‘Kothanodi’, perhaps the most hotly anticipated Assamese film in years, is finally releasing all over on September 16. This critically acclaimed, distinctively Assamese movie has already tasted a lot of success in the festival circuit worldwide, where it was singled out for its uniquely inspiring subject.
Directed by Bhaskar Hazarika, ‘Kothanodi‘ interweaves four iconic fables from Lakshminath Bezbaruah’s ‘Burhi Aair Sadhu’ into one adaptation and injects magic realism in its narrative. The film was described as one of the “best horror film made independently in India”, “dark, mysterious and hair-raisingly brilliant”, and as “better than most of the Bollywood horror fares”. Hazarika had averred that he didn’t made it with the intention of promoting superstitions. Nevertheless, the film plunges into the psychological depths of its timeless characters, most of whom are female.
The best-known tale is about the innocent young girl Tejimola, whose adoring father (Adil Hussain) goes on a business trip to a distant village. He leaves her in the care of his second wife (Zerifa Wahid), whose hatred of her stepdaughter is unbounded. Her demon lover tells her how to get rid of the girl once and for all. One can plug in a modern interpretation of schizophrenia to explain the stepmother’s warped psyche, but psychology does nothing to soften the torture scenes that follow.
Before things reach this point, however, Tejimola gets an invitation to her best friend Bon’s wedding. She is being married to a large python that her eccentric mother (played by Seema Biswas) has procured, in the hope it is really a prince in disguise ready to shower the family with riches.
Meanwhile, the merchant-father continues on his travels and meets a sullen young woman (Urmila Mahanta) who has lived as a pariah ever since she gave birth to a vegetable the size of a cantaloupe. Now it rolls around after her wherever she goes. Is there a baby inside, the merchant wonders?
Making his debut as a film director, Bhaskar Hazarika has weaved the stories together into one cohesive canon, that offers suspenseful, mysterious storytelling into the realm of magic. The film’s narrative commands attention with its radically disturbing questions about motherhood.
First features often tackle social realist themes, but Hazarika took the magical realist route since he wanted to “do something unique”. The young filmmaker has taken liberties with the tales which he developed an instant liking to due to its dark, brutally raw and macabre tone, with the occasional doses of humour. One can sense the weight of prejudice in the Assamese folk tradition against women, portrayed as cruel, dysfunctional mothers and necromancers.
Based on arguably the most popular piece of Assamese literature ever, penned by renowned litterateur Lakshminath Bezbaroa – four tales that are over a hundred years old yet still forge relevant connections with modern day maternal instincts, this film with a duration of 115 minutes, injects various human acts of ghastliness, irrationality and magic realism. What strengthens the film is how alongside the supernatural elements of the stories, Hazarika offers a realistic treatment of the characters, making these unearthly tales seem almost plausible.
The film produced by Anurupa Hazarika and Utpala Mukherjee under the banner of Metanormal Motion Pictures Pvt Ltd, features a stellar casts of artistes including Seema Biswas, Adil Hussain, Zerifa Wahid, Urmila Mahanta, Kopil Bora, Asha Bordoloi, debutants Kasvi Sharma and Monisha Bhuyan among others. The script is penned by the director Bhaskar Hazarika himself. Its executive producers are KN Hazarika and Indira Rajkhewa. The film is cinematographed by Vijay Kutty, edited by Suresh Pai, while the music is scored by Amaranth Hazarika. The film’s production designer is Gulok Saha and costumes are taken care of by Rani Dutta-Baruah.