‘Namami’, the new assertion in the form of a prefix to the river Brahmaputra apart from the video on the river – shot and released to publicize for an international event named after the big river which has been a lifeline of the Assamese folks – proves to be a pathetically poor audio-visual portrayal of what has been enriching the soil of a land, and souls of the natives of the Brahmaputra Valley since humankind have known.
As a leading poet of Assam, Jiban Narah, has rightly highlighted in one of his recent Facebook post, the video has totally failed to evocatively portray the powerful river, its state of repose, and what transforms into a fierce flow during the monsoons when the Brahmaputra presents it’s awfully dark, turbulent feature to the world. It’s needless to mention that the video has failed further to sensitively present vignettes of what abundantly resonates within the native communities in the form of their culture, traditional practices, aspirations, folk expressions, gaiety and struggle.
While I pity those who have made the poor video, and further pity the ones who got it made, I am particularly amused by the fact, that my own footage on the river – its diverse moods shot across all the seasons, across daylight and unimaginably spine-chilling, arduous winter nights when fishermen are out on the river for their catch for an arduous existence, when nothing is seen due to thick veil of mist beyond a hand-length distance – are far more visually mesmerizing, and thematically strong visuals then what one gets to watch in the form of an insipid video lacking in imagination.
To describe the video more elaborately by one who have known the river Brahmaputra closely since years, it is a poor, rather shoddy piece of work which cannot be termed as poetic injustice even. This is not to boast about oneself and self-praise one’s own achievements. I have, in principle, never done so in a film making career spanning 21 years which includes successful teaching of the art of film-making at the highest level. This reaction is in utter pain seeing how people keep flirting with the Brahmaputra, from releasing debris to doleful representation of a lifeline of a land.
I am let to believe that the budget of the video in question is a little above Rs 50 lakhs. Given half that amount one could have, merry well, made a similar video of far superior aesthetic results. Seeing the present quality it amuses me to frankly react, that if I were to make this video I could have easily created evocative poetry out of what I already have at hand, shot across five films of long duration on locations across the river and by its banks between 2005 till 2013.
There were times when I lived on board a boat to shoot, from fresh water river dolphins, to riverine folks, their soul stirring songs and ballads, rituals and practices, to boatmen caught in a thunderstorm at the bosom of a merciless river during the fearsome monsoon when the riverbanks cannot be sighted at all, to the undulating, seemingly horizon-less ‘chaporis’ (sandbars and river islands), how people live on them from beyond Jonai in far eastern Assam to Dhubri bordering Bangladesh.
I have also witnessed and shot the endless silvery sand sediment forever the pastoral pride and people’s hope and smiles at flood-affected places like Mathmora, Samarajan, Jhaji Arcave…, across many more villages where pain, alone, has been sprouting amidst the deserted sands.
But, who cares about aesthetic perfection in a land where culture ceases to exist anymore as a serious engagement other than commodification, where ethics and values have deserted a world turned barren like Mathmora’s silvery sands, or as in Elliot’s “Wasteland”. Our present, after all, is being run without any vision. And, this is the irony of these times when mediocrity is sprouting like wild mushrooms as it continues to find preference to conquer all fronts, from the cultural to the political.