7 January 2005 - Most Bhutanese films, almost always, stir a recurrent anxiety that something is amiss in Bhutanese films. Despite the kindest of impulses, one can’t help but feel the void in narrative grip, character development and compelling dialogue that make a good movie. But as Bhutanese moviegoers become more discerning, there are ample hints, inspite of film maker’s pretending to ignore it, to make movies that viewers will warm up to. The novelty factor of a Bhutanese film is long worn out.
To many, therefore, the latest local film to be released in Thimphu comes as a delicious surprise. The film ‘Lengo’ (roughly meaning a Dumb Guy) radiates with abundant traces of hard work and a genuine attempt at good story telling. In many respects, it’s one of the most engaging local films made so far.
Directed by Chencho Dorji, ‘Lengo’ is an entertaining, albeit sad, tale of a seemingly unrequited love. The story revolves around a village ‘Lengo’ who is given to living in a fool’s paradise believing fervently that one of prettiest girls in the village is in love with him as he is with her. But his illusory happiness comes crashing down when the village’s new teacher enters his life and the life of the object of his love.
The film’s dialogue is strong, the screenplay and transitions are smooth and the camera work seem professional. The film revels in the raw beauty and the innocence of a rural life and manages to connect it to the story. Most of all the movie avoids the soapy and maudlin extravagance that such film subjects are prone to invite.
But it’s the performances and the character development that give the film its true appeal. Gyem Dori, in his best role since “Chepai Bu”, is convincing as the ‘Lengo’ who falls in love, encouraged, albeit complaisantly, by those around him with a girl who sees him only as a ‘Lengo’, and who faces the disillusion of all the good things he believes in.
As his object of longing and distraction, Karma Choden is a revelation. She manages to capture the rural-girl coyness and their somewhat natural attraction to all things modern, including men, without making it look cheap.
Rinchhen Namgay, who plays the village teacher, and Karma Dem, who plays ‘Lengo’ mother, are a treat to watch. Other supporting actors are also equally competent.
But the relationship between ‘Lengo’ and his girl begs more exploration, especially when she is being abandoned by the teacher; the film simplifies a complex rural culture.
Yet, ultimately it is difficult not to be moved, and feel at home, with the film.
By Kencho Wangdi