O.Gautam's 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is just right

Review by: echaandam *

In this world of Web-centric social relationships and at this dawn of Web-centric productivity, the dominant buzzwords are the 'products and services, which are just right'. You need not have 'products and services'which have the full range of conceivable features(the delight of the specs-hunters) but when they reach the consumers' end,they become unwieldy,confusing and,at last long, intimidating.

The catchphrase now is the 'usability' or 'the easy user interface'--in other words, being in the state of 'just right'.

Director, O.Gautam's 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' neatly fits into this category. 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is just right--it's just right in characterization, just right in sub-plot details, just right in cinematography. I mean, it's just right in everything.

In this mix of 'cross-currents of just right thingies',you add the stellar performances put in by Olen,Sadananda and Kamala.What do you get?


I'm not saying this to imply that 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is all glitters but shallow. NOPE. 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is not shallow at all.

I'll try to illustrate this point by taking up an episode from the film. As a responsible reviewer, I shall not reveal the storyline, which is sure to kill the suspence of the would be patrons of the movie but,instead, try to make my point by taking up a single episode.

The name of the character, the leading lady, portrayed by Kamala, is Bijaya and the name of..well..well..we have just encountered a problem here!

Heavens forbid this! Come to think of this--the story writer or the director didn't even care to tag the iconic Yengkhom Roma with a name in the film!! She is just another 'Manembok'--nameless but a needed cog in the wheels of the unfolding dramas;yet not prominent enough to be provided with a name. Ah! How time has changed!!

My intention was to take up an episode with Bijaya and her 'Manembok'. But, now, it's better to say--an episode of the characters played by Yengkhom Roma and Kamala Saikhom.

So, Yengkhom Roma is the 'Manen'and Kamala Saikhom is the 'Mou'. For no fault of either Roma or Kamala (or the son of Roma), the brand new marriage which has travelled a few days worth of its long journey is clearly on the edge of a precipice. The whole family(together with the house full of the theatre!) is plunged into an unbearable gloom.

Is there any way out? The family haltingly starts to grasp with the sanity of their life, which is currently so decisively enveloped by the thick gloom. In each of its halting steps, they again and again cursed themselves for pulling their so lovable and so beautiful 'Mou' into such a fate.

At last long, they kind of come to face with the reality---why don't they let their 'Mou'to start a new life of her own? Why don't they let their 'Mou'to go to her parental home so that it can serve as a firm anchorage for her new life?

The scene is in the kitchen. Roma broaches the family's plan to Kamala---'We love you soo much so....'.

This proves to tbe double whammy of the negative kind for Kamala. First,her marriage is on the edge of a precipice. Second, she now faces the prospect of returning to her parental home.

So, the camera captures the brooding Kamala,sitting,with her hands tightly clasped around her knees, her eyes distant, weighing down by sad thoughts--

--this time,in the solitude of the kitchen
--another time,in the verandah silhouetted against the iron railings.
Beautiful camera works.

This time, the scene is inside Kamala's room. The camera captures her, from mid close, grappling with an apparently quick change to her 'mayek naiba'. Fidgety, she quickly rounded off with a 'inniphi' around her and silently walks out of the house.

Now,we are left with the house bereft of the brand new 'mou'.The emptiness is palpable.

This emptiness is not only palpble but also tormenting. Roma is on the verge of tears,lashed by waves after waves of tormenting emotions--trying to grapple with the emptiness,sitting on her bed.

Her equally distraught husband,walking inside the room awkwardly,tries to connect with her wife--'Did we act a little too hastily...'

These words prove to tbe pinpricks to the ballooning emotions of Roma and she bolts out of the room.

Then, from a distance, the camera captures Roma, through the iron railings, running through several portions of the segmented (with tall iron railings) terrace and drops down to a heap ,exactly where Kamala was last seen brooding. Roma is also sitting,with hers hands tightly clasped around her knees. She bents down her face and rests it on her knees as well. Then, she starts to weep.

These imageries serve as a powerful juxtaposition of the 'Manem' against the 'Mou'--
--on a subtle level, the powerful juxtaposition of the 'older generation' against the 'younger generation
--on an even more subtle level, the powerful juxtapostion of the 'good old days(with a tinge of nostalgia)' against the 'brave new world(with the can-do vibes)'.

Wittingly or otherwise, the director of the film manages to capture,by means of the said imageries,the fleeting panorama of Manipur's Cinema tradtion--from the early and tentative days to the go-getting and heady days of the present--from Yengkhom Roma to Kamala Saikhom.

Even if the whole movie is an wreck(which it is not),any cinegoer worth its salt should open his wallet, leave beind his busy schedule and rush to the nearest theatre just to have a glimpse of these imageries. These imageries totally demand the wide opening up your wallet and damning of your meticulously crafted schedules!

On the segmented level of the film,'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is clearly Sadananda's show. Sadananda has just produced a memorable role (in the personae of Krishnakanta) in his acting career. Krishnakanta is little impulsive, prone to going against the trend,a bit of a contrarian--some kind of an anti-hero. In my mind, future generations of cine-goers of Manipuri Cinema will continue to fondly remember Krishnakanta.

It will be a snap for anybody to count the actual number of words that left the mouth of Olen, who plays the son of Roma. He is such an embodiment of understatement! Yet,if somebody cares to conduct a quick exit poll as the people start to leave the theatre, most of them would raise their fists and proclaim--'I'm for Olen'!

As I'm coming to Kamala, did I already hear somebody murmuring the word 'glamour'?! But,at some point of the film, Kamala is the dew fresh 'Mou' who oozes out sheer innocence. At another point, we find the breathtakingly beautiful Kamala, who,this time, surely dazzles you. If you put both states of innocence and glamour into a single character, that too, in a single soryline, what do you get? Definitely, somethng indefinable, something you cannot put your fingers on. As the film progresses, the audience try to establish the much-needed rapport with their leading lady but Kamala continues to flip in and out of the state of innocence and the state of glamour. That surely left everybody in the theatre bewildered,that too, until the fag end of the movie. Soley measured by the performance put in by Kamala,'Khongthangi-gi Makhol' is the type of movie which will become harder to come by as the days and years roll on.

It is my hunch that the director , O.Gautam has already met (in the making of this film) with the turning point in his illustrious career. Even if it's my wishful thinking, I certainly believe that he has already broken away from the orbit of his contemporary director and already establishes himself on a higher orbit.

On a larger context, does 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' also serve as the turning point in the journey of Manipuri cinema?

From a purely non-artsy and mundane perspective, it's to be noted that the director and the people behind the film completely dispensed away with the songs and dances, thus decisively breaking away from the tradition of Bombay Cinema, which is firmly believed to be the still necessary ingredient to pull in the audience. But 'Khongthang-gi Makhol', which has just taken off the screen at Friends' Talkies after running for full four weeks, is not a disaster in the box offices. In fact, it can be safely inferred that the box office collection is on the acceptable side.

So, even if, 'Khongthang-gi Makhol' is not yet the much-debated and also much-anticipated turning point, is it, at the least, the guide post to the future of Manipuri Cinema?

I wish it was.

* echaandam reviewed this film.
You can contact the reviewer blog here or echaandam(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted on April 15 2010.


Who is the Best Actress?

  • * Abenao
  • * Binata
  • * Devita
  • * Kamala
  • * Manda
  • * Sonia
  • * Sunila


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