Filmmakers from the Northeast are making a mark on the national scene, but there are difficulties back house that, they feel, will force reinvention. This year, Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur had an abundant haul at the 65th National Film Awards. Although Assam and Manipur are known for award-winning films, Nagaland is least known as a filmmaking state. There are numerous restrictions, but enthusiasm is exactly what keeps the film-makers going. The Northeast is not commercially-viable for language movies, with the absence of audience as the most significant handicap. It is just in Manipur that commercial films have a larger audience. Assam delighted in a comparable fate till a few years back. Smartphone and other types of digital home entertainment are among the elements blamed for this phenomenon.
It is just in Manipur that commercial films have a larger audience
Utpal Borpujari, who won the best Assamese Movie award for his debut feature film on witch-hunting ‘Ishu’, disagrees that the Northeast has actually now come of age in filmmaking. “Aribam Syam Sharma (Manipur) and Jahnu Baruah, Adil Hussain, Seema Biswas and Bishnu Kharghoria (Assam) excelled on the national scene long ago. The movies of Manipur’s Haobam Pawan Kumar are popular globally. A brand-new crop of film-makers is now making interesting movies for the past three to 4 years. There is Pradip Kurbah and Dominic Sangma in Meghalaya, and Sange Dorjee Thongdok in Arunachal Pradesh. So, the quality has been always there. All we need is a market for films,” Borpujari informs The Sunday Requirement.
Commercial movies will make it through only if they can reach out to semi-urban and rural population, Borpujari says. “There was a time when villagers utilized to board buses to reach towns for watching movies. It will not happen now due to the fact that you have smartphones and other forms of entertainment. Cinema now needs to go to individuals. Goa has a principle of the mobile movie theater. It needs to take place in the Northeast like the mobile theatres of Assam.” Sesino Yhoshu, who won the Best Environment Film (non-feature movie) award for her ‘The Pangti Story’, originates from Kohima which does not have a single theatre hall.
Commercial Assamese movies are not viable as Assam does not have enough theatre halls, he states. “We need a lot of cinema halls throughout the Northeast. Films can be commercially viable just in Assam and Manipur because they have a bigger audience. If someone makes a movie in a dialect of Arunachal, it will constantly have a smaller sized audience. So, either he (film-maker) will make the film from passion or for a worldwide market.”
Nagaland is least known as a filmmaking state
Sesino Yhoshu says “We don’t have a movie culture, yet a lot of individuals produce movies with enthusiasm. To win a lot of awards, it is an amazing and proud moment for the Northeast. There is a talent pool but they need a platform and a better support group. There are lots of stories to be told,”. Her movie ‘The Story of a House’ was earlier evaluated at numerous movie celebrations in the country along with abroad. The Pangti Story, a 26-minute documentary about conservation initiatives of a town in Nagaland’s Wokha district, highlights how the locals eliminated countless Amur falcons for ages up until they developed into their protectors a couple of years back.
“Hunting is an olden culture of the Nagas. I wondered to know as to how a whole town suddenly stopped the killings and became conservationists,” Sesino says. At the 65th National Film Awards, Assam’s fledgling film-maker Rima Das won the Swarna Kamal (Golden Lotus) award for her film ‘Village Rockstars’ – 30 years after Jahnu Barua had bagged the honour for ‘Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai’.
‘Village Rockstars’, which focuses on a group of poor kids having fun as a rock band, also got the very best editing award (Rima), Finest Location Sound Recordist award (Mallika Das) and the best Child Artist honour (Bhanita Das). The Best Book on Cinema went to ‘Matmagi Manipur’, which is the very first Manipuri feature film. Authored by Bobby Wahengbam, the book vividly portrays the socio-political circumstance in which the language movie theater in Manipur was born.
Based on an article by Prasanta Mazumdar