Homegrown Talent: Local Films Shine at International Film Festival

Local filmmaking is an art that is unhindered, reports Yoshwameki Ropmay as he attends the five-day International Film Festival at U So So Tham.

By Yoshwameki Ropmay

Local movies are a great way to understand the local society through the perspective of the directors who shoot them. It is with utmost responsibility that they portray the impression of the tradition and culture that remains true and valid to the social order. Sagar Pandey and Febbard P Lyngdoh take us into their world of a thriller-comedy through their short-film ‘Ing 156’. ‘Ka Daw’ remains a classic thriller by Kiki Garod as he captures the perennial problems that plague our society and the conversations that need to follow. Every scene in these movies grip the audience in awe and wonderment. The dialogues were well written while the direction and acting will make one sit and appreciate the craft and sheer talent that shines through the script and the ultimate product. The movies were screened at the Meghalaya International Film Festival (MeghIFF) and were met with delightful cheers and appreciation from the crowd who came in support of the films.

MeghIFF, a first of its kind in the state, is an initiative of the Meghalaya Filmmakers Association in collaboration with Meghalaya Tourism and the Government of Meghalaya. The festival screened over 65 films and documentaries over a span of five days from March 14 to 18, across four venues inside the U So So Tham premises. The gala was graced by the presence of several renowned personalities in the film industry like Moon Moon Sen, Adil Hussain, Sanjay Suri as part of an illustrious line-up of guests who shared their valuable insights at several interactive sessions over the course of their stay. A workshop on scriptwriting was also held by filmmaker, Borun Thokchom, wherein he guided several budding filmmakers to hone the art related to their craft. “The aim of the festival was to bring forth the talent in Meghalaya by synergising it through the local movies to let them earn a global platform,” said Somjit Dutta, an organiser of the event. “What was required was to create a good infrastructure and a good ecosystem.”, Dutta adds. The objective of the festival aimed to create a consciousness depicted through the films and documentaries not only among the youth but to an audience outside the state and beyond.

Ing 156 explicitly honours that objective. The movie revolves around three characters – Ban, a writer who makes ends meet by doing menial jobs, Kyrshan, an aspiring actor who cons people into lending him money, and Aibor, the meat thief who has been devoid of love, all his life. All the three characters personify the different facets of society in a meaningful portrayal through the notions of love, friendship and the innate value of what it means to be a ‘good person’. Ban leads a henpecked life with his wife. He works hard and is an honest person but is not able to provide for his wife, financially. Further, the loss of a child drives a wedge in their marriage and yet he tries hard to satisfy her by doing the best he can and providing for her in the best way he knows. Kyrshan is an aspiring actor and earns money playing the role of a blind man when in reality he is blinded by the riches and fame of Bollywood and fails to initially comprehend having to care and provide for his daughter, who lives in the village. It is ironic that she is kidnapped by a con artist which really delves into the vestiges of how life has strange karmic ways of catching up.  Finally, we have Aibor, who as an orphaned child never quite deciphered the true meaning of love and being loved and therefore when he invites the girl he likes to dinner, he takes up the mantle of ‘meat thief’ to procure the kind of meal she desires. In his own twisted way, this was his interpretation of what love was.

Ka Daw is another local movie that beautifully portrays the side of the Meghalayan society of premarital pregnancy that is often looked at with distaste and despite the commonality of the problem, the conversation remains a taboo and riddled with unwarranted shame. Ka Daw explores the world of Adella and it is through her distraught lens that we feel an overbearing emotion towards the hardships she faces as a single mother and abandoned daughter. The movie also depicts the treacherous nature of premarital pregnancy and the consequences that women have to bear. The story unfolds as Adella, after falling in love with Sam, abandons her, leaving her impregnated to fend for herself. Her parents too turn their backs on her because in their eyes, she has brought ‘shame’ to the family. There is a perpetual sadness that is evoked for ten-year-old Pyntgen, Adella’s daughter, as she is thrusted with the responsibility of adulthood, early on when her mother gets sick. The love between a mother and daughter is heart wrenching battling societal expectations of ‘appropriate behaviour’ from women alone. Through the emotive depiction, the film leaves the audience with many questions about the standards and morals that are gendered.

“We made the film as part of our final year project,” said Dawankyrkhu Kharkongor, who portrays the character of a meat thief in the film ‘Ing 156’. “We had a very limited budget and thus the equipment and locations were shot by borrowing and requesting from people whom we knew” he says. Filmmaking is a tedious process but with the right desire and passion, the challenges that one faces will prove to be a speck in comparison to what they learn by the end of it. Kenny Lyngdoh, a director, in conversation says, “Today’s youth are more focused on the equipment rather than the craft itself. They think that having a good camera is important but what they don’t realise is the work that needs to be put into scriptwriting, ideation and other related avenues.”

While the culture of filmmaking will surely grow, the initiative by MeghIFF is a starting point that has surely ensured the tools and inspiration for young filmmakers in the state to take their foot out of the door and explore their creative talent. It is in hope that the local films showcased at the festival will provide many with the needed stimulus and encouragement to produce more films for the audiences to enjoy and in-turn, like the motto of the festival, ‘put Meghalaya on the International map.’

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