Tradition-modernity. Rural-urban. Hope-despair. Consumption-frugality. Experience-theory.
Doesn’t it sometimes seem like we may end up spending our entire lives pendulum-ing between these poles? Dipping into her Uttaranchal childhood, first-time director Bela Negi negotiates these heavy-duty extremes in the most delightfully humble way, only to emerge with an incandescent little gem of a film. Daayen ya Baayen is the story of an utterly inconsequential human being – a small blip on the grand radar of things, a man named Ramesh Majhila who returns from Mumbai to his village in the Uttaranchal hills.
A poet at heart and a crusader with a newly discovered crusade, Majhila discovers it takes a lot more than his books, his grand dreams for a Kala Kendra (arts centre) in the village and his modish jeans to re-enter a world he thought familiar. His wife is unrelenting in her disappointment at his return, his school-going sister-in-law groans in embarrassment when he begins to teach in her school, his mother wraps the newborn calf with his expensive scarf and the village drunks are thrilled to have a new victim for their daily gossip. In the midst of all the insults and disappointments, Majhila wins a brand new car in a TV contest.
The rest of the film follows the fame and misfortune thrust upon Majhila by his new possession – a series of misadventures that mirror the epic journey he must undertake within himself to regain his footing and win back the respect of the one soul that adores him, his son. This is a film that says everything without speaking much. That it also does so without losing its lightness of touch, its fineness of detail, its irreverence or its big-hearted warmth for each and every character it encompasses in its mini-epic sweep, is nothing short of a miracle.
Some more reviews can be found here:
Some Kafila readers may have read an earlier post of mine on the Bombay film industry called ‘Maya Bazaar’. In the two years it took to make and release the film, Bela Negi has experienced all the frustration that a director without pedigree must undergo in that star-obsessed, bad-cash-flushed, bad-karma-saturated world. No wonder then, that the film has been a victim of almost zero publicity. In a time of branding and product placement, Daayen ya Baayen doesn’t pretend to be a ‘crossover’ film, a ‘multiplex’ film, a ‘parallel’ film or a mainstream film. It doesn’t seek to make a grand comment, it simply wants us to watch, with empathy and humour if possible. Please watch it if you find it playing in a theater in your city, if simply to throw in your lot against the Bollywoodisation of all creative labour in our times.
Daayen ya Baayen releases this Friday, the 29th of October, 2010.