Keteki is Assamese for hawk-cuckoo, a bird that usually cries out at night. Though its plantain calls fill the air, the bird remains hidden in darkness. “In a sense its anguished wails echo human suffering. Often we are surrounded by tortured souls, but we are unable to see them. There is an Assamese poem about that and I took my title from there,” says Santwana Bardoloi, director and sciptwriter of Assamese film ‘Maj Nishar Keteki’ (Midnight Keteki), that made it to the International Competition section of IFFK.
The film follows Priyendu Hazarika, an acclaimed writer who returns to the town where he started his literary career. “After winning an award he is invited to the place to partake in a literary festival. There he meets several people who are parts of his past. It opens the floodgates of his memory and now he has to confront a very painful truth. The film is basically about the author, a book he is writing and what he sees all around,” she says.
Santwana Bardoloi, a practising pediatrician, made her directorial debut with ‘Adajya’, a film that zooms into the world of three widows. She says she was branded a feminist after the film which bagged a National Award in 1996. “I picked the story because it was interesting, later people put a tag on it as a feminist film,” she said.
‘Maj Nishar Keteki’ marks her return to films after a long hiatus of two decades. But she is clearly not someone lacking in self-belief. “During this time I couldn’t find a subject that appealed to me. It was after years that I came across something inspiring and that’s how my new film happened.” She happily adds that she will soon become a full-time filmmaker. “Now that I am almost retired from my medical career, I am looking forward to make more movies. I have a few projects lined up and I plan to work on them shortly,” she says.
Santwana Bardoloi belongs to an industry that was considered dead for a long time. “There were no mentionable movies when I started off. But in the last couple of years people are making good films in Assamese and some of them have won awards as well. I am happy to observe that now they are exploring fresh creative terrains,” she says.
Produced by the director herself, ‘Maj Nishar Keteki’ is cinematographed by Gnana Shekar V. S, while its edited by Ushma Bardoloi. The music is scored by Anurag Saikia, while sound designing and mixing is done Debajit Changmai. The film features artistes like Adil Hussain, Shakil Imtiaz, Mahendra Rabha, Sulakshana Baruah among others.