The subject of my deliberation may sound unfamiliar to you: ‘New wave’ in cinemas of Northeast India. Can you imagine that in a region that suffers from underdevelopment, infrastructural handicaps, there could be such a ‘new wave’? First let me explain the peculiarity of cinema produced in this region. The north-eastern part of India has a distinct film identity as any other part of the country or the world outside. So if you coin the phrase “Northeast Cinema” it should point to the quality of the films produced that makes them distinguished from films produced in other parts of the country. There are meaningful films made over last four decades— except Assam where it all started four more decades earlier— in various indigenous languages, braving the onslaught of the Bollywood and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood and East Asian blockbusters.

The growing investments in the entertainment industry of the country and the products thereof have a far-reaching market through various outlets in the techno-savvy world nowadays. Their films can be released all over the world on a single day – which any film made in the Northeast cannot dream of so far. When it comes to marketing regional cinema with a strong viewership (including Hindi films), a strictly partisan consolidation of their distribution network has remained a potential threat to all the small regional cinemas including those of the Northeast. Cinemas of the Northeast do not enjoy even support from the local public. A 12 times national award winner Jahnu Barua once declared that he would not make a film in Assam. His outburst came following failure of his films at local box offices despite having won critical acclaims.

Though film-making has seen a recent upswing with the availability of the cheaper digital technology, sometimes making films with a paltry sum of money looks easy in this region, but making even marginal profits out of it is a Herculean task. Filmmakers evolved a way of making films in such a low budget that it is simply unimaginable in many parts of the country. Over and above that, they have made a habit of holding ticketed shows on alternative venues that may be a makeshift arrangement for touring cinema, permanent theatre halls, or community halls.

The tragedy of the situation is such that even in 84 years of its journey, cinema of the region is unable to rise above the clutches of its handicapped nascent stage. In the 1980s the number of cinema halls in Assam rose to 150 plus; but due to nagging troubles there are less than 85 cinema halls across the state as of now. Multiplexes are having their day with all-India releases of Hindi films, but not helping regional films in any way. Promises to help build mini cinema halls with government patronage are not translated into reality.

Moreover, there is a frightening barrier of languages spoken in the region. For example, if a film is made in the Monpa or Sherdukpen dialect in Arunachal Pradesh, its maker cannot expect it to show the film all over the length and breadth of the hilly state. In Assam too, those who make films in tribal languages like Bodo, Karbi, Mishing and so on, have no option to show their films to the people who speak these languages. They use a travelling cinema model or try to sell DVDs of their production. But the possible buyers might not opt for buying the product, as viewers are used to, or obsessed with, the so-called mainstream Hindi cinema only. In this backdrop, if one can see a “New Wave” in filmmaking in the region, the history of the cinemas of the region has to be understood, before coming to such a conclusion. Further, one has to study what a New Wave in the world of cinema does mean.

 

The beginning on a serious note

As everybody knows, Jyotiprasad Agarwala made the region’s first film Joymoti. Released in 1935, the fourth year of Indian talkies, it was a phenomenal film if analyzed in the overall context of contemporary Indian cinemas. Its central character Joymoti, picked up from a legend of Assam’s politically turbulent medieval history, was used as a metaphor for the contemporary tribulations of India’s freedom struggle which made the film distinctly political. Secondly, Indian filmmakers of the time relied largely on mythologies, hero-worshipping and leaned heavily towards the theatrical ways. Joymoti on the other hand was characterised as a down-to-earth person while refraining from theatrical acting. Thirdly, the film can be viewed as the very first attempt by any Indian director to put a woman as the central character and depict the narratives in true feminist colour.

But local audiences failed to appreciate its off-beat merits. The ultimate experience with Joymoti left Jyotiprasad materially bankrupt. Four years later he made the second Assamese feature, and his last, Indramalati (1939) with the primary intention of restoring financial stability. Quite understandably the followers of the visionary failed to tread similar path of film-making. They made films with loosely knit aesthetic senses. Even Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, considered as one of the finest film musicians the country produced (and the sole recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award from the Northeast till date), made films mainly by accepted standards.

It was however Doctor Bezbarua (1969) directed by Brajen Barua which created an aura of self-confidence in making films in Assamese language. Introducing the mainstream Hindi cinema’s formula of melodramatic crime story in Assamese cinema, it was the first Assamese feature film entirely shot without help from the studios and technicians of Tollygunge, Kolkata. An unparalleled commercial success of Dr Bezbarua encouraged film producers even from outside the state to come forward and to invest money for making films in Assamese. As a result, there was a sudden upsurge in Assamese film production in 1970s that lasted more than a decade before the video boom and the advent of satellite television.

