It’s very rare in Indian cinema that the backdrop itself becomes the protagonist of a film. Something that happens in Achal Mishra’s fluid and assured debut feature Gamak Ghar. The silent but eloquent presence of a village home in Bihar tells the story of the changing dynamics of the extended family to which it belongs. And, on another plane, it also becomes the marker — without setting out to be one — of the social and economic transformation of the country at large. The biography of a house then doesn’t quite remain entirely its own.
Gamak Ghar is structured like a tripartite movement of a gentle musical piece that encompasses within it the cycle of life. The overture, set in 1998, quite fittingly, is to do with the birth of a child and accompanying festivities.
There is very little, almost no action in fact. Mishra’s meditative camera captures unhurriedly the myriad sights and sounds permeating the house — the tulsi plant, the handpump, the laughter of kids, men busy with their game of cards, children playing hide-and-seek and picking mangoes from the grove, women helping each other tie saris, kids watching films on a rented VCR. Avni Goyal’s production design gets the minutest of details — from the calendar on the blue wall to the suitcase atop the steel almirah to the mosquito coils and nets — making the house acquire a character and personality of its own.
It’s a segment that may now wallow in nostalgia but evokes it in the viewers. Nostalgia for what childhood was for some of us: of living apart in cities and gathering together under the roof of the ancestral home for festivities and holidays at least two to three times a year; the best days of our life.
Gamak Ghar (The Village Home, Maithili with English subtitles)
- Director: Achal Mishra
- Starring: Abhinav Jha, Mira Jha, Satyendra Jha, Soniya Jha
- Run time: 91 minutes
- Storyline: Chronicle of over two decades in the life of a village home in Bihar through that of the family to which it belongs
Mishra strings together little, fleeting moments, the banal interactions and conversations of the family members. It’s like he is laying bare the family photo album even as we see family members within the film clicking away pictures themselves and organising the mandatory family photo shoot. As if trying to organise memories to hold on to for posterity.
It’s in second section — set in 2010 — that we are made aware of the changes creeping in. The longing for roots have made people build huge houses in the village but nobody seems to have time to visit. One son has grown roots and bought a flat in Noida, his wife colours the hair now, the kids are all grown up and prefer eating Maggi to potato fritters and thekua. And there is a hint of a skirmish over one member who is yet to settle down in life and who wants to sell off a part of the land to invest in a pharmacy store of his own. But the festival of chhatt, the diaries and writings of the grandfather and the recollection of mutton feasts cooked by him still manage to bind them, however tenuously.
In the third and the last act, in 2019, we see the lonely home collapsing under neglect, with just an indifferent caretaker, and a few sparrows, giving it company. The tulsi plant in the courtyard has shrivelled too. There is also persistent talk of the floods having taken its toll on the structure. We see the home framed in misty winter, derelict in its ripe old age. But it’s not the end of the road, hopefully. There is also a simultaneous call for renewal and a sense of hope that the glory days may well be back. Gamak Ghar is all about asserting that the village home should stay.
Gamak Ghar starts streaming on Mubi India from May 10Source: %link%