Updated: Feb 26, 2022
I have already rated Jwlwi—the seed before in one of my blogs to be among the rare films in the Bodo language. Here, I would like to point out that it has succeeded in towering above these films because of the unprecedented publicity campaigns through which the Jwlwi team managed to generate hype and discussion around the film thanks to modern media. The number of screenings that Jwlwi has had in the nook and corners of the Bodo heartland, otherwise marred by lack of screening infrastructure, is a commendable feat. The many accolades that it has garnered, subsequently, is no doubt an accomplishment to be envious about. Jwlwi has a well etched out protagonist, a compelling script and the skill and the heart of a director, besides a wonderful team.
The film brought back nostalgia of childhood memories when the scenes played before my eyes. Many of the scenes were shot in Udalguri. For example, I quickly recognized the alley through which the militants escape, in the scene where Alari's husband was shot. That was the alley, my friends and I took most Sundays to treat ourselves at the Sunflower restaurant at Udalguri town for a chowmein or a fried rice. In order to make the most of the limited time allocated to us by the hostel authorities, we sneaked through this alley rather than the winding route through the main railway crossing. It is a surprise co-incidence that the same alley we used as shortcuts to perform the most prized activity in our lives then, happened to be used as a live-saving shortcut by the rebels too. I was also surprised that my parents could recognize many of the actors in the film, since most of them were from the area.
In this blog, I pick a few scenes (among many more) that shine, manifesting the hard work and dedication of the team.
Scene number 1: The concerned mother
This is a lovely scene where a concerned mother Alari tries to nudge her son Erak to focus on his studies or go to the city and enrol himself in one of the educational institutions there. This incident takes place after a widowed Alari realises that her efforts to keep Erak away from the situation of conflict begin to crumble. He has made friends with some elements in the society that his mother disapproves of and deservedly so.
Alari portrayed by Rajni, shows her range in direction and acting, taking care of the minute little detail in crafting this scene. At first, the mother coaxes her son to listen to her and focus on his studies, sweetly. As soon as she realises that it is a futile exercise, her tone changes to a more stern order of what she wishes her son to do. Such focus on detail wouldn’t have come to an amateur director where a methodical execution of the emotions are required to be portrayed through the actor, in this instance Rajni donned both the hats successfully, as an experienced director and actor would. She beautifully brought out the clash in the characters in this one scene which sets the tone for the rest of the film, on the delicate relationship between mother and son. Simang shows a promise as a good actor and I hope he has more work to showcase his talent.
Scene number 2: The cycling scenes
Two scenes match this description in the film. One is a young and angry Erak who cycles away towards home after the court verdict about the killing of his father in a crossfire between defence personnels and militants. The other is Pansy’s character who cycles along a military infested street.
The institutional complacency and the immunity with which the perpetrators of the crime are let off by the justice system for the killing of Erak’s father is dealt with subdued anger portrayed through young Erak's rejection of the offer of guardianship by the military establishment and his straight indifferent face while cycling away. Alari’s lack of faith in the judiciary and quiet acceptance of her fate also has to be taken into account in this context. Since, the characters don’t stand up to this verdict themselves, it is accurate to interpret that these characters belong to a community who have less say in the larger structure of the society and that this muzzled voice represent the subjection of the characters.
Another scene where an intimidating situation is set is when Pansy’s character is shown riding a cycle alone through a road taken over by the military, depicting the vulnerability of women in conflict zones. These two scenes are similar in representing their lives, one trying hard to steer it away from the institutional subjugation while the other finds herself engulfed in a fully militarized zone.
There is another important aspect of the cycle which this film does not portray—the confiscation of the cycle itself from the hands of the people. Such incidents were commonplace in these areas where the confiscated cycles were used by the military personnel for their patrols in complete disregard of the owners. They were returned only after much prayers sometimes never returned at all or returned with multiple malfunction. So common were these incidents that locals created jokes on them. One such joke was that when a military personnel confiscated a man’s cycle the poor man couldn’t understand him and replied:
“Aap toh kya bol rahe hai, moi tu eku naznu hai” (read in Assamese Hindi accent).
These encounters were often painful because the language barrier made the military instead consider the people as acting stubborn which led to violent/multiple slaps by the personnel or ordered to kneel down for hours. As children, we lived in constant fear, sometimes news of nearby villages being raided by the military would bring shivers, sometimes news of atrocious methods that were used against those arrested on mere suspicion. Sometimes, a low sound of a burst would be considered that a jackfruit seed chutney is being roasted in a household only to be confirmed the next morning that it was a gunshot. However, the decision to stick to a single narrative provides a neat plot for Alari’s story.
Scene number 3: Alari as a competent manager of the household
Alari, through her able management of the family, steers their life through sharecropping and maintaining her homestead plantation of cash crops. She even manages to complete building the house her husband had planned when he was alive. With her meagre income she educates her son and keeps no stone unturned to even send him far away in the city. The script is very progressive in this respect in the portrayal of Alari and women in general. The graceful interweaving of the supposedly mundane economic life of Alari with other significant scenes, completes her tumultuous personal history.
Scene number 4: The Tight Slap
The problems that come unawares specifically to widows is perfectly captured through the relationship between Alari and her neighbour who suspects of an affair between her own husband and Alari. The climax of this story comes after Alari plants a tight slap on the character played by Queen Hazarika. Alari decides to break all ties with her thereafter. Queen's character is told to be off and as a symbolic gesture to this decision she closes the bamboo gate to her house locking it up with the three bamboo locks.
This particular sub-plot endears Alari with the lot of women as I understand this through my mother's reactions, "Bidhoba jabla maise oinai saan jayw!" (People, think ill of you when you're a widow!). You know that a scene is done right when your mother suddenly jumps up in excitement vigorously clapping at the slap. Queen portrays the suspicious wife perfectly.
Scene number 5: Ripe paddy field
The reference to Jwlwi as a metaphor for a better future for the next generation is simple yet powerful. Here the film ends with a reassured Alari learning that her Jwlwi, her grandson, is safe and thriving in a different country. Amidst ripe paddy fields she is sure that a ripe harvest awaits them all. This is in contrast to the sharecropped nature of the paddy she used to receive back home. However, back home the new Jwlwi embracing creative endeavors rather than a destructive enterprise is a comforting end to the story of Alari.
Do you like the scenes in this list? Tell us which scenes you liked most at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on facebook @zaoliyagwsw.
Watch Jwlwi-the seed by clicking on the link below: