“I don’t care for a society that separates us from our loved ones. Women are the epitome of self-abnegation and sacrifice. You men; your love is like a stream that’s only apparent when it rains. A woman’s love is like a river that keeps on flowing.”
By E.J. Wickes
Image (above) Rajiv Dinkar and Amar Jyoti from Jat Jatin
The Jat Jatin dance is a popular folk dance of North Bihar, namely in Mithila and Koshi regions, (India, Nepal). It portrays the epic love story of Jat and Jatin, a man and a woman who by chance manage to fall in love even though they are from two different villages separated by caste and custom. Written and produced by Anil Patang and directed by Raghuveer Singh this film follows the operatic tradition almost flawlessly.
The film becomes a story within a story, told through Rupa, played by Amar Jyoti, who does an outstanding job playing the precocious and kind girl from a modest and loving family. Rupa goes to the fields each day to cut grass and one day she is overcome by the hypnotic sounds of a flute not far away. Mesmerized, she loses focus and cuts her finger. Her friend proceeds to drag Rupa; bloody finger and all, right up to Jata the flutist, played by Rajiv Dinkar and proceeds to give him a sharp talking to. The chemistry between Rupa and Jata will foreshadow a relationship permeated with much condescension from both families and villagers. Not to mention each other.
In Jat Jatin the affectionate dynamic grows between Rupa and Jata, Jata paraphrases their love into the alter egos of Jat and Jatin and a little bit of Romeo and Juliet comes to the surface.
A statement for female autonomy is insisted upon: Refusing to be married off, Rupa pursues Jata, eventually into an intense confrontation between villagers and the persistent suitor, Chamru, played by Amiya Kashyap. Chamru comes from a rich family and hounds Rupa almost with a sense of entitlement, harassing her all through the film. The confrontation is appeased by village elders leading to an almost instantaneous wedding.
Sadly the magic soon comes to an end as Jatin can no longer ignore the chiding and gossip from the in-laws and villagers. Jata starts to show his own aggravation, almost acting like a child. As much as Jat tries to convince her to stay, the last straw finally breaks the camel’s back and Jatin leaves and comes back home to her own village and family. Woven throughout the piece are vast musical and dance numbers marking each turning point of the plot, making this adaptation two hours and twenty minutes long. But considering the complexity of the production it moves along rather expeditiously.
As an Art Department guy, one observation I couldn’t help make, was that some of the locations added up to a few days off for the scenic painter! The rich antiquity of the ages is seen in the naturally weathered colors and textures; characteristic to the cinematic effect with many indie films shot in India. Overall a few glitches with abrupt editing, and some audio could have been better synced; i.e. the flute player and the flute. Jata’s fingers should have been articulating the rhythm and arpeggios more accurately. As a former musician, this is a crucial faux pas with the direction.
The dramatic performances were strong from Amar Jyoti and Rajiv Dinkar. The effect of an Indian ‘male centered’ society is effectively brought to the surface when Dinkar takes Jat’s character through a spiraling transition. He redirects his moral support toward his own family and villagers as more contempt for Jatin emerges.
They separate until word gets to Jat that Jatin is carrying his child. The couple reunites and marital bliss returns, no matter how fleeting. Jat vows to become the good provider, but his plan threatens to bring Jatin loneliness and more unhappiness as he insists on leaving for the big city to make his mark. He reassures Jatin that he will be faithful and send money home for her and their son, but the vindictive Chamru has other plans.
After years of not hearing anything more from Jat, Jatin is thrust into an uncomfortable life taking care of the family and raising their son. Tragically the son is bitten by a snake and Jatin is barely able to save his life, no thanks to the unscrupulous village doctor.
Almost in the nick of time Jat appears out of nowhere, furious to find out that none of his letters or the money he was sending were ever delivered to Jatin. For the first time in the entire film, Jat finally takes a stand and brings it to Chamru and his boys. After taking a bit of a beating the villagers intervene and Jat’s back on his feet to deliver the final blow to Chamru. Arriving to the scene are Jatin and son and contrary to the operatic tradition, we pan up and away…leaving our reunited family to live on, happily ever after.
E. J. Wickes is a visual artist, the Creator, Designer and Publisher of The Metamodern Magazine and the Managing Editor of Cult Critic Magazine. His aesthetics lie somewhere in the vortex between painting and filmmaking. Eric has worked as an Art Director, Lead Scenic and Leadman on many film productions from Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, to his most recent involvement with the Verizon Go90 Channel, production of the comedy series “Embeds”.