The first director to revolt against the prevailing norms of filmmaking after Jyotiprasad was Padum Barua. Against the backdrop of a strong wind of neo-realism in Indian cinema, Padum Baruah’s Ganga Chilanir Pakhi (Wings of the Tern, 1976) wore a realistic, humane and revealing film expression. Dr. Bhabendra Nath Saikia’s Sandhyaraag (Cry of Twilight, 1977), a polemical look at the urban-rural divide and middle class character, by the same time established a milestone for Assam in the ‘parallel cinema movement’ of the country. His films got the stamp of a master storyteller, with the script leaning heavily towards a narrative which he would call a style of ‘literary film’. However, the contemporary cinema of Assam is indebted, to a great extent, to Jahnu Barua. His films, mainly Halodhiya Charaye Baodhan Khai (The Catastrophe, 1987), Firingoti (The Spark, 1991), Hkhagaraloi Bahu Door (It’s a Long Way to the Sea, 1995) and Baandhon (Waves of Silence, 2012) brought most of the laurels at national and international levels for Assamese cinema.

In a multilingual state like Assam, films made in indigenous languages other than Assamese have far limited market and viewership. A handful of films made in Karbi, Bodo, Mishing, Rabha and Moran languages got national recognition, sometimes bigger successes. Gautam Bora, Jwngdao Bodosa, Manju Bora, Suraj Duwarah, Jaicheng Jai Dohutia and others have made the state proud with their courageous films. It is pleasantly surprising to see how Jwngdao Bodosa used an old-fashioned Bolex Camera, a pack of ignored Fuji-color film to shoot the entire script of his acclaimed film Hagramayao Jinahari (Rape in the Virgin Forest, 1995) in only ten days, with an unbelievably low budget and yet won a national award for best film on environmental issue.

It would be prudent to recall rare achievements of a film like Bidyut Chakraborty’s debut feature Raag Birag (Vacation of a Sanyasi, 1996) that won three major national awards: best first film of a director, best editing and best cinematography. It was sheer beauty of technique and innovative camera work for which the film could win first technical award for a local film produced in Assam. It was originally shot in 16mm and later blown up to 35mm, yet its quality was superb. The film also got the rare distinction of the inaugural film of the Indian panorama of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). Surprisingly the film was a total failure at local box offices. The situation remained unchanged; and hence, it has been amazing to witness the next generation of filmmakers coming up with bold experiments of late.

 

Manipuri cinema: a different reality

After Assam, Manipur is the second most important filmmaking state in Northeast India. But all the theatres in Manipur were converted to video screens following threats by the secessionist outfits against screening of mainstream Indian (Hindi) films in the year 2000. The few cinema halls that existed in the state, most of them in the city of Imphal, closed down as they became commercially non-feasible. Local filmmakers thereafter devised a way to resurrect Manipuri cinema by going fully digital. Thus Manipur earned the reputation of being the first state in India to grow a fully digital film industry. The young filmmakers from the state, through a petition in the Gauhati High Court, got the official permission from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of the Govt. of India to make digital films eligible for the national film awards and Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

Today Manipur is producing around 50 digital feature films a year in average and in as low a budget as Rs. 6 lakhs to Rs. 15 lakhs. The industry has earned a nickname “Imphalwood” by all the diktats the filmmakers have to abide by: they have to shun everything that is not akin to the Meitei culture. The list of things which are banned in Manipuri films comprise commonly used items in mainland Indian films: like saree, bindi, sindoor, kajal, mangal sutra, kurta pajama and so on. Yet there is a surprising inherent dichotomy. In spite of the strict guidelines, foreign films such as the Korean and Latin American films are allowed as alternative films that Manipuris can emulate.

Incidentally the first attempt to make a film in Manipur was made in 1949 which was in Hindi language as the script based on a Manipuri play was translated to Hindi purely for commercial viability. Titled Mainu Pemcha, the film could not be completed due to financial difficulties. It took quite long to see the first film of Manipur to be made successfully, the title being Matamgi Manipur (Today’s Manipur, 1972), directed by Deb Kumar Bose. Its music was scored by Aribam Syam Sharma, the man who later on put Manipuri films on the global map.

