A film festival in Mau, Uttar Pradesh, showcases films with a difference

A people's initiative in one of Uttar Pradesh's impoverished eastern districts attempts to relate Irom Sharmila's struggle against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to that of the Hindi-speaking belt's own heroes, namely, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi.

Playing by the theme, 'Shahadat se Shahadat tak' (from one sacrifice to another), the three day Mau Film Festival (March 23-25) showcases films, documentaries and posters at four locations, all specially dedicated to Manipur's iron lady.

Two documentaries, Tales from the Margins by Kavita Joshi and Haobam Paban Kumar's AFSPA,1958 showcase Manipur's fight against AFSPA and the background of Sharmila's over-a-decade-long fast.

Tales From the Margins documents the extraordinary protest of Manipuri women in the backdrop of the overall marginalization of their land. AFSPA, 1958 chronicles the events that took place in Manipur after the death of Manorama Devi, a 32-year-old separatist suspect, which lead up to the incident of a youth setting himself on fire to protest excesses committed under AFSPA.

Manorama was picked by the forces of the 17th Assam Rifles from her home on July 11, 2004 after being issued an arrest-memo. Her body was later found near a hillock under suspicious circumstances. Locals believe she was raped and later shot.

The festival is organized by the Mau Film Society, a self-funded initiative started in 2008 by two social activists. Shah Alam, one of the organizers who is based in Ayodhya, says the idea behind showing Manipur's struggles was to educate the region about the state's struggle against the repressive law.

"It is sad that a woman with such grit and resolve is not much talked about in these parts. Through these films, documentaries and posters, we want to show the people how her struggle is as significant as any led by their popular heroes pre or post-independence."

Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev were hanged on March 23, 1931, while Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was killed by a mob during communal violence on March 25 the same year.

The screening also includes notable films such as Gauhar Raza's Inquilab, Anand Patwardhan's Jai Bhim Comrade, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven, K.P Sasi's Gaon Chodab Nahi, MS Sathyu's Garam Hawa, Jag Mundhra's Bhawander and Stalin Kurup's India Untouched.