Cinematography from the East!

Salome Phelamei

Little is known about the cinematography of Northeast India. Nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, the region is referred to as the Scotland of East. It is also called the land of Blue Mountains, Green Valleys and Red River. Flourished with rich natural beauty, spectacular wild life, soul pleasing verdure and its colourful people, the expanse simply gives the perfect scenes for sublime camera work.

Despite the fact that the magical beauty of North East has not only been little explored but little acknowledged by the outside world, people here have progressed amazingly in the field of cinema lately through their own unique methods and styles.

The north-eastern region has a distinct culture and traditions from rest of the country. Of late, it has earned a comprehensive recognition from the cinema world with ‘Yarwng’ and ‘Last of the Tattooed Head Hunters`.

The Kokborok film `Yarwng’ (Roots) from Tripura has bagged the first national award for the state in the category of Best Feature Film at the 56th National Film Awards. The film, which is based on the large-scale displacement of tribal people in Tripura when a hydel-project was set up there in the late 1970s, was also screened in New York, Brisbane, Moscow, Taipei, Stuttgart and Dhaka.

The feature film has also won a Special Jury Mention Award at the third Eye Asian Film festival held in Mumbai in 2008.

However, creating a landmark in the history of movies produced from the Northeast India, `Last of the Tattooed Head Hunters` was the first film to be premiered at the prestigious 63rd Cannes Film Festival in May this year. Directed by