Updated: Jul 24, 2020
This review is a collaborative work by Zaoliya & Fengkha. Please feel free to agree or disagree with their opinion.
The feature films in the Bodo language that have received critical acclaim in the past/near past is limited and some of these rare titles include Alayaron, Hagramayao Zinahari and Jwlwi. Nevertheless, I am increasingly positive that this count would greatly improve in the days to come.
As if my wishes were being granted, the title of the film “Lwgwri” created immense interest in me. In simple words, lwgwri means “companionship”. The title was unique, although subtitled—a story based on three friends of love and sacrifice—a trope much familiar.
In the film, a young Rubung and Rubu are childhood friends who are unsure of their relationship as lovers. However, their parents are not opposed with the idea that they must be lovers. In order to fix their indecision, the parents devise a plan where Rubu's marriage is fixed with Ronsai, who also happens to be their friend. The motive of the plan is to make Rubung and Rubu realise that their relationship is nothing more than the love between a boy and a girl and this motive is to be fulfilled by bringing distance between them. This plan is executed after Ronsai is taken on-board by the parents of the lovers.
My instant connection with the subject matter as indicated through the title of the film, was the question of having a friend in this one lifetime and whether marriage is the only way that this fulfillment could be met. This question is repeatedly dealt with through the character of Rubung. However, it only becomes a thematic issue of importance when one of the three friends (Ronsai) announces his wedding as part of the scheme. He accepts during their conversation that the decision is not his own, all the while taking care not to reveal about the plan, where it is he who would marry Rubu. Learning this, the other friends are surprised and also tend to question his decision to marry so early in his life and his lack of agency in his decision for marriage. The scene where Rubung and Rubu discuss in solitude about Ronsai’s decision is particularly captivating. This scene reiterates their interrogative stance on the lack of individuality of Ronsai’s character. That they disapproved of his decision is pretty clear. Nevertheless, they also contend that probably it was a decision his parents had enforced on him while being completely oblivious to their own parents' plans for them. Rubung’s fear that he would lose Rubu, his childhood sweetheart because of the pre-requisites of cultural practices where they live in, re-surfaces in this scene. A caution though, these two characters hesitate to completely agree that they were couples right from the very beginning. They were still exploring the kind of relationship they were in and hesitant to name it.
In doing so, the film has touched upon a subject rarely dealt upon. Good cinema which deals with the self and the struggles associated with this muzzled-self and individuality, rarely ever get represented in Bodo cinema. I might be incorrect in saying so, because films that show defiance by lovebirds who break fetters, have clearly been represented. If so, how can this film be different? I ask this to myself. The same subject was dealt with in this film, in a manner of assertion of the individual’s entitlement to a freedom to choose one’s own partner, is what I believe this film did differently. However, the film only hints and neither explores nor endorses exhaustively at the idea that there could be different forms of love, friendship or companionship or broadly, any relationship.
Rubu openly discourages Ronsai to not marry at his age, when he could lead a completely normal, non-conformist lifestyle. Lwgwri attempted to take this seldom taken path. On the other hand, when both Rubung and Rubu realizes that the marriage which Ronsai had been talking about is between him and Rubu, tragedy befalls them. However, the discourse that Lwgwri touched upon faltered with the two subjects’ obsession with familial ties and societal mores and their quiet acceptance of their parents' wishes. Such a reaction is in complete contrast with their earlier stand on Ronsai's decision to marry. The subjects’ hesitance to take the plunge against the fetters of tradition is a big drawback of the characters in Lwgwri. The feminist in Rubu who asked: “Must every woman ultimately marry?” was also nipped in the bud. What started as a gender neutral question of friendship and a companionship for life, meandered into a hetero-normative imagination of the meaning of companionship. The film could not redeem itself, because the protagonists were ultimately programmed through a sly trick devised by their own parents, into believing that they were after all made for each other and that the climax for such conclusions must and necessarily always end in—MARRIAGE.
My friend with whom I have been having prolonged discussions on the film has this to say. He writes that the cinema would have been better had it not followed the tried and tested method of every relationship between a boy and a girl ending in marriage. The concept was in-your-face from the very beginning with Rubu emphasizing on friends and nothing else; with Rubung finding himself lost amidst the comic relief which was in fact a pain to watch, and the main cause for the film to lose the tension it builds up so nicely between the two leads and also the reason for the very concept to make a back and forth appearance, just like the camera movements. But one could almost forgive the inconsistency of the film as you could easily lose yourself in the cinematic visuals provided by the director for the musical numbers. But coming back to the scenes, had the comic scenes not been there, the transition would have been seamless and the result would be much more promising.
The film carries a very heavy burden on its shoulder by taking the path not taken, but it gives in to the burden as it veers its way back to the path taken. All in all, it becomes a movie of ‘a hit and a miss’ syndrome. But for an occasional passing of time, one can always reach out to it and watch.
We would definitely watch the next film by the director.
P.S. We watched the film the very day it was released on Youtube.
Please click on this Youtube link to the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJz2eI2Uq6o