(Tora's Husband was screened at the Dharamshala International Film Festival this year)
Back in 2020, when I had moved back home due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I had a political spat with a close friend. It wasn’t as much of a falling out as the realisation that maybe you can love someone (because that’s what you’ve known all your life) and still not like them sometimes.
This realisation returned to me as I sat in a school auditorium filled with cinephiles as we all watched Rima Das’ 2022 feature narrative Tora’s Husband at the 12th edition of the Dharamshala International Film Festival.
With a momentous run at multiple festivals (the film premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival) and a brief stint in the theatres, Das’ Assamese feature starring Tarali Kalita Das as Tora and Abhijit Das as Jaan touches your heart in endearing ways that you wouldn’t have expected.
Jaan Kya Jaan Aadmi Hai Yaar…
The film, as the title very literally suggests, is about Tora’s husband. Set in Assam, the film follows Jaan’s life as he navigates getting his restaurant business back on its foot after the COVID-19 lockdown starts easing.
Jaan seems like a very easy man to love. He calms his son down when he’s appearing for an online exam. He takes care of his staff at the expense of literally throwing away customers.
He’s involved with the community and teaches young children football. An old drunkard asks him for money everyday and he very graciously gives it, with just a little laugh.
But, as Tora puts it, “He is a good man but a bad husband.” He drinks away his nights with friends while Tora leaves the kids with the neighbours and goes to search for him on a scooty.
In a room with both of them and their kids, the responsibility to clear up the kids’ messes falls only on Tora.
Many Societal Truths Shown With a Mirror, Not a Lecture
With a beautiful soundscape, a setting that’s very local yet universal, and marvellous cinematography, there’s a lot that just makes you love the film.
But for me, what stood out the most was how well the slow pace of Tora’s Husband complemented the fast cuts of the storytelling process.
This especially comes out in the scene where the domestic help just screams outside the family’s house after they refuse to let her back in following her being taken to a camp when she tested positive for coronavirus.
The politics of the film is very subtle, but sharp if you can see through it too. But through it all, what’s really beautiful is that Das doesn’t judge… neither her own characters nor the audience. The gaze with which the film is shot is nothing but kind.
A Timeless Piece of Cinema
Abhijit Das, as the titular character, does a fabulous job. His performance is such that even when you agree with Tora’s genuine criticism for him, you want to give Jaan the benefit of doubt with everything he’s going through too.
With Tora’s Husband, the writer-director-producer (what can’t Rima Das do?) gives a timeless piece of cinema, that’s just here to stay - in our hearts and our minds.