A region unexplored unlike any other — the Northeast has a vibrant culture and an impressive range of art that represents it. And that art and culture is influenced by the bevy of incidents that it has endured over the years, from armed conflicts to natural disasters and the continuous battle it wages against entrenched prejudices.
Now, Northeast India has come back into focus with the release of Anubhav Sinha’s film Anek, which takes a long hard look at insurgency in the region. But here are seven films from the region that speak for themselves and give voice to the unique character of the region.
Loktak Lairembee (2016)
The 2016 film Loktak Lairembee, directed by Haobam Paban Kumar, is based on the controversial Loktak lake Phumdi — a floating biomass clearance operation that was undertaken by the Manipur Government in 2011. This resulted in the displacement of several indigenous fisher-folk whose lives depend solely on fishing activities in the lake. It narrates the story of the fisherman Tomba, who is also displaced as a result of the government enterprise. The film follows how he discovers a gun by accident and how the incident changes him.
What is significant about Loktak Lairembee is the lens used to look at the relationship between the State and the indigenous population, especially when development is used as the reason for displacement.
Village Rockstar (2017)
A one-woman enterprise, Lima Das’ Village Rockstar is a marvel and tribute to the ‘lahe lahe’ or slow way of life in Assam, especially its villages. The film is rooted in the daily rhythms of Das’ native village of Chhaygaon. The protagonist is 10-year-old Dhunu who dreams of playing the guitar when older, even as she negotiates life and school in the flood-ravaged village.
The film is a rare gem in its portrayal of the devastation caused by floods every year in Assam and how people still dare to dream in the midst of the annual calamity.
Nana: A Tale of Us (2017)
Nana: A Tale of Us is an award-winning Naga film by Tiakumzuk, which is also the first-ever film from Nagaland to make it to an International Film Festival. Made on a budget of Rs 25 lakh, it centres around politics, family and friendship. Through the story of Nana and her family, the film highlights the need for fair elections in the state.
Scratches on Stone (2017)
A documentary by Amit Mahanti, Scratches on Stone looks at how the state of Nagaland was formed. The title refers to scratches made on the stones of the Longkhum village by early Nagas with their spears. Considered protective totems by locals, the scratches stand testimony to the resilience and the long history of resistance endured by the Nagas.
The documentary takes a look at the history of Nagaland’s struggle against the Indian state and uses a mix of Nagamese and English.
A 95-minute feature film from Tripura, Yarwng revolves around the large-scale displacement that took place in the state in the 1970s when the then newly-built Dumbur dam submerged huge areas of land in the fertile Raima valley.
The film by director Joseph Pullinthananth narrates a tale of romance between Karmati and Wakhiri who get separated on the eve of their marriage when the dam submerges the entire village.
While taking a look at the natural calamity that wreaked havoc in the state, Yarwng also attempts to document the Kokborok language, one of the ancient languages of Northeast.
Orunasol Man (2018)
Drug smuggling, as well as consumption among the youth, remains a pertinent issue in various parts of Northeast India. In the superhero movie Orunasol Man, writer and director Nyago Ete looks at the rise in drug smuggling in Arunachal Pradesh. The Hindi language film stars local actor Solomon Sangchoju.
The film is a unique take on the local problems of the state and how humanity over super-humanity can solve them.
Aamis: The Ravening (2019)
Aamis by Bhaskar Hazarika is an Assamese film that looks at the meat-eating practices of the region. It fuses the appetite for meat with sexual appetite, through the story of two lovers who are drawn to each other but do not cross the ‘forbidden’ line of sex.
The title itself means non-vegetarian and seeks to discover the limits, if any, of both food and love. Nirmali and Sumon embark on a gastronomic journey to find that out.
Even as food habits of the Northeast either horrify, disgust or fascinate the rest of India, the movie turns the gaze inwards, and looks at the primal nature of both hunger and love.