Aribam Syam Sharma’s film Imagi Ningthem (My Son My Precious, 1981) was the first Indian film to have won the Grand Prix in the Festival of Three Continents, Nantes in France in 1982. His Ishanou (The Chosen One, 1990) is another masterpiece that won jury’s special mention for its actress at the most prestigious Cannes Film Festival. These achievements still remain to be emulated by any other Indian filmmaker.

 

Cinemas of other northeastern states

Among other states of the region, Meghalaya saw the first Khasi language film made by the noted historian-educationist-writer Dr. Hamlet Bareh Ngapkynta. The title of the film was Ka Synjuk Ri ki Laiphew Syiem (The Alliance of Thirty Kings, 1981). The first coloured film in Khasi language was Manik Raitong (Manik the Miserable, 1984) directed by Ardhendu Bhattacharya. The film relates an ancient and popular legend about a woman, Lieng Makaw, who revolted against her forced marriage with the Syiem (chief of the clan) and sacrificed herself at the pyre of her lover Manik who was a flautist. It was the first Khasi film to get entry into the Indian Panorama. Meghalaya’s experience with insurgency and ethnic divide are examined in Ri: Homeland of Uncertainty (2013), a proud entry at the Indian Panorama and a Rajat Kamal winner for best regional film in the Khasi language. Its director Pradip Kurbah has explored realistically the conflicts between militancy and government forces, between corrupt practices inside the establishment and dreams of young people.

In Mizoram, a digital feature made with a paltry sum of Rs. 11 lakhs was termed as the state’s first big budget film. Titled Khawnlung Run (The Plunder of Khawnlung, 2012) and produced-directed-shot-edited by Mapuia Chawngthu, the film is hailed as the first to be made in the Dulian dialect, the lingua franca of the Mizos. It is set against the backdrop of the 1856 raid of Khawnlung village by rival chieftains, an incident that marked the bloodiest attack in the entire history of the Mizos.

In Tripura, cinema plays an important role in raising issues of concern for the region. Yarwng (Roots, 2008), made in Tripura’s tribal language Kokborok, opened the Indian Panorama’s feature film section at the IFFI, won the first national award for the state and special jury mention at the Third Eye Asian Film Festival of Mumbai. Directed by Joseph Pulinthanath, the film tells the story of large-scale displacement of tribal people that took place in Tripura when a hydroelectric power project was set up in the late 1970s.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the first ever film made in a local dialect of the state is Sonam (The Fortunate One, 2006) directed by Ahsan Muzid. It was shot at high altitude Himalayan foothills depicting life of the Brokpas, the Yak shepherds, and their custom of polyandry using the Monpa dialect. Another film in native Sherdukpen dialect was made by Sange Dorjee, an alumnus of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute of Kolkata. Titled as Crossing Bridges (2012), it tells the story of yearning for the roots told through the experience of a Mumbai-returned youth in his remote village.

Sherdukpen tribe has a population of only 4,200 in Arunachal Pradesh and they live in the mountainous West Kameng district. On the other hand, Monpas have a numerical strength of 50,000 in the state, but they are concentrated in Tawang and West Kameng areas only. So it is highly unlikely that a film made in local dialects can enjoy satisfactory viewership in those areas. Among all the north-eastern states, Nagaland and Sikkim too had joined the bandwagon of filmmakers attracting media attention and generating film festival interests in last five or six years only. Interestingly, their films are minimalist in nature, mostly shot with DSLR camera, paltry sum of money and expertise.

What is new wave

The blanket term NEW WAVE was first coined in the late 1950s by a few learned film critics and film theorists in France. In French it was called Nouvelle Vague – that literally means New Wave.

Here is example I

  • The French New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of the literary period pieces being made in France and written by novelists, by their spirit of youthful iconoclasm – the practice of challenging the stereotype and cliché-ridden styles, their desire to shoot more current social issues on location, their intention of experimenting with the film form, their work with the social and political upheavals of the era, making their radical experiments with editing, visual style and narrative, Thereby they parted ways with the conservative paradigm.
  • The beginning of the New Wave was to some extent an exercise by the Cahiers du Cinemawriters in applying the philosophy (expression) of the director’s personal vision in both the film’s style and script by directing movies themselves. Some of the most prominent pioneers were Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette: all of them were critics for the journal Cahiers du Cinéma. Its co-founder and theorist Andre Bazin was a prominent source of influence for the movement. François Truffaut in his manifesto-like article “Une Certaine tendance du cinéma français” (“A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema”, published in Cahiers du Cinema in 1954) propagated this style.
  • Many of the French New Wave films were produced on tight budgets; often shot in a friend’s apartment or yard, using the director’s friends as the cast and crew. Directors were also forced to improvise with equipment (for example, using a shopping cart for tracking shots.) The cost of film was also a major concern; thus, efforts to save negative film turned into stylistic innovations – for example, in Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard decided to remove several scenes using jump cuts, as they were filmed in one long take. Parts that did not work or too long were simply cut from the middle of the take, a practical decision and also a purposeful stylistic one.

Example II

  • A major character of the Romanian New Wave is having recourse to the most recent past. Other new waves, particularly the French New Wave, had reveled in the present. But all the best Romanian films are set in the recent past. 16 years after the death of the Communist dictator Nikolai Ceausescu, who had controlled the arts with an iron fist, the young Romanian directors, mostly in their thirties, breathed fresh air and were able to break with the epoch before 1989 when censorship forced filmmakers to use all sorts of metaphors to get by. Several of the new wave films can be taken as metaphors of Romanian society. They are, at the same time, almost documentary-like observations of the society – disturbing works of intense realism, with an underlining vein of black humour.
  • Cristi Puiu’s 2005 film The Death of Mr Lazarescu launched the “Romanian new wave”. At first nobody seemed to acknowledge its rare virtues: critics were walking out in droves of the first screenings in Cannes. But when it won a prestigious award at Cannes and dozens of other awards, all the sluggish critics started to wake up to its qualities. Some other Romanian films that mark the New Wave are Catalin Mitulescu’s The Way I Spent The End of The World, Corneliu Porumboiu’s 08 East of Bucharest, Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days etc.

Example III

  • Iranian New Wavewas started in 1964 as a reaction to the popular cinema at the time that did not reflect the norms of life for Iranians or the artistic taste of the society. The first wave of bold, off-beat films lasted till the beginning of the Iranian Revolution when the New Wave became well established as a prominent cultural, dynamic and intellectual trend. The films produced were original, artistic and political with highly philosophical tones and poetic language.
  • After the Revolution brought certain social changes, Iranian cinema had its second New Wave and it is still going strong. Iranian films have a distinctively Iranian cinematic language that champions the poetry in everyday life and the ordinary person by blurring the boundaries between fictionand reality, and between feature film and documentary. Features of New Wave Iranian film, in particular the works of legendary Abbas Kiarostami, have been classified by some as post-modern. Due to and in response to regulations on adult material within films, the new Iranian films use “child” as a trope and as actors. The films also lack “male gaze”, often equipped with subtle feminism. They focus on rural, downtrodden, and lower-class in both urban and rural settings.

 

Example IV

  • A slow and steady counter-culture of serious, thought-provoking, realistic film sense was taking root in the 1970s of India. Neo-realist in varying degrees, it gave rise to a parallel cinema movement which showed a side of Indian society often ignored or cleverly distorted by the mainstream filmmakers. It gave voice to the voiceless, talked of the angst and the aspirations of the downtrodden, the minorities, women, so-called lower caste people, all those identified as the exploited lot. The popular tastes did not subscribe the stark realities shown in these films, the reason behind these films getting little space for screening at public places.
  • But after the market economy forced adoption of policies of globalisation and liberalization, American hegemony spilled over the economic containment and started to act fast in art and culture as well. But Hollywood’s newly gained mileage is vehemently thwarted by the Indian mainstream. Cinema in India got recognition as an industry in 1998 with growing role of the corporate which is less concerned about serious cinema or New Wave films. The “parallel cinema” which was in full bloom between two decades of early 1970s and early 1990s, gradually faded away with decreasing signs in welfare role of the state, the coming up of multiplexes and rise of the happy-go-lucky new affluent consumer class.
  • However new brigade of young filmmakers have remained relentless in exploring a persuasive style of storytelling with strong, convincing, realistic narratives. The best example is epitomised in present day Marathi cinema. But its recent success story is greatly indebted to an ambitious and futuristic State Film Policy. The cultural department of Maharashtra government had adopted a policy of offering subsidy of Rs. 40 lakhs to “A” category and Rs. 30 lakhs to “B” category films after a strict selection procedure is followed. As a result the quality went up in recent years with Marathi films regularly shinning at national level and winning laurels at international competitions.
  • Academics and critics would trace the beginning of this new-wave to Shwaas (The Breath) made in 2004 and directed by debutant Sandeep Sawant. Shot with an extremely low budget, it won the national award for best film nearly 50 years since a Marathi film earned this title. Paresh Mokashi’s directorial debut Harishchandra Factory (2009), about making of Dadasaheb Phalke’s historic first Indian film was selected as India’s official entry to Academy Award. The film won the national award for best film and had an excellent run in home market and film festivals. The Oscar-bound race by Marathi cinema seems unrelenting, with the latest Indian entry made by Newton (2017), a Amit V. Masurkar directed dark comedy set against a Naxalite-controlled, restive tribal area. Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2014), Neeraj Ghaywan’s Massan (Crematorium, 2015), Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry (Pig, 2013) and Sairat (Wild, 2016) among others have set a new bench-mark for new Indian cinema.

 

New wave in the northeast

While it is easily discernible why Marathi cinema of late has produced so much of young talents, owing to an active support of the Govt. of Maharashtra, it is a different story in the Northeast. “Category A” and “Category B” driven creativity has been paying rich dividend for Marathi filmmakers. But in the Northeast, whatever the young filmmakers achieved were completely out of their own individual efforts. A consistent onlooker may get tempted to hail their efforts as a kind of unleashing a silent revolution.

Most notable among them is Haobam Paban Kumar who is a prolific documentary filmmaker: his AFSPA, 1958 (2006) about the aftermath of army atrocities in Manipur was a milestone in political documentary from the region which earned enormous international attention. His debut feature Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, 2016) became one of the most outstanding Indian films winning major awards at leading film festivals in the country, besides being selected for competition and screening at high ranking festivals across the globe. The film mixes facts and fables and dwells on the plight of the fishermen community of Loktak Lake in Manipur, the floating biomass of the lake providing them living space. But as many of them are evicted in the name of protecting the ecosystem, the fisherfolks lead by their women fight for their rights.

Onaatah of the Earth (2015) fetched its director Pradip Kurbah his second Rajat Kamal for the best Khasi film at the national film awards. It relates the story of an urban rape victim named Onaatah whose ordeal does not end well after the rapists were convicted. The storyline dwells more on fight back through social healing rather than social taboos and ostracism, giving a strong statement regarding the “curse” of being a female in contemporary Indian society. Shrugging aside the lure of melodrama, and relying on excellent simplicity are the hallmarks of the film.

At Mumbai’s Jio MAMI film festival 2016, Haobam’s film received the India Gold award for best film while the Jury Grand Prize was won by a film from Assam. It was Jaicheng Jai Dohutia’s debut film Haanduk (The Hidden Corner, 2016), which examines the effects of insurgency and unrest on the lives of innocent people. ‘Haanduk’ is a word derived from the indigenous Moran language and its literal meaning is “very remote interior place” that gives the natural setting of the visual treat. The film is authentic by its hardcore treatment stuffed with casting of non-actors and meaningful colour scheme in rich cinematic idioms.

Another debut feature, Deep Chowdhury’s Alifa (2016), which won him the national award of the best first film of the year (Swarna Kamal), is a bold study of people who exist on the urban fringe and survives on daily wages. With a reassuring sub-altern narrative, the film is set on a hilly forest area overlooking the sprawling city of Guwahati. With a sharp focus on people living in the margins of society, this skillful human drama gives encroachment of nature and habitat in one side, morality and truthfulness on the other, as the leit-motif.

Mumbai based Rima Das caught everyone’s attention with her first film Antardrishti (Man with the Binoculars, 2016). With patriarchy and womanhood as its backbone and rural Assam as the backdrop, it is a poignant tale of a widowed and retired school teacher discovering new meaning in life after some exhilarating experiences he gathered by looking through a pair of binoculars. The young director handled almost all the important parts – from self-financing the project to writing the script, even appearing among the lead casts to marketing her film.

With the additional burden and thrills of shooting and editing, she went on to prove making of a film a virtually one-woman-army’s job in her second Assamese feature titled Village Rockstars (2017) which clinched many awards at different competitions in India and abroad including the prestigious India Gold at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2017, the Best Indian Film of the year 2017 by the Film Critics Circle of India (FCCI), Swarna Kamal for the best film award at the National Film Awards of 2017, besides being selected as India’s official entry for the Oscar race. Village Rockstars tells the story of indomitable spirit of a mother-daughter duo amidst all odds unfolding in a flood-prone rural setting meaningfully captured in its entirety. Mixed in feminine strength and resoluteness, it gives a realistically woven story ordained in local dialect and sensitively portrayed locale in unmistaken details whose parallels can be found only in true auteur scripts.

