People are neither good nor bad; they are complex. There are resentments and unfulfilled desires in life, but no villains or heroes. ‘Anur’, a beautifully and thoughtfully made film by Monjul Baruah, addresses such themes. It’s about ageing and how you choose to deal with love, the past, the future, and your memories.
Anupama Baruah, the protagonist of the movie, is at the autumn of her life and leads a lonely life. Yes, she is surrounded by people. There is a lady domestic help, a student whom she tutors and a very forthcoming and outspoken well-wisher, Om Jyoti Das. But her solitude is unrequited which a character later puts it as – “there are people around you but not with you”. But as she carries herself along with the mundane chores of life, destiny seems to have brought in some changes when a retired IAS officer, Loshit Modliar, arrives at her door.
‘Anur’ is a fairly straightforward movie. Well, at least till its third act. The plot is driven by the characters, and its best quality is that it never becomes self-aware. Instead of pleading for our pity, it increases our capacity for empathy. The external environment is always presented as a reflection of the character’s inner thoughts. Whether something feels suspicious or appears harmless, it is the perspectives of the characters that we are subscribing to. And this makes the usual ambiance of being inside the house or out in the market very unusual. This treatment of exploring an aged character’s psyche makes ‘Anur’ a slow-footed drama, and intentionally so. The emotions are subdued in the first half as the narrative is mostly built around the insecurities of an old lady living alone, but it does bring in a faint tune of melancholy that surface towards the end. And if you try not to sense the story’s pacing but absorb its soul, the right emotions will come for you.
Adapted from a short story by Sahitya Akademi-winner Anuradha Sharma Pujaree, ‘Anur’ handles the physical, psychological and social role changes that old age brings about with strong merits. As we get to learn more about Mrs. Baruah, we also become more aware of the limitations and struggles that her age has brought about in and upon her. A constant question hangs around her sense of self and reality as her perception of time and the world changes. She isn’t content staying home, but also doesn’t lead a vibrant social life. When her son, who works in London, comes home to stay over for a few days, he asks about their garden “Aren’t the plants watered regularly?” So, there’s wilting of leaves and Mrs. Baruah’s grey hair, and also our actions and its outcomes. Anuradha Sharma Pujaree’s story is not just a conventional look at aging but also an engagement with the issues of time, space, and memory.
Unlike his previous films, Monjul Baruah‘s restrained direction prevents the emotions to overcast its subject here. With ‘Anur’, he aims to serve the subject and seems to be more in control of his craft which makes his third feature film his best offering yet. Baruah employs a precise balance of close-ups, which are utilised sparingly and solely to highlight emotions that are difficult to portray through words or gestures. Anupama Baruah’s silent sob as she looks out through an insulated glass panel of a building is one scene in particular that will stay with me. Baruah also capture his protagonist mostly as she ambles around her house, which patiently establishes and emphasises her relationship to the space surrounding her. Even though there is enough light and air, she is unable to breathe freely. Like a fish in the stacking crates of some unknown market – gasping for breath. And the tight frames visually translate these claustrophobic anxieties of the lead character.
Always apprehensive about letting anyone inside her house, Mrs Baruah gets robbed in some undisclosed way. And if we consider this possibly lethal burglary in the house of Mrs Baruah as the rising action of the narrative, it comes quite late. But it does bring the characters of Loshit Modliar and Anupama Baruah closer. And from there on, the story takes a new turn. And therefore, ‘Anur’ is certainly not the investigative thriller that its trailer promises. It is something more.
‘Anur’ is a powerful movie about time, its passage, the remainders, reminders and the ruins. It is subtly poignant in its exploration of the vulnerability, fragility, and frailty of old age and life. It tries to ask if we’re still young enough to dream and ride the high tides of life. But dreams are a universal human experience and so is our longing for love and affection. It affirms that being young is itself an experience and youth is something that depends on the perspective of the individual. And life will unquestionably appear bright when one’s eyes are on the sunshine.
‘Anur’ is intense, philosophical and a quietly moving film where the drama is internal. It is a very sensitive tale of seeking the moral bounds of sociability and the beyond after reaching the pinnacle point of one’s existence. And its social commentary also extends to the ethical limits of seeking care and compassion. Viewers can expect some beautifully tuned in performance exhibiting substantial inner torment. Actor Rajat Kapoor approaches IAS Loshit Modliar with gentle tenderness, while Jahanara Begum portrays Anupama Baruah with an incredibly enduring performance. It’s also a delight to watch Bollywood actor Rajat Kapoor speak Assamese dialogues as if he’s lived here long enough to understand the fine pauses and soft tone of the language.
The other members of the cast include – Bidya Bharati as Niju, the girl whom Anupama Baruah tutors and who also becomes her support later. She is sweet, shy and sports a native innocence. And in his role of Om Jyoti Das, Boloram Das maintains his swagger, chewing that pan masala throughout and always in a rush to visit his friends or return back to his shop. The way he says, “E beta e gom puwa nai kar pallat porise (He is unaware of who he has indulged)” is hilarious. Rajjashree Sharma as Emina delivers the accent that is crucial for her character. Then there is Udayan Duarah and Bibhuti Bhushan Hazarika too, but in brief roles.
The audience who are old enough to be peering through the binoculars of time, noting how distant the past appears, and wondering when and how their last day will arrive will be the ones most affected by ‘Anur – Eyes on the Sunshine’.