Guwahati / Mumbai, Aug 3: Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)’s newest production “Ishu” is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to a world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.
Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in Lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, this Assamese feature film is based on renowned Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel “Ishu”, and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.
The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting’ that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through they eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded as a ‘witch’ by the evil village “Bej” (quack) who conspires with another aunt to do so.
Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today’s times, “Ishu” is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu’s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.
The social evil of ‘witch hunting’ has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the state Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is still awaiting the President’s assent to become a law.
Several incidents of witch hunting has been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the state Assembly, 93 cases of witch-hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010 to 2015.
“However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats to subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it a U certification without any cuts,” says Borpujari, who believes that children’s films can affectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.
CFSI Chairman MukeshKhanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from the society. “Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practicing social evils like ‘witch hunting’, we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development.”
“Movies like ‘Ishu’ bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in the society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,” he says.
According to Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO of CFSI, “This is a highly sensitive film in which exploitation of people due to social evils such as ‘witch hunting’ is highlighted. The movie is informative, educative and throws light on the harmful effects of social evils practiced by people in the society. The movie tells the audience that such evils harm children and have an adverse effect on their psychology. Our attempt at CFSI has always been to focus on issues concerning children and their welfare.”
“I am happy to note that in Assam, a Bill to prevent social evils like “witch hunting” has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, and is awaiting President’s assent. Let us hope that it would become a law soon.”
“This is the first feature film made by well-known film critic and documentary film maker Utpal Borpujari and we hope that children as well as elders will like it,” he says.
Incidentally, the script of “Ishu” was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.
In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with a maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualized in Ishu, and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” says Borpujari.
The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress TonthoingambiLeishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and talented younger actors like MonujBorkotoky, DipikaDeka and NibeditaBharali. Others in the cast include Mahendra Das, Rajesh Bhuyan, Naba Kumar Baruah, MonujGogoi, etc.
Along with KapilGaro, other child actors in the film include MahendraRabha, SrabantaRabha and UdayRabha.
The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director SukracharjyaRabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.
Several actors from the Badungduppagroup, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.
It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and MadanRabha and BasantaRabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.
The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were GhanshyamKalita, Ronal Hussain and MonujBorkotoky.
An M.Tech in Applied Geology from IIT-Roorkee, Utpal Borpujari won the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards of India in 2003. As a professional journalist, apart from cinema, he has written extensively on politics, society, culture, literature, etc., while working with some of India’s top media houses. Since 2010, when he decided to turn a filmmaker, he has made several acclaimed documentary films that have been screened across the world in various film festivals. Among them are “Mayong: Myth/Reality” (2012), “Songs of the Blue Hills” (2013), “Soccer Queens of Rani” (2014) and “Memories of a Forgotten War” (2016). Borpujari has also served in international film juries as an erstwhile member of the International Federation of Film Critics, apart from having served on juries for National Film Awards and Indian Panorama. He has also curated films as well as served as a consultant for the Northeastern sections in the International Film Festival of India as well as various other film festivals. “Ishu” is his debut fiction feature. He is currently developing scripts for a Hindi and an Assamese film.
The story of Mayong’s legendary magic will now travel to the United States.
“Mayong: Myth/Reality”, a documentary directed by Utpal Borpujari and produced by Jayanta Goswami under the banner of Darpan Cine Production, has been selected for screening at the Silent River Film Festival to be held in California (USA) in October.
The documentary, which makes a first-time effort to capture the story of Mayong in film, is among the 79 films chosen from all over the world for screening at the festival that will happen at Irvine in California from October 17 to 20.
The film, which has earlier been screened at the 6th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, 5th CineASA Guwahati International Film Festival and the Indie8 Film Festival in Shillong, has already been archived by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Britain and Ireland, as reported earlier. It will also be screened at the Gandhinagar International Film Festival soon.
The other films from India that will be screened at the Silent River Film Festival are Vikramaditya Motwane’s Hindi feature film “Lootera”, Sourav Sarangi’s documentary “Char – The No Man’s Island”, and short films “Lapet” by Anshul Sinha and “Afterglow” by Kaushal Oza.
Incidentally, the DVD of “Mayong: Myth / Reality” will soon be released nationally by Junglee Home Video, the DVD label of Times Music.
For more information, please contact Utpal Borpujari 9811631034 or Jayanta Goswami 9435013267.
For many of us in Assam, Mayong is synonymous with black magic. Villagers of this quaint village are regarded to practice black magic to cast evil spells on unknown people. Although no written proof ever existed, for the first time ever the myth is being documented on celluloid. Assamese film critic-turned-filmamker is presently trying to capture the myth through his documentary- Mayong: Myth/Reality.
The 53-minute documentary traces the cultural and other historical elements of the area which has been widely neglected so far in spite being so rich in folklore. It will also highlight the ancient manuscripts, books and tantric images in a bid to evoke the mind of researchers or even common tourists to visit the place.
