Pokhar Ke Dunu Paar (2022)

Having eloped two years back, a young couple, find themselves back in their hometown amid the lockdown forced by pandemic. Wrestling with the harsh throes of unemployment and financial strain, their romantic escapade collides with the practicalities of life.

12/2/20233 min read

a man and woman standing in a room
a man and woman standing in a room

Hindi, 105mins, 2022

Director: Parth Saurabh

Cast: Abhinav Jha, Tanaya Khan Jha, Dheeraj Kumar

Awards: Winner, New Directors Award-Special Mention, San Sebastian International Film Festival, 2022; Winner Best Director Award, Kinoshok- Open CIS and Baltic Film Festival; Nominee, NETPAC Award for Best Film, Asian Film Festival Barcelona, 2022; Nominations, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Debut Film, New York Indian Film Festival, 2023

Sumit (Abhinav Jha) and Priyanka (Tanaya Khan Jha) return to Darbhanga, Bihar from Delhi in the wake of lockdown forced by corona Pandemic and take refuge in an old dilapidated hostel building. They had left this town two years back when they had eloped against Priyanka’s parents’ wishes. She wants to connect with them but the wounds are yet to heal- they don’t want to talk. She is keen to study and complete post-graduation but this sudden hardship is forcing them to relook at their bearings. Sumit is jobless and they don’t have enough money to sustain. Nihal (Dheeraj Kumar), Sumit’s childhood friend gives his bike to Sumit. He tries to find a job but not with sincerity Priyanka expects of him, leading to inevitable outcome of frequent clashes.

The reality of leading an independent life is yet to sink in for Sumit but Priyanka is shown deeply aware of the challenges lying ahead. She urges Sumit to get serious about life but he is wilting away his time with his childhood buddies. In one of the scenes, after a verbal showdown, Sumit is moved to tears. Priyanka consoles him and tries to drill some sense in him. They take a walk at night and from a bridge watch the trains going in and out of railway station – the train that they had boarded when eloped together. Priyanka reveals that she had thought of leaving Sumit. The moment is shot beautifully at night atop the bridge.

The film captures the journey of a couple after the excitement of love and elopement in the background of pandemic enforced lockdown. Curiously though, we don’t see anybody wearing masks and following Covid guidelines except in one scene when Priyanka is shown wearing a mask. But that was actually the reality in many small towns in those days. Coming back to story, the fairytale romance has paved way to harsh existential realities of job, a decent dwelling and home cooked food. With no support in sight, Priyanka grows desperate but Sumit is oblivious and whiles his time away drinking and smoking with his buddies. Exasperated, she once tells him to learn cooking and let her get a job. Here the male ego takes over and director takes a pot-shot at gender bias prevalent in most of the small towns.

One morning, a friend visits Sumit who has just come from Delhi. Sumit, Nihal and the friend smoke pot. Sumit returns to his room in complete delirium and we see Priyanka leaving with her packed bag. She is walking the streets of Darbhanga with her bag when Sumit chases her asks her to not go anywhere. After much cajoling, Priyanka stops. The film ends with these two on road.

What struck me about this film was its simplicity and director’s ability to steer clear of drama on both sides- ‘newly found love stage’ and ‘reality stage’. Incidentally, ‘Pokhar ke Dunu Paar’ means ‘on the either sides of the pond’. So this is what the story is all about – what happens on the other side of the pond when you take a giant leap of faith and cross over. Most notable is production design and real life locations of Darbhanga. Achal Mishra (director of films ‘Gamak Ghar’ and ‘Dhuin’) is credited with fabulous art direction and production design. Abhinav Jha as Sumit and Tanaya Khan Jha as Priyanka are superb and get very well into the skin of characters; So is Dheeraj Kumar as Nihal. Shot in 4:3 aspect ratio with huge ‘head rooms’ in some compositions, the film faces love and life after love squarely with complete honesty. Overall a sensitive debut film skillfully directed by Parth Saurabh, an editor and screenwriter.

About The director, Parth Saurabh

Credited as one of the latest directors to join ‘Darbhanga new wave’ cinema, Parth joined the world films and television after passing out from prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 2014, famous for giving first class engineers to various technological industries India and the world. He joined Whistling woods International, a private film institute in Mumbai and earned a diploma in Film-making & Direction.

Thereafter, he worked with various production houses in different capacities as assistant editor, post-production supervisor, video editor, assistant writer and finally screenwriter. He wrote additional screenplay of ‘Dhuin’ directed by Achal Mishra (who is art director for the present film). He also worked as Film Editor for Marathi Film ‘Bogda’ directed by Nisheeta Keni. Present film is his debut feature film which is presented by Anurag Kashyap, the famous director and produced by Achal Chitra and Chaudhary Cinematheque.