Starring: Mrigakshi, Indrani Chetia, Anup Hazarika
Director: Jahnu Barua
When a land dispute disrupts the harmony between two neighbouring families in a village, the only voice of reason is Tora — a seven-year-old girl.
The film opens with a dream sequence where the titular character (played by Mrigakshi) requests a fairy to help her find a playmate. Tora resides with her parents at the remote end of her village. Surrounded by adults, she has no one to play with. Her wish comes true when their neighbour’s cow births a calf. The little girl finds the friend she had been pining for in the young calf, who she lovingly names Mon. She sings to him, feeds him, and looks out for Mon’s well being all the time. Mon, too, is deeply attached to Tora and follows her around as they play and flit about in the fields.
When their families get into a squabble over a piece of land, Tora is forced to cut ties with Mon. However, she is determined to not let the strained adult dynamics affect her friendship.
Tora is written and directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker, Jahnu Barua, known for his rich and sensitive portrayal of emotions and relationships. While the dominant theme of the movie is the endearing bond between a human child and a calf, the ancillary plot of human conflict over land and boundaries could well be signalling Assam’s strife stricken history.
The filmmaker’s deep association to his homeland has always reflected in his movies and Tora is no different. The landscapes and social milieu of rural Assam unfolds in an unhurried pace — much like the world it is set in. Tora’s family’s everyday ordinariness is a window into this world. We see Tora’s mother finishing her domestic duties and using her spare time to work on the loom, her father running a shop and also preparing their patch of land for farming — a life of tasks, routine and hard work.
Jahnu Barua’s cinema is gentle, empathetic, and his characters greatly relatable. Through Tora the director tries to view the world and tackle situations that seem significant to a seven-year-old. Like Tora worrying about Mon’s diet when she sees the cow being milked or her reason for disliking a neighbour simply being he asks her arithmetic questions all the time.
A child’s mind is simple and at times it is simplicity that corrects complications.