It’s a rough cut for Northeast film-makers


The “New Horizons from Northeast” section, which opened at the International Film Festival of India here on Sunday, gives a glimpse of the culture of the States in the region. In a tete-a-tete with the media following the inauguration, film-makers from the region were unequivocal that the region’s cinema had suffered neglect not only at the national level but also within their own region.

Manju Borah, Maniram and Jadumoni Dutta from Assam and Aribam Syam Sharma from Manipur are all national award winners. However, leave alone audiences from the rest of India, even those in their own States are not giving enough recognition and respect for their work, they said.

The interaction revealed a litany of woes, disappointments and lost opportunities when it comes to projecting a nuanced description of the region’s culture on celluloid. To begin with, the very term “northeastern” India — the monolithic moniker — is unjust at many levels. Though a geographically convenient term, it does little to tell us about the 220 dialects in the region, each distinct in its own way.

It is 80 years since the first Assamese movie, Joymoti, was made. Yet the film-makers lamented that the region has hardly produced 300-400 films — most of them are in Assamese. With fewer than 30 films produced a year, their industries suffer from issues of both distribution and exhibition. Mr. Sharma was categorical in asserting that there needed to be more cinemas in rural areas, just as in States such as Tamil Nadu. Also, he was clear that film festivals cannot make their film industry self-sufficient. Production houses such as the National Film Development Corporation had to create a special section to finance their films.

Beyond Assamese, very little is known about films from the region. Ms. Borah offered some introduction. She said unlike Assam and then Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Meghalaya had no film industry. An exception was Nagaland, the most politically turbulent State in the region, from where some good documentaries have come in recent years.

Ms. Borah felt the indigenous films needed to be provided priority in screening in theatres — the way Marathi films were being promoted in Maharashtra.

A decade ago, when multiple national award-winning Assamese director Jahnu Barua was given the “best debut award” for his Hindi film Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara at an awards function, the film’s producer, Anupam Kher, refused to accept the honour, considering it an insult.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:11:36 PM |

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