Currently India is the 103rd country in the list of 119 countries of the world in respect to the hunger index. ‘Raahgir’ is an angry manifesto by a veteran film maker who has shown the symbiotic relationship between poverty and rural life to us for a long time. Goutam Ghose’s ‘Raahgir’ gravitates around Nathuni’s (Tilottoma Shome) life and her struggle to satisfy hunger. This film is based on a short story—‘A day in the rain’ by Prafulla Roy.
The film opens with a scene where we see that Nathuni is almost getting raped. She fights against the situation and gets herself out. She carries the inflicted violence on her in the next sequence. The village where Nathuni and her family reside has no option to provide them with food. Nathuni’s husband (Omkar Das Manikpuri) is paralyzed due to police brutality and therefore cannot earn. She has to go the town to earn her bread. In her way, she comes across Lakhua (a dynamic Adil Hussain) who carries the same purpose. Goutam Ghose shows how in this rapidly dividing world, hunger is the single most reason to unite people.
The story of ‘Raahgir’ is very simple, but the subject it deals with, is of utmost importance –‘Hunger’. It is interesting to note that Ghose’s script constantly hammers on the idea of hunger and not only the idea, it takes us closer to the palpable reality.
On their way to town, Nathuni and Lakhua come across Chopatlal (Neeraj Kabi) whose van has been stuck in the mud while ferrying two old patients to the town. Chopatlal does not get any help from the people who are passing by. Restless, helpless Chopatlal urges Nathuni and Lakhua to help. At this moment, this deceptively simple film turns into an extremely dense and complex situation concerning human ethics. Lakhua and Nathuni have their hunger to fill on one side and on the other hand they have now this moral burden of saving the old couple from death by helping Chopatlal with his van. ‘Raahgir’ is about the poorest of poor people who are rich in the inside. Sometimes, this film may seem obviously blunt and black and white in championing their cause; still it never gets distracted from that track into mere sympathizing.
‘Raahgir’ puts a lot of effort on unearthing the past. Ghose and his script writer Jagannath Guha know for a fact that past defines our present and affects our imminent future. Thus, there characters are layered and multidimensional. Just like two stout branches from a strong tree, ‘Raahgir’s’ script presents us both Nathuni and Lakhua’s mindscapes. But with sheer editing, it never allows us to get lost into that, we quickly come back in the story. This eye to eye treatment with the poorest, yet never falling prey to the sympathizing factor marks the presence of a master film maker. And in this case, it is Goutam Ghose.
Goutam Ghose and his script do not shy away from political affiliations. Nathuni’s husband answers his kids that the real ‘Hero’ is ‘Birsa Munda’ (The legendary Adivasi leader) and not Salman Khan. His idea of the ‘Hero’ corresponds with the one who fights with the people against all the enemy, not someone who fights alone.
Ishan Ghose’s camera presents us the landscapes which are autonomous here. The use of drone to establish the inferiority of the man against these harsh terrains is understood and appreciated. But too much use of this technique spoils the engagement.
The background score film broadens the non-diegetic space and boundaries. Anirban Sengupta’s calculated sound design endows the film with the rural soundscape that it needed.
‘Raahgir’ is also an eighty-four minutes long masterclass in acting. Neeraj Kabi plays Chopatlal with veracity. He vanishes under the skin of the character. Tilottoma Shome carries hunger and fatigue in her character. Her whole body, jaw line even eyelids correspond to that emotion. Her dialogue delivery is slow and frail which mirrors her physiological condition. Adil Hussain has played Lakhua with utmost sincerity. His acting blends performing arts with cinematic acting seamlessly. The sequence which deals with Lakhua’s dream of his association with performing arts and the mining machine where he is working, is nothing but a cinematic brilliance. It is the example of utilizing the cinematic medium to the fullest.
‘Raahgir’ ends with an optimism for tomorrow, that we so very much need in these harsh times.