The problem with many a debut filmmaker is that he/she wishes to fill the first film with what he/she feels is an original content and marry it to as many forms as he has learnt during his filmmaking into his first film. Jhumura is an example.
Sahana (Sohini) is an investigative journalist who comes to Jhumura, a village to research on an article she is doing on the jhumur folk song and dance. She is accompanied by Rwik (Samadarshi), her photographer and they are constantly squabbling that gets irritating and repetitive after a point. As she explores a neighboring village, she finds that no one has even heard of jhumur. They chance upon a pair of middle-aged jhumur performers who tells them, through beautiful songs composed and written by them the love story of a legendary pair, Kusum and Kanchan (Sohini and Samadarshi again), who became famous as jhumur performers, fell in love but were forced by circumstances to get separated only to meet in the end. .
Anindya Chatterjee has tried to express on celluloid his passion for folk music forms that he has been engaged in researching for several years. Add to this, his experience of having assisted filmmaker Buddhadev Dasgupta. The influence is clear through the visuals of the vast and arid landscape of Purulia where the film has been shot including composition of frames, generous use of the jhumura form as it has evolved from ancient times till today. Kusum, the daughter of a low-caste man who reads the scriptures, and Kanchan (Samadarshi), the son of the village schoolmaster, a Brahmin, are not born into the profession but get trained and slowly become the youngest performers of jhumur in the village and nearby villages within Purulia.
The director straddles two time-space zones using the same urban characters Sahana and Rwik, their respective romantic partners and every other character who appears in both the legendary tale as well as in the urban quest for re-discovering the performing art called jhumur. This not only is very confusing but also takes away from the film’s basic statement – resurrecting jhumur and jhumur performers to celebrate their contribution to Bengal’s cultural landscape for the urban Bengali. The introduction of a veteran jhumur performer who later joined the jatra but has now fallen on bad days portrayed by Sabitri Chatterjee appears like an afterthought that drags the film needlessly as her story adds an unnecessary sub-plot. Besides, the parallels between the two love stories of Kusum-Kanchan and Sahana-Rwik are as forced as is the love that evolves between Rwik and Sahana, which is unconvincing.
The villain Palan (Partho Sarathi), who appears in the contemporary segment in a bit role, reappears in the earlier time segment as the villain, almost forcing Kusum to join the jatra for good money. He has the same two-wheeler in both time zones while Kusum’s kid goat remains a kid goat and refuses to grow up. No one bothers to find out the fate of Bokul – the lovely girl Rwik was forced to marry – after she was forced to leave Kanchan’s home humiliated and insulted by her husband after he brings Kusum home. Rwik who finds himself falling in love with Sahana in the present, cuts off ties with his girlfriend Ria just like that! Nona, who loves Kusum, is the only humane character in the love story. In all this confusion, the jhumur tribute is forgotten!
The script drags endlessly with shots and frames repeated ad infinitum. Sometimes, one gets the feeling that either the shots were not arranged properly or the editing was handled unprofessionally during post-production. The editing is extremely patchy while the cinematography is unfocussed in the long shots, missing out on the picturesque quality of the beautiful landscape. The two qualities that help lift Jhumura, the film from reducing itself to a pretentious exercise to capture the international festival market are – the music and the songs and the situational placings of the songs for one and the acting by almost the entire case for another, with special commendations for Kuchil Mukherjee and the actress who plays his partner, and Sabitri Chatterjee in a well-etched role in an extremely weak script. Sohini and Samadarshi had a hard task to follow presenting two different facets of different characters but they have lived up to the challenge. The locations within the village market are captured well but the item number Sahana performs towards the climax sticks out like a sore thumb and also suggests she is happy doing what she is. Why?
Instead of trying to turn his first film into a showcase for his aesthetic and creative skills as filmmaker, it would perhaps be better if a first-time director focusses his attention on entertaining his target audience, remain focussed on his subject and make a film that will reach his target audience – the Bengalis everywhere.
Bengali, Drama, Color