Utpal Borpujari

February 7, 2014

‘NE cinema can get global attention if it reflects the ethnic cultures and societies’

EasternChronicleIFFI251113

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, 25-11-2013)

By Utpal Borpujari

Panaji (Goa): Reflect the society and its roots, concerns and cultures, instead of aping the worst practices of Bollywood, and only then we can see our cinema get a world stage. That was the loud and clear message that came out in a freewheeling interaction on cinema from North East India at the 44th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here.

Another strong message that came out was: yes, while it’s a given that our cinemas must travel to the outside world, we must be able to create a platform and avenues to enable people from within the region to watch one another’s films – for example, a Mizo getting access to a film made in Arunachal Pradesh or a Naga doing the same with a Khasi film.

It was virtually an “Adda” session on the sidelines of the festival that is having a “Focus: North East Cinema” section curated by this writer, and filmmakers, thinkers, actors, writers from the region gave their free and frank opinion about how cinema from the region gain both local and global prominence.

Be it Sahitya Akademi award-winning author Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi from Arunachal Pradesh, filmmakeri Manju Borah from Assam, Prashant Rasailly from Sikkim and Joseph Pulinthanath from Tripura, or actors Adil Hussain, Seema Biswas (both Assam), Meena Debbarma (Tripura) and Zerifa Wahid (Assam), the refrain was the same at a special session on “Our Stories, Our Cinemas”.

“We are a region that has over 220 ethnic communities and as many languages, cultures, folk traditions, cuisines and so on. Why then we have to borrow cheap ideas from outside to make films? Why not make films that tell universal stories in settings that are so unique to North East India?” asked Thongchi, who has visited a film festival for the first time in his life and has self-admittedly been overwhelmed by the wide variety of films from various countries that he has been able to watch here.

One thing that everyone agreed upon is that the North East requires more and more cinema halls in the interior towns and cities so that people can get access to their own cinema. It may not be commercially very viable to have cinema halls all over because populations are sparsely distributed in states like Arunachal Pradesh, but it seems ridiculous that while for 15 years Tripura did not have a cinema hall till a multiplex came up recently in Agartala, states like Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh does not have a single cinema hall, including in their capitals, they pointed out.

Policy makers have a big role to play in promoting cinema in the region, everyone agreed, with Pulinthanath particularly pointing out to the sad reality that while states like Kerala and West Bengal which have or had been long ruled by the Left have robust film cultures, Tripura, which is under Left rule for over two decades now, has had no visible effort from the state to promote its indigenous cinema.
Writer-editor-activist Patricia Mukhim was supported wholeheartedly by the participants, that also included Ahsan Mujid (director of Sonam), Mapuia Chawngthu (director of Khwanlung Run), and Tianla Jamir (director from Nagaland), that while thinking of a long-term game plan to take our cinemas forward, one idea that needed immediate attention was the creation of a film festival for North East cinemas that could each year travel from one state to another, so that a film culture develops and also people get to watch films being made within the region.

(www.easternchronicle.net: go to archives and get the 25-11-2013 edition)

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