Directed by: #AnirbanDutta
Written by: Anirban Dutta
Bolstered by its mesmerising imagery and tranquil editing, Anirban Dutta’s Jahnabi takes mythic inspiration from the river Ganges as its visual narrative explores femininity, love, loss and faith. Not presented in a traditionally told narrative, the film flows much like a river itself blissfully with hidden power and grace. It is easy to lose yourself to the serenity of Jahnabi’s imagery as the cinematography from Soham Dey and Dutta himself display such reverence for the history and legend of the river and the land around it. To the uninitiated like myself, who have little knowledge of the Ganges significance, the affection made clear in these visuals really takes hold. Beautiful vistas of rivers, waterfalls, forests and fields capture the attention and imagination. Dutta and Day are sure to convey the scope of these places, as their wide shots show the actors to be minuscule in scale to this monumental nature.
Though that is the double-edged sword of Jahnabi’s direction, while Dutta delivers enthralling visuals (beautifully coupled with the musical score of Sushruta Goswami and Bhaswar Sen) it does leave the actual story floating adrift. Again to someone uninitiated like myself, while I can appreciate the visuals Dutta has put forth, fully grasping the significance of the narrative is a little more difficult. The gist of this is easy enough to follow; our titular main character Jahnabi reflects with sorrow and sentiment on her relationship with Lohit, her lover. Circumstance brings them together and keeps them apart, continuously shifting like the river itself as Jahnabi’s story is told through visuals and songs. The film takes on a dreamlike quality but when it's so easy to get lost in the music and scenery, that seemingly crucial plot lines fade away. The world Dutta portrays on screen is so large, epic and brimming with legend that the people within can become lost to it rather than be enhanced. Jahnabi and Lohit’s story does come across in pieces but Dutta struggles in finding a balance between his two storytelling methods, undercutting the more personal themes.
These difficulties in execution make Jahnabi difficult to embrace as its narrative payoffs don’t arrive with the grandeur the film spends so long building. The film remains a spectacle on both visual and auditory fronts but audiences may be divided in what they can gather from the story. The respect and passion for this culture from Dutta runs through the whole picture; the journey through these landscapes is worth the experience, inexplicable awe at nature’s might. However, it may take longer to grasp how our human characters find their place in it.