Review: Précis: Village thugs run, and they run, breathless and slobbering, imprecations at times incomprehensible, flying wild. And they run, down steep and narrow trails and a couple of tight village gullies, bludgeons in the air, shouting senseless battle cries. And they run and they run…until the angry ruffians meet on a quaint little bridge far away from the village and beat the hell out of each other. Torn limbs and battered faces. A century-old feud between two rival families is burning still.

Based loosely on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Kencho Wangdi’s SINGAY dha GAWA is a tragic romance set in the vast, beautiful valley of Tang in Bumthang. Where hatred is, grows love also. And that’s really it although the film labours a little too much to get to the heart of the story.

What sowed the seed of hatred and violence between the two families, the audiences have no way of knowing. It just happened and, there it is, breathing through the screen. Anyway, the telling of it wouldn’t have added anything to the grander scheme of the film itself. If there is anything to be said about the film, it is this: SINGAY dha GAWA has been made beautifully. Efforts show.

Well, first off, films come with flaws. That’s not because makers of the films do not do their job especially well. What audiences look for is perfection. There is always a gap so. And so it is with SINGAY dha GAWA.

But it is the maturity of actors that the film brings out that is most satisfying. Tsokye Tshomo Karchung (Gawa) throws out the most professional delivery yet. And Ap Drakpa, played by Gyem Dorji, is almost believable. The fire burns in his heart, fire of hatred towards the Gyambo family. But then, love is born. Ap Drakpa’s bewitchingly pretty daughter, Gawa, falls in love with Gyembo’s son, charming, cocky and fearless Singay, played by Tshering Phuntsho, who could easily pass as Bhutanese version of Don Juan DeMarco.

Even though the idea is not his, Kencho Wangdi has been able to give the film taste and colour that is Bhutanese. Refreshingly, dialogues do not sound anachronistic. Language has been kept modern and the theme relevant. This, in other words, could be called a directional success. Like all Bhutanese films, however, there are songs cutting in between the scenes, some of which look a little out of place. But that can be forgiven because the real feast is in the quality of the picture. At a time when the Bhutanese film industry is overwhelmed with toe-curlingly cheap reproduction of Bollywood and Hollywood castoffs, there are filmmakers who are trying to build a uniquely Bhutanese standard. Kencho Wangdi is among the few.

Love is sweet because in it are essentially complications. Life would be intolerably mundane otherwise. There are fistfights again. Gawa’s enraged brother kills Singay’s brother and Singay kills his love’s brother. Villainy in the film is almost intolerable. Jigme Yosel plays his part imminently well.

SINGAY dha GAWA, released on September 13, is showing at Lugar Theatre in Thimphu.

Jigme Wangchuk