Sonchidi/The Golden Bird (2011)

by Devarsi Ghosh

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Sonchidi/The Golden Bird
Year: 2011
Director/Writer: Amit Dutta
Cast: Nitin Goel, Gagan Singh Sethi

So last night, I was discussing with my good friend from college who is now in Jamia doing his masters in mass communication about hinterland cinema. The discussion quite naturally turned to Anurag Kashyap and his work, then to Kamal Swaroop’s Om-Dar-Ba-Dar and his influence on Kashyap and finally to Indian experimental film. Now this bloke is in a very advantageous situation as compared to me because he gets to see a lot of Indian independent films (real independent films, not Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bhardwaj) thanks to his departmental library. So I asked him to suggest a few names from the Indian indie world whose works I should check out. The first name he gave me was Amit Dutta.

Fifteen hours later, my head is reeling with excitement, thinking about the treasure trove I have discovered thanks to my friend and hamara sabka dost, the Internet! Amit Dutta, Vipin Vijay, Ashish Avikunthak, Amitabh Chakroborty, Kabir Mohanty, Kumar Sahani, Pramod Pati (I had seen some of his shorts on Youtube before) – so many people and their films to discover! It’s like an entire subculture swept under the rug of whatever is passed on as modern Indian cinema. The lack of publicity that these films suffer from infuriates me. Nevertheless, this is not going to be an angry post. This is about my thoughts on Sonchidi/The Golden Bird, the first Amit Dutta film (or the first film of my latest tryst with Indian independent cinema) that I saw. It’s been a couple of hours since I saw the movie and I needed some time to have lunch and quietly gather my thoughts. So here goes…

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If you read the plot of Sonchidi on IMDb, it sounds like science fiction. This science fiction part is just a vessel to carry broader ideas, some of which I admit I didn’t get. In fact, I began watching the film without any intention to make sense of the film. That worked. I just soaked in the experience, and boy let me tell you, it’s one haunting, hypnotic ride. The film is about two travellers who have come to a remote part of the Himalayas in search of a flying saucer. This saucer was apparently made by a mad scientist in a bid to transcend the human form i.e to escape the cycle of rebirth and attain divine status. One of the travellers was familiar with this scientist when he was young and he recalls his memories about the guy, while the other documents their entire travelling experience on his tape recorder.

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There’s a point in the film where one of them sings a song, as if he is having a conversation with God, describing himself to be a wandering soul at God’s door in search of wisdom. He asks the Guru/God to listen to his plea and help him see the light. I am not sure what the film means and honestly, I do not give a shit because the film had me hooked from start to finish. I owe it to its beautiful, minimalist cinematography that captured the silence and the loneliness of the locations perfectly. The huge mountains, the absence of population, and the sight of the two travellers walking up the slopes like two ants – it was really ‘iconic’. The second powerful aspect of the film was its trance-inducing sound design, mildly resembling that of Stalker’s. The film is soaked in spiritualism and one will need some reading to completely understand what is said and showed at every point.

It is a must watch. I am very excited about this guy. I can safely say that I loved Sonchidi, because more often than not I find a lot of films that passes off as avant-garde, utter crap and heinously boring. Next up in my watch-list is his 2009 film Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniya/The Man’s Woman and Other Stories. There are times when your internal cinematic imagination and your love for cinema tends to stagnate from watching the same boring kind of films over and over again. Sonchidi was like a breath of fresh air! There is a new kind of voice in the fringes of Indian cinema and I am just too bloody excited that it exists!

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