A ‘Third Way’ in the Hills: Bela Negi’s Film Daayen Ya Baayen(2010)
By Dhiraj kr. Nite
It has been a refreshing feel of watching a movie Daayen Ya Baayen, directed by Bela Negi. I share my opinion over this two-year old movie at a time when the cinematic technique, storytelling, and plot of Gangs of Wasseypur (directed by Anurag Kashyap) have successfully drawn rave reviews from the viewer. This discursive backdrop of Gangs of Wasseypur urges me to present my commentary on Daayen Ya Baayen (hereafter DYB), which appears in a certain way an antidote to the former movie. Take an example. The plot of DYB could have perfectly combined a few fight scenes. Instead, Bela Negi gracefully concentrated on two different orders of violence and fight. One relates to the ecological violence committed by new mining activity on the Himalayan hills. Second concerns itself with the emergence of fighting awareness regarding the on-going calamitous path of opulence; and the resolution adopted to move away from such an anomaly.
The story prima facie narrates the desire, dream, and initiatives of a city-returned man – a schoolteacher (Ramesh Majila) – who is disillusioned with the life in Bombay and returns to the Uttrakhand hills. He intends to do something in the village itself for a descent, free life. By sheer coincidence he receives a red car to become locally popular. The red car also invites jealousy of others to its owner. He is interested in getting opened a Kala – Kendra in the hill village with a view to have opportunities for local artists to nurture and express their talent. They would not migrate to and face a rough tide in the un-embracing cities.
The subscripts of DYB illuminate more shades of collective hill life than its main plot. As a whole its delivery of plot and cinematic presentation are finesse and enjoyable. Like the movie ‘Om Dar Badar’ directed by Kamal Swaroop, DYP is a cinematic representation of a space. Or, to put it in other words a space (Uttrakhand hills) is the character itself than a passive backdrop in the movie. The movie captures varieties of physical and human activities, voices, emotions, and exchanges taking place in that space. It engages with their manners of manifestation. The fleeting appearance of forest fires and captivating presence of the TV serials between the women serve that intent. Likewise is the transient appearance of a sedate, beguiling woman clad in the red sari on a bus. The characters are rooted in the intersection of time and space; hence are there a number of sub-scripts harmoniously interwoven. The hill, the forest fires, and the buffalo – calf are as much symbolic representatives of the space as the rest of social being.
The plot embodies the narrative realism. The non-linear progress of life course characterises both the large trope and other sub-tropes. There are incidental happenings, like the lottery of a red car won through submission of a jingle. At times, the protagonist regresses in his life course. Liquor embraces him like other hill youth. Such a moment is as ordinary incidence as the effort of the protagonist to bounce back on the path of a hope in a new rise of the red son in the hills. There is no extraordinariness either with the moment of regression or the recovery from it.
The movie interweaves the director’s critical message about the development path seen in the hills. It argues in favour of the ecological sustainable path of betterment. The message impressively comes through, for the storytelling does not become preachy. The message remains interwoven with the life course of the protagonist and the hills. Not ironically, whenever the protagonist’s attempt to preach his new vision and judgment invariably draws flak from other characters. Two significant messages come along in an understated way. The Ramesh Majila submits to the charm of a beguiling woman clad in a red sari who is always on move. She refuses to accommodate the kid of Ramesh on her bus-seat. The facial reaction of Ramesh conveys his dismal with the reality: the beguiling physical appearance does not necessarily incubate a humane, pleasant inner-self. The latter should receive more attention and regard than the former one which could be misleading. At one point, Ramesh agrees to campaign for the incumbent chief minister of the state. In return, he hopes to materialise his dream of a Kala – Kendra in his village. He explains this bargain to his inquisitive son: he is making a small sacrifice in favour of an important, big thing to come. There is not much time spent on making his statement exemplary. The director undertakes a rapid movement of scenes towards the protection of a buffalo – calf at the expense of a popular car. This is tantamount to a virtual protection of the hill life and its environ.
The deployment of symbolism and frames of the camera immensely enriches the plot and comes out smoothly to convey the message of the director. Two examples are worth to note. The sedate, pretty woman on the bus was effectively beguiling. But, she embodied the misleading superficial goodness. Her nasty treatment of the child (Baju Majila) exposes her ugly inner spiritual being, and thus, functions as repellent to Ramesh. The latter saves his buffalo-calf by putting at stake his life and car. He installs the gate of a new Kala – Kendra next to the place where his jettisoned car has been irrevocably hanging. The car initially appeared as a means to attain community respect. The calf was presumed as a burden. Towards the end, this equation undergoes a turn upside down.
The title of the movie Daayen Ya Baayen refers to the right and left paths of development or social change. Bela Negi does not intend to resolve the conflict between the two models of development by showing her any simplistic prejudice for one against the other. The third way suggested in the movie bursts forth as a case by case choice. The people in Uttrakhand hills need a Kala – Kendra, but the mining appears destructive and undesirable. DYB is possibly only one movie in the recent time where the Ramesh returns to the village with intent of discovering an opportunity of descent, free life. Only the malefic spirit moves away from the village to a town. Urbanisation and industrialisation are no longer universal signs of social progress as per Bela Negi’s third way. Accolade!
Dhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg, Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi.