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The film is about human weakness and guilt complex.
Ms Jena's film 'Abhaas' is a poetic parable and a realist drama on the pastoral paradise that is rural India ,set in a small village in the lush green fields of Orissa it is both a sweeping cross generational tale of an aristocratic family and the peasants who form the two aspects of this fragile social milieu ,but moreover it is a sensitive human drama that discusses some forbidden themes which border onto almost incest ,adultery and lost youth love and aborted lives in a very spontaneous subtle manner where the characters are given full freedom to exploit the best and the worst in the human spiritual aptitude . The hallmark of this brash endeavor is the freedom of choice the director has realized for the characters where no cliché is applicable or event is predictable and they roam free in a world as gray and vague as the reality we inhabit in truth ,albeit the drama is just as engaging as the dubious characters who follow their imperfect choices in individualistic liberty. The family life is observed in an antique mansion inhabited by a soft spoken liberal landlord Mr.Ray (Murali),his wife and two close relations who have been supported by the couple .Chandra(Akshay Ananad) plays a young idealist poet who is a sensitive young man ,while Bijaya Jena is Kokila ,a young woman widowed early in life and living in traditional simplicity though she is not as inhibited by her status due to the family favors bestowed on her . The director deftly introduces the characters as the daughter of the house visits her parents and her son takes a liking for both Chandra and Kokila ,and their joint ventures into the 'exotic 'local fairs and murmuring waterfalls ,quickly establishes the innuendo subtly that Kokila and Chandra share a mutual affection for poetry and each other . Kokila despite her widowhood is treated favorably by her guardians and she is a sensitive educated woman who is as much a member of the family in every aspect as she keeps the fiscal accounts of the peasant serfs and looks after the household run by an army of servants. Into this perfect world Ms Jena introduces her dark and menacing twist which is as stunning as it is harrowing when Chandra witnesses discreetly that Mr.Ray is having a clandestine illicit sexual relationship with Kokila which seems to be semi consensual out of obligation . From here the movie is a discussion of guilt and conscience intertwined with lost love and feminist compromise and the narrative is both an eclectic mix of brutal reality and poetic lyricism which throbs with the dynamic yet subtle twists of the memorable story ,which has both visual beauty and a spiritual texture that I have missed in Indian cinema for a while . The script is rich with trivia where the decrepit servitude of the local peasantry is depicted just as the silent sexual repression of Kokila and there are some unforgettably tender scenes between Chandra and Kokila who are both doomed in a silent love affair which will touch the most cynical of critical soul as they are both living a borrowed life . The movie is technically quite accomplished and set on original locales without using any sets and is seen through the eyes of Ray's grandchild Rabi,who is played by a newcomer Asif as the child who witnesses the short joys that Kokila and Chandra experience and then comes back from England as a teenager to find the catastrophe where the family has been shattered and has to find his own answers to his anguish in a philosophical treatise that this freshly fragrant movie presents in the earthly colors of Orissa where the browns and greens mingle with the blue of the eternal sky to define the relativity of time in a generational study . Ms Jena's film is both self-assured and freshly unique and has a bold but discreet approach to the themes of adultery and illicit abortions and the miscarriages of justice and cover ups which comprise the paradox that is humanity and rural India ,but she also gives her characters a profound depth which makes them spontaneously natural and extremely sensitive from the guilty conscience of Ray to the female victim who is implicitly consensual in a forced compromise and the poet sage Chandra who must fulfill his destiny and deny his love and life for his own conscience and as such both Bijaya and Murali steal the movie though all the characters act naturally and the dialogs are equally spontaneous and profound . The movie ultimately is a sublime piece that appraises the Indian culture and it's virtues and vices in a precarious balance and it maintains a suave and sophisticated atmosphere and balance whether discussing the scandal mongering peasantry or the guilt haunted RAy who bears his own cross for his blunders . The humanity of the piece is just as implicit in eliciting the natural ambiance of the raw characters and their intensely original and exotic environment which is shot immaculately by a budding new talent who can almost make you taste and smell the freshness of her forbidden theme and the luscious green of the rice fields with the metaphorical river which represents the eternity of time itself and alludes to this precious gem as a realist illusion . The movie reminded me of the earlier works of Satyajit Ray and Kamal Amrohi in it's poetic soliloquies and paradigms and the rural artistry with the feminist theme immersed in an oppressive silence and that is meant as a high compliment. Review by Usman Khawaja,London,Sept 28th 2010.
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