“The irony is that most of people with whom we interacted have travelled to Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, famed for its thick one-horned rhino population, more than once, without knowing that they have travelled through Mayong. So, it was very important to let them know about it,” Borpujari who is a member of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), and has served as a jury member in several leading international film festivals
“On July 15 in 2011, the day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 got released in India, we carried out an informal survey among about 200 youths in Guwahati whether they had heard about Mayong. I was shocked…many of them had not,” said Utpal Borpujari who is directing the documentary on the myth of Mayong, a small cluster of villages in Assam known for its Tantrik practices and legends associated with black magic.
Besides Borpujari, a host of youngsters are involved in the mission to explore the myth visually. “This prompted us to explore Mayong visually – to explore whether all those myths about black magic in Mayong were just myths or otherwise, why despite its legendary status in Assamese folklore, the place remains largely unknown, and what locals think about their magical heritage,” he added.
It is believed that the elements which have not been touched so far will be helpful for the research scholars. The documentary has tried to depict all these.
The documentary is being produced by Jayanta Goswami under the banner of Darpan Cine Production while the cinematographer is Biswajeet Changmai and edited by Parveen Sharma. The music has been scored by Anuraag Saikia and the narration is by Robin Kalita.
Borpujari in Montreal World Film Festival jury
Film critic-journalist Utpal Borpujari has been nominated as a member of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) jury for the 34th Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF), considered among one of the most prestigious film festivals globally. Borpujari will serve in the jury that will decide the International Critics’ FIPRESCI prize at the festival that will run from August 26 to September 6.
The other members of the jury, chaired by Andrea Dittgen of Germany, are Mario Abbade from Brazil, Diego Cabrera from Peru, Jon Frosch from France, Pascal Grenier from Canada, Anders Larsson from Sweden and Jake Wilson from Australia. Borpujari, who had won the Swarna Kamal for the Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards in 2003, has served in FIPRESCI juries earlier also, in international film festivals like MAMI in Mumbai, Osian’s Cinefan in Delhi and documentary festival MIFF in Mumbai.
Huge boost for music trade industry
The first focused music trade magazine of the country was launched recently. The magazine, Sound Box, is published from Mumbai and is edited by Aparna Joshi. Published by Nitin Tej Ahuja from Mumbai, this is probably the first time that someone has attempted to bring out a music magazine that covers all aspects relating to the creation and usage of music in India. With a vibrant music industry and the music market covering various languages, the need for a focused music trade magazine had been long felt. Let’s hope Sound Box fills the gap.
Theatre season starts in Nagaon
The much awaited theatre season of 2010 began here at Nagaon with ‘Brahamputra Theatre’ leading the pack with six days of show last Wednesday. While the fest marked the beginning of their run this season, theatre lovers are excited at the prospect of being able to watch celebrities from all across the State, like Krishnamoni Nath and Gayatri Mahanta, performing at their very own Nehru Bali field. Most of the scripts in the six-day festival have been written especially for Nath and Mahanta; one of them, Mur Naam Junali, is being eagerly awaited by the people.
Painting and photography exhibition held in Diphu
A painting and photography exhibition was held at Diphu last week. The exhibition was organised by Curves & Shades and the same attracted attention from artistes and patrons alike. The exhibition was conceptualised by artist Ranjan Engti. According to Engti, “Curves & Shades was formed in the year 2004 to limelight and endorse the creative aptitude of youths in the field of painting and photography ; in order to create a space where youths from diverse field can come together to represent artworks depicting people, life, culture and nature.”
Poetry for a change
I recently came across a collection of poetry, Echoes of Spring, which features the works of two sisters – Agnes and Vishu Rita Krocha – who are based in Kohima, Nagaland. Among the new breed of poets in the Northeast, especially in the State of Nagaland, these sisters stand out, primarily on account of their sensitivity and love for nature.
Coming from a land where there are not that many takers for poetry, Echoes of Spring has been superbly produced, and packaged and marketed pretty well. The foreword of the book has been written by Ruskin Bond. The collection of poetry is primarily about nature and has been penned by the Krocha Sisters citing instances from their growing up years – a view of the world through their eyes. As a reviewer noted: ‘Readers, collectors or aspiring writers over the globe, will surely find one thing difficult to keep up along with this book, apart from the poetry i.e. its detailing of folk art and its unusual hardcover size. It would mean that it deserves a special shelf’.
Talking about the book, Vishu Rita Krocha says, “We grew up in Kohima, still live there and share a common love for nature-the poems in the book are thoughts collected over the past few years, mostly based on nature with a few lights thrown on societal concerns.”
The hardbound book was printed at Thompson Press, New Delhi and is a self-published venture with support from NEZCC and well Wishers. It is priced at Rs 375.