Laxmikant Shetgaonkar s “Paltadachi Munis (The Man Beyond The Bridge) displays a cinematic sensibility increasingly rare in Indian films. A multilayered tale of a lonely forest guard in a dwindling forest strikes a perfect balance between the personal and the political. Laxmikant s cinema is rich in metaphors, remarkable in its restrain and exciting in its modern sensibility.
Set in a Konkani village, in the coastal state of Goa, the film follows the lonely life of Vinayak (Chittaranjan Giri), a forest guard who still mourns the sudden death of his wife years after he lost her to a beast. His duty is to protect a rapidly vanishing forest in a secluded hillock, that isn t easy to carry out. His plea for a transfer to a nearby village has been turned a deaf ear for last eight years.
The director displays a keen eye for cinematic metaphor by situating the tale on a secluded hillock only connected by a feeble hanging bridge. This bridge is his only link to the outer world-the village, which is abuzz with what evokes utmost passion in democracy-elections! The promise made to the villagers is to construct a temple for the village deity atop the hillock- a design that s set to further wound the woods.
Laxmikant to his credit steers clear of every pitfall of vociferating an overtly political story. He remains subtle yet compassionate. His style enriched with observations allows him to tell the story in a matter-of-fact fashion. A three pronged conflict among faith, nature and power, comes out as a quiet tale, occasionally supported by a background score with fade ins and outs at the right places.
Vinayak s turbulent life looks as calms as the forest which he guards. However, a sudden appearance of an insane woman peels the surface away. A relationship that first looks as innocent and normal as between the man and the nature gradually attains erotic and deeply emotional proportions. The mad woman appears in the woods almost like the wild force of nature that refuses to be tamed. Vinayak attempts his noble best to cure her but ends up being struck by her abundant power of womanhood.
The beauty of Laxmikant s cinema lies in his restrain and that s what infuses this Goan tale with a universal appeal. Vinayak s village shows as true an image of the world at large and India in particular, as a knocked down tree of a dying jungle.
In an exciting year for Indian cinema, “The Man Beyond The Bridge is certainly one of the most promising debuts.