taking.

Going by the conventions of a road movie, the film achieves certain genre conventions such as bringing together a frustrated man, themes of self-discovery, roadside dhabas, and a non-traditional plot structure that is almost devoid of conflict. Also, making its characters the focus of the film rather than the story, the journey is complete, but the ultimate feeling of wanderlust that a road movie should achieve is missing. Maybe it was never the aim of the makers to achieve that, because a journey by road from Jorhat to Guwahati can only provide enough.

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About Kalpa Jyoti Bhuyan

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The writer is a MA Political Science student of Gauhati University. He did his graduation from Cotton University. Apart from writing, he is a movie enthusiast.

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