Taking Kokborok to the globe
A film from Tripura has bagged the first national award for the State this year. I am talking about the much acclaimed Kokborok film, Yarwng (Roots), which was bestowed with the 56th National Film Awards at a function held in Vigyan Bhavan recently.
The film was produced by Joseph Kizhakechennadu and was directed by Father Joseph Pulinthanath. Both are priests of the Don Bosco mission and Yarwng was their second film. The duo received their award from Indian president Pratibha Patil. Pulinthanath, dressed in a white cassock, and Kizhakechennadu, in his preferred saffron lungi and half-sleeved white kurta, were among the 52 film award winners of 2008, including high-profile Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra and the doyen of Indian cinematography VK Murthy. It should be mentioned that Murthy was bestowed with the highest honour in Indian cinema this year – the Dada Saheb Phalke Award.
A host of ministers, bureaucrats and other top officials accompanied the president during the award ceremony.
The award-winning 95-minute long feature film, Yarwng (Roots), tells the story of large-scale displacement of tribal people that took place in the tiny Northeastern State of Tripura when a hydel-project was set up there in the late 1970s. Yarwng was the opening film at the prestigious Indian Panorama section of the 39th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Panaji in November 2008.
According to the filmmakers, the script of Yarwng emerged from the numerous encounters they has with displaced people in the sanctity of their ramshackle homes. “All the incidents and emotional turmoil we see in the film were etched in the subconscious psyche of the people. All we did was to get close to them and feel their stories as they recalled them with looks, sighs, tears and also words,” recalled the priest director, who brought Tripura its first national award with the film.
“Although the technical team came from Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) and the support team from Guwahati (Assam), the best part of the production was the involvement of the local people,” says producer Kizhakechennadu who claims cinematic traditions from his legendary relative John Abraham, a genius in Malayalam cinema and founder of a people’s cinema movement called Odessa.
The cast of `Yarwng`, which New York Times described as a `rare glimpse into tribal India`, is made up mostly of indigenous people who are themselves victims of displacement and had no experience whatsoever in acting. The crew list included noted actors like Meena Debbarma, who plays the lead role of Karmati, Amulya Ratan Jamatia, Nirmal Jamatia and Surabhi Debbarma. The other members of the crew, including the technical part, also had a lot of people from Tripura. The award for Yarwng has provided a major boost to the film industry there. Taking Kokborok to the international level, the film has done justice to the language and people, promoting the language, culture, and its people worldwide.
Yarwng has travelled across film festivals throughout the entire country and has been screened in most of the major cities of the world, including cities like New York, Brisbane, Moscow, Taipei, Stuttgart and Dhaka. Yarwng has also won a Special Jury Mention Award at the 3rd Eye Asian Film festival held in Mumbai in 2008.
The film, which has been partly financed by Church organizations – Missio Germany, Signis and the Salesian Congregation, is also a compelling testament to the commitment of the Church and the Don Bosco Society towards the preservation and development of local and indigenous people and cultures.