Based on true life stories, Bridge is an eye-opener of a film for a system that turns away from the uncomfortable truth and reality of some of us
by Manjulaa Shirodkar
Once in a while comes along a film that makes you sit up and take notice – a film that makes you wonder what the central government / state governments of an independent country have been doing for the last seven decades in our free country. Yes, we are talking India and we are talking Assam and of a tiny little village which has remained suspended in timelessness and where development is a word that hasn’t reached. Not literally, not figuratively.
Welcome to the world of Bridge, an Assamese film by debutant Kripal Kalita who has nailed the issue of ‘created impoverishment’ in his film. One of the few sparkling films to enter the Indian Panorama at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI 2020) Goa, Bridge is a gem that needs to be seen – not just to understand what lack of support from the establishment can do but to witness stories of resilience that emerge out of this situation.
Bridge sees the macro picture through the story of a young woman Jonaki who takes care of her younger brother and mother and makes a living from her meagre resources and is primarily dependent on the river which flows by their village. Ironically, the river is both Jonaki’s source of livelihood and a source of destruction too, as it floods annually. Yet, Jonaki like her peers and fellow villagers continues stoically – just living her life. She neither blames it nor extols the virtues of it.
The absence of a bridge over the river – a tributary of Brahmaputra, means that the village is cut off and lacks even basic amenities, leading to deprivation of basic requirements like education and health facilities. On a more personal level, villagers from across the river refuse to marry the girls from Jonaki’s village because of this basic impediment.
Kalita, who began his career in theatre and has made shorts and television serials prior to this feature film, has captured rather poignantly the life of hundreds of such villages across the state of Assam which flood annually affecting the lives and livelihoods of many. Most end up with homes that disappear with the angry, flowing waters, sources of income and sometimes even their loved ones.
Based on true life stories, Bridge is an eye-opener of a film for a system that turns away from the uncomfortable truth and reality of some of us. And we, as part of the system need to reach out to Jonaki and her ilk, to bridge the gap between us and them. And the sooner the better.
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Manjulaa Shirodkar (nee Negi) is an established film critic and author, having worked in leading national publications. She is also a Film Selection Committee member for various film festivals.