Archive for the ‘North East Cinema’ Category

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Yesterday I was watching a Kannada film titled HOOMALE. It was basically a tale of love between an infatuated young man and a widow set in the backdrop of Assam. Having grown up in the North East, I have a fair knowledge of the region. Watching this particular film left me quite shaken …

I felt the film directed by one S. Chandrasekhar projected Assam in the most callous way. A particular sequence has the protagonist celebrating Karnataka Day in Guwahati. During the celebration, a toast was being raised with the vow that “Karnataka should not be allowed to go the Assam and Jammu & Kashmir way.” The horrifying situation that was shown in the film is mostly an exaggeration that can be felt by anyone familiar with the region.

Filmmakers ought to be sensitive when they make films incorporating developments and cultures of different states of the country. This would unquestionably lead to a much needed National integration in the truest sense. If interested, you may catch this movie today @ 2pm in Lok Sabha TV.

I was surprised that the film was given National award for Integration. OMG!!!

Innovative women roles in Indian films, especially mainstream cinema, are few and far between. Some creative directors, working within the mainstream format, however have given us some meaty characters. Several women-significant films were made in the early days of Indian cinema like “Achchyut Kanya,” which touched the theme of untouchability. Bimal Roy made a few films inspired by the novels of Sarat Chatterjee like “Biraj Bou”, “Devdas” and “Parineeta.” “Biraj Bou” was a film based on a selfless Indian woman, who endured hardship and pain for the sake of her husband. Films like “Ramer Sumoti,” based on a Sarat Chaterjee work, were remarkable and depicted the love and warmth which existed within the extended Indian joint family.

In later days, filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee gave us memorable heroine-oriented films in “Guddi,” “Abhimaan”, “Mili”, “Khubsuroot”, and “Majhli Didi”. “Guddi” and “Khubsuroot” were simple films in which the heroine matures from a chirpy girl into womanhood. “Abhiman,” inspired by “A star is born,” dealt with ego clashes when a woman’s musical talent and fame surpasses that of her husband. “Majhli Didi” was again based on a Sarat Chandra novel, about a woman’s compassion towards an orphaned child. Basu Bhattacharyya’s “Griha Pravesh” was a realistic depiction of the obsession of a married man for a much younger office colleague. Raj Kapoor’s “Prem Rog” was a convincing portrait of the agony of a young widow. A few years back, Basu Chaterji’s “Triyacharittar” was a powerful film on exploitation of women.

Bengali filmmaker Tapan Sinha has created strong female characters in several of his films viz “Jatugriho”, “Adalat O Ekti Mey”, “Apanjan”, “Nirjan Saikate” and others. “Jatugriho” dealt with marital discord, the bone of contention being the infertility of the woman. “Apanjan” was remade in Hindi as “Mere Apne” by Gulzar, and had an elderly woman as the protagonist who finds, in some unemployed street boys, a reason to live when her own relatives forsake her. “Nirjan Saikatey” dealt with the plight of five elderly widows, while “Adalat O ekti Mey” was on a rape victim shunned by everyone. Asit Sen’s “Deep Jele Jai,” remade in Hindi as “Khamoshi” was on a nurse who eventually becomes insane play-acting with a patient.

Strong female roles have also been witnessed in parallel cinema. Here, Mrinal Sen appears to have an edge over others. His “Neel Akaser Neechey” (1959) was a beautiful film about a brother-sister relationship between a Chinese hawker and a Bengali housewife. “Punoscho”(1961) dealt with the question of economic need of the heroine, a theme later tackled by Satyajit Ray in “Mahanagar.” The roles of the female protagonist in Sen’s “Bhuvan Shome”, “Khandahaar,” “Ek Din Pratidin”, “Antareen” and others have been an interesting mix of innovation and fresh characterization. Satyajit Ray’s films have female characters of substance. In “Pather Panchali” the relationship between Durga, an innocent but mischievous girl and her grandmother Chunnibala was beautifully depicted. “Charulata” based on a Tagore’s novel dealt with marital discord with much finesse. “Devi” was on religious bigotry when an elderly man starts thinking of his daughter-in-law as a Goddess after a dream.