There are other films coming up. For instance, Ma.Ama by Dominic Sangma, Bornodi Bhotiyai by Anupam Kaushik Bora, Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das – all made in the year 2018 and all were selected by the prestigious Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. An alumnus of SRFTI, Dominic’s debut feature is the first Garo language film and first film from Meghalaya to represent India at the highly competitive Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival last year. It is almost an autobiographical film where the father-son duo’s roles were enacted by the real life father and son Philip and Dominic Sangma, the director himself. There is certain inner-light in the narrative, a philosophical depth which is rare by its appearance.

Bornodi Bhotiyai is made by an alumnus of the National School of Drama Anupam Kaushik Bora and the treatment he opted for is sharply in the line of ‘Black Comedy’ with the river island Majuli providing not only the backdrop but also the focal point. This film was completed with crowd funding, and crowd support, as more than one hundred actors and non-actors inspired by the theatre group “Bhaoria – The T-positives” led by Anupam played their part. Rima’s new film Bulbul Can Sing again picked up the best film Golden Gate Award at the Jio MAMI festival – a rare back to back achievement by an Indian filmmaker. Premiered at Toronto Film Festival, the film is already selected by the highly competitive Berlin Film Festival.

 

Consistency would be the key

These gems of films by young directors naturally give rise to great expectations. Renowned critic Aruna Vasudev has written in unequivocal term that yet another era is dawning in Indian cinema. When Amol Palekar, the veteran actor of Hindi and Marathi film industry, came to Assam just a few months back to judge at the Assam State Film Awards – as he was chosen as the Chairman of the jury and I was privileged to be a co-juror – he was taken aback by the creativity and boldness shown by the new generation of filmmakers in the state, so much so that he publicly announced that he could foresee a new era of cinema beginning in India with Assamese filmmakers at the forefront.

But this acclamation is not a sufficient reason for why the resurgence of filmmaking in Assam or North-east India should merit a superlative like New Wave. Some would say that instead of New Wave, we should call it a sort of Renaissance. However Renaissance is a holistic term describing all-pervading reform and resilience in a society; on the other hand, a new wave can be narrowed down to a single field of activity, of creativity, or of a discourse. Considering the reality of filmmaking scenario, the hostile atmosphere where the filmmaker has to find his space, with no government patronage, with no public support system, it is really a wonderful journey made by the young brigade of the region to force their expression, to assert their rights of delivering on social issues, their resolve to experiment with semiotics of unique regional characters. If their efforts sustain over time, if they remain consistent, without finding an excuse to change their course of distinct narrative, it may well be termed a New Wave of filmmaking, nothing less than this.

There are many other young filmmakers creating sensations and ripples – at least twenty of them can be named. Whether they are able to take their creative urge to the next level would only be judged if only they remain consistent. In the early stages of serious films in Assam we saw debutants changed course of their directions – when their first auteur were not received well by the general filmgoers – for instance Mridul Gupta and Bidyut Ckaraborty, both of whom made compromises after their bold first films (titled Sutrapaat and Raag Birag) in late 1980s and 1990s respectively, by going for a middle-of-the-road entertainer. But, what is satisfying at the present stage of development is that the youngest debut filmmakers are trying to stick to their serious roots and explorations with the film medium. We have already seen Haobam Paban Kumar, Pradip Kurbah, Sange Dorjee, Rima Das, Jaicheng Joy Dohutia, Bhaskar Hazarika, Suraj Duara, Monjul Barua, Reema Bora, and others keeping the courage to retain the film language of their original effort in their second and third ventures, many of which are under production.

But whether their efforts really result in a New Wave would be judged only after a few years, if they get successful and remain consistent. I would say that the indications are convincing and positive, in spite of all the prevailing odds. Among them a handful will form the nucleus of this wave, to quote a term from Jean-Luc Godard. With this positive note I fold up my deliberation today.

 

[This is an edited version of a paper presented on 4th January, 2019, in a two-day National Seminar titled “Contemporary Visual Culture, Practice & Possibilities of North East India” held at Cotton University and organised by Lalit Kala Akademi, Regional Centre, Kolkata, and Pragjyotish Centre for Cultural Research, Guwahati, in association with the Department of Archaeology, Cotton University, Guwahati.]

Manoj Barpurjari

Manoj Barpujari is a National-Award-winning film critic. He writes for Frontline, The Assam Tribune, The Eastern Chronicle, and various Assamese publications. And has served on the jury of the All Lights India International Film Festival (ALIIFF), the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), the Kolkatta International Film Festival (KIFF); the film festivals of Almaty, Busan, Prag, Dhaka, Siliguri, and Guwahati; the Assam State Film Awards; and the National Film Awards.

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