Abhaas: Simply cult cinema
Social customs exist from time immemorial and might have been of some relevance at a particular period, for a particular group or a sect of people. But some societies are too rigid and unimaginative and follow all the customs far beyond their relevance thereby, creating many tools of exploitation.
One has a choice to overlook all that happens around oneself or start asking questions and this is the point when soul-searching begins. The Hindi movie "Abhaas" (Prologue) is a journey towards awakening as well as sensitization. There are so many films, commercially successful but without any soul. People watch them for pure, superficial entertainment and then they disappear or are propagated with a planned hype but still stay soulless.
But there are films made with passion and social mission where the impact on discerning viewers is huge, stirring them out of lethargy of thoughts, challenging the social status quo. Though not directly credited, these films have been contributing in societal evolution and refinement for so many decades. Bijaya Jena has indeed put her soul in making a fine film, appropriately named Abhaas (Prologue) which is a very serious film yet at the same time, it is entertaining. It has a story from ordinary life with extraordinary impact on its characters as well as the audience.
One creates an aura of one's own, quote scriptures, look pious but the carnal desires remain. A minuscule opportunity and the exploiter springs out. One's indulgences know no fear but when trapped, one disposes off people without any remorse. One sacrifices innocents and hapless and then try to move ahead in life. But, you can't escape. Life is not a straight line, existence is circular, everything comes back - to haunt you. Someday, you have to pay for your deeds and the price is high, may be your very survival. Veteran actor Murali plays the central role of Zamindaar (landlord) with aplomb.
Director Bijaya Jena herself sparkles in a small role as Kokila, the widow. Despite being a director as well as script writer, she has kept the role of Kokila as it befits the script. But even in this small space, she has conveyed a lot to the audience. The dialogues are few but her eyes and facial expressions say everything.
And so is the character of Chandra, played by Akshay Anand, a brilliant performer with strong body language and tender expressions. He is poetic, sensitive, deeply understanding and forgiving. But all these supreme human qualities make one vulnerable or even a sacrificial goat. Scapegoat and vulnerable one may be but so is the courage to renounce all if need be!
Bijaya Jena is not a commercial cinema director, she won't do anything to titillate your imagination. She is a grounded person with strong convictions to social and human issues, no dramatics. She places real life, real people before you and then lets you announce the verdict. "Abhaas" deserves to be a cult film in its depiction of life and its complications in rural and semi-urban India.
The film cast includes Murali, Bijaya Jena, Akshay Anand, Ashima Singh and Uday Chandra. This masterpiece was based on a short story by Rabi Das and was released in year 1997 by Encore Productions.