Intertwining the visual and cultural importance of the Ganges River, with the concept of female divinity, “Jahnabi” tells a rich visual story of love and loss. The titular Jahnabi, finds herself in constant reflection of the past and her absent lover, as she wanders the scenic landscape while singing songs of her sorrow.
Anriba Dutta’s first feature length effort puts a large emphasis on visual presentation, from wide angle shots of the landscape, to a slow methodical approach to capture the essence of the scenery. This approach adds great flair to the production and marks the film’s most endearing attribute. Notably, the Ganges river is treated with such a degree of respect and romanticism that conveys the symbolic importance within the culture. Overall, the production exists as a visual love letter to the river, land and people, making for an engaging portrait of a world that will be unfamiliar to most.
Complimentary to the visuals, the sound design takes a similar approach in establishing atmosphere. Traditional music, and a few harmonious music numbers hover over the landscape shots, adding to the sense of wonderment. Furthermore, the songs serve to help deepen the narrative, embodying the emotional desires of its subjects. These songs act to best serve the narrative, and it is in these moments that audiences will feel most connected to Jahnabi’s plight.
With the music numbers being the greatest driving force in pushing the narrative, perhaps the one downfall of the project is in its ability to keep a consistent engaging narrative, which can be largely attributed to two factors. Firstly, the very nature of the film is one which feels innately personal to a degree which can feel somewhat isolating. Secondly, the focus on visuals creates long segments with little to no dialogue, making the pacing (at times) tedious. However, it can be said that the film compensates for the lack of strong narrative through dialogue in utilizing visual storytelling to fill the gaps.
The success of “Jahnabi” rests on the audience’s willingness to embrace visual storytelling, since it is difficult to say that dialogue adds much to the experience. For many, the production will become a slog to get through with the lack of a consistent and discernible narrative. However, to those who put emphasis on visual storytelling, the film really does capture a certain poetic beauty of the landscape and female divinity.