Ritwik Ghatak’s “Meghe Dhaka Tara” and “Subarnarekha” are considered path-breaking films about the agony of the Bangladeshi refugees, shown through the eyes of the woman protagonist. Aparna Sen’s “36 Chowringhee Lane” is an unforgettable film exploring the loneliness of an elderly Anglo-Indian lady. Sen’s other efforts “Paroma” and “Sati” questioned the traditional roles of women in Indian society. Her latest award-winning work “Paromitar Ek Din” is also a women-centric film. Nabyendu Chaterji’s “Atmaja” had a power-packed role of a mother caught between the divergent ideologies of her two sons, enacted with conviction by Gauri Ghosh. Nabyendu Chaterji’s latest “Sauda” (Bengali) reveals negative shades of some women characters. In this film made in the 90s, the director, possibly the first in Indian cinema, portrayed how the wife and the daughters of an accident victim, now in the operation theatre of a hospital, craved for his death instead of his recovery, because the family has been promised a huge sum of money by an industrialist (Vasant Choudhury) as compensation, whose car was involved in an accident with the victim. The latest talent on the Kolkata filmmaking scene, Rituparno Ghosh, has women-related subjects as theme in all three of his award-winning films “Unishe April”, “Dahan” and “Asookh” and his latest “Bariwali” (featuring Kiron Kher). The women characters in the films of Gautam Ghose & Buddhadeb Dasgupta are equally intriguing. In Gautam Ghose’s “Antarjali Jatra” a young bride is forcibly married off to a dying Brahmin, while marital disharmony was the subject of films like Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s “Griha Yuddha” and “Lal Darja” and Aparna Sen’s “Yugant”. Sanat Dasgupta’s “Janani” featuring Rupa Ganguly was a poignant Bengali film about a woman who was ostracized and labeled a “witch,” but in the end sacrificed her life for her son.

Ordinary women characters, rising to extraordinary levels, were witnessed in films like Sushant Mishra’s “Aasha” (Oriya), Arinbam Shyam Sharma’s “Imagi Ningtem” (Manipuri) and Sanjeev Hazarika’s “Meemansxa” (Assamese). “Aasha” dealt with a courageous lady journalist hounded by corrupt politicians. “Meemansxa,” dealt with the agony faced by a woman when she moves to court after being molested by a powerful man.

Shyam Benegal in films like “Ankur”, “Sardari Begum” and “Mammo” have given us some unusual female characters. “Mammo” was an elderly lady who went through an ordeal when she comes to visit her relatives in partitioned India from Pakistan. Govind Nihalani in “Rukmavati ki Haveli”, “Dhristi”, “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” has given us women characters of myriad hues. “Dhristi” was on marital discord, while “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa” saw Jaya Bachchan giving a fine performance as a woman trying to cope with the death of her son. Ketan Mehta’s “Mirch Masala” with the powerful actress Smita Patil demonstrated the strength of women, when a group of village women unitedly bring about the fall of a tyrant police officer. Muzaffar Ali’s “Umraao Jaan” gave Rekha one of her finest roles in her career as a ‘kotha ‘ dancer. A disabled dancer overcoming her problems to rise to great heights in her field was the subject of “Nache Mayuri,” with Sudha Chandran playing the lead role. Prakash Jha’s “Mrityudand” witnessed a new face of the educated Indian women, willing to rebel and fight for her rights.

Likewise, Deepa Mehta’s “Fire” brought to the fore hitherto taboo subjects like lesbianism to the Indian screen for the first time. Women characters in Mahesh Bhatt’s “Arth”, “Swayam”, “Kaash” and “Tamanna” were interesting. Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi gave great performances in “Arth” while in “Kaash,” the wife tries to cope with a failed actor husband who turns a derelict and a little son diagnosed with a terminal disease. Likewise Gulzar’s “Andhi”, Mausam” and “Koshish” and Kalpana Lazmi’s “Ek Pal” was noteworthy. “Aandhi,” was on the life of a lady politician and in “Koshish,” Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri gave mind-blowing performances as a hearing impaired couple. Sai Paranjype’s “Saaz” and “Sparsh” deserves a mention. Amol Palekar’s “Dayaara” and “Kairee,” too, are exceptional. “Dayaraa” dealt with the life of a transvestite. “Kairee” is about a little girl and her relationship with her aunt. “Rao Saheb,” “Chakra” “Mother India” and “Dahej” dealt with the theme of subjugated women who were exploited.

Yash Chopra’s portrayal of women have been extraordinary. Be it Nanda in the role of a murderess in “Ittefaq” or that of Rekha and Jaya Bachchan in “Silsila” women in his films have been consciously different from their peers. Recently the film “Astitva” ( featuring Tabu) explored sensitively a women’s role in a marriage when her husband discovers after twenty-five years that his wife had a sexual relationship with a man which resulted in an offspring, and the offspring is actually the same whom he had been considering his own son.

Lately in Assamese cinema several strong women characters was evoked, like in Bhaben Saikia’s “Agnisnaan”, Jahnu Barua’s “Firongoti”, Dr Shantanu Bordoloi’s “Adajya” and others. In “Agnisaan,” the female protagonist (Moloya Goswami) has a relationship with another man when her philandering husband crosses all limits. “Firongoti” was based on the life of a lady school teacher who tries to bring education among poor villagers.

In films from the South, K.S.Sethumadhavan’s “Stri”, Prema Karanth’s “Phaniyamma”, Girish Kasarvalli’s “Kraurya”, Balu Mahendra’s “Moonram Pirai” (remade as Sadma in Hindi) or Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s “Mathilukal” have intriguing female characterization. “Stri” dealt with the wife of a drunken man, who in spite of all her husband’s faults and their apparent differences, could never forsake her husband. It did carry the message “Pati is Parmeswar,” but in a beautiful way. “Phaniyamma” dealt with the agony of a young widow, whereas “Kraurya” dealt with the neglect of the elderly. In “Sadma,” SriDevi gave a fine performance as a girl whose mental condition reverts to that of a five-year-old when she meets with an accident. Because of my ignorance of films from this region, I will have to end this here.

In conclusion, several filmmakers have earnestly tried to portray women in a dignified, realistic, and an intriguing way and have succeeded considerably. Of this genre, filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Mahesh Bhatt, Amol Palekar, Tapan Sinha and Girish Kasaravalli and a few others seems to have given us the best of such women-significant films.

10-Mar-2002

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Film on ULFA script going haywire makes it to Indian Panorama

An armed underground rebel group draws up a strategy to create an “international dhamaka” and kidnaps a British couple who had come to Assam looking for a graveyard where the man’s grandfather, a tea planter, lies buried. Unable to communicate with the foreigners, the outfit picks up an educated but frustrated youth who speaks English. Eager to be a part of change, this youth readily jumps in. But once in the hideout, he discovers a totally different picture and decides to work to free the British couple.This in brief is the outline of Jatinga Ityadi, an Assamese feature film made by Sanjib Sabhapandit, that has found place in the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2007. It is also a film that probably reflects, without any hesitation, the disgust and hatred that the common man in Assam has developed against armed militancy.

“My film is just an honest depiction of what is happening across Assam,” says Sabhapandit, an entrepreneur-turned-filmmaker, whose film has already earned accolades after having been screened in at least three prestigious festivals, MAMI, Pune and Thrissur. Sabhapandit incidentally belongs to the same generation as several top ULFA leaders including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and armed wing chief Paresh Barua.

“It is a simple depiction of present-day reality. I have no axe to grind with the ULFA. This is just a portrayal of real-life situation vis-à-vis armed militancy and people’s sufferings arising out of it,” Sabhapandit says.

Sabhapandit, however, has no pretensions in saying that the armed movement had seriously affected every village in Assam. “How long will we remain silent? Will you allow people to be killed this way?” asks Rita, the lead female character in the film as her brother is shot for not paying money to the militants.

And, inside the rebel hideout, Manab, the educated-but-jobless hero discovers that the idea he had of the militant group and its “struggle for independence” was entirely wrong. And he tries to help the British couple escape, in the process getting killed in a crossfire that also takes the lives of all the militants present in the scene.

“It is definitely a holistic representation of the crisis that the Assamese society is passing through,” says Noni Gopal Mahanta, coordinator at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Gauhati University.

“Sabhapandit’s film is also a touching interpretation of a big dream that the ULFA had given to the people of Assam, and an honest depiction of how removed it was from reality,” says Mahanta, who has recently obtained a Ph.D for his doctoral thesis on the ULFA. “The film also points at the insensitivity of the state in tackling the situation,” he adds.

However, Sabhapandit’s is not the first film that has been made with the ULFA as the backdrop. Dinesh Gogoi’s Surya Tejor Anya Naam, released in 1991, was the first film on militancy in Assam. In 1999, noted filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia’s Hindi film Kaalsandhya looked into how a society was suffering due to rise of armed militancy. Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se too had militancy in Assam as the backdrop.

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The Assamese film deals with the life of one Powal, a boatman in Nemuguri village in Assam that is situated on the bank of the river Dihing. There is no bridge in that river. For a few generations his forefathers have been ferrying people to and fro. Life goes on smoothly for the boatman. Until one day when he hears about a bridge to be built across the river threatening his livelihood.

Writing in India Today (Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/international-film-festival-of-india-indian-panorama-films-fail-to-scintillate/1/280741.html), Madhu Jain writes “Hkhagoroloi tackles the subject of the wages of development when the human factor is not considered. This is done through the story of an old man, a third-generation boatman who stands to lose his job if a proposed bridge comes up. Interestingly, here again (like in Mammo, Naseem), the pivot is the relationship between grandparents (or grand-aunt) and grandchildren. And the story once more is the intervention of fate in their lives.”

Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door, directed by Jahnu Barua, won him the National Award for the best director in 1995, and 15 international awards including World Peace Prize at Chicago International Film Festival, and Best Director at the International Film Festival of Independent Film makers at Brussels, apart from being invited to as many as 42 prestigious film festivals world wide in a span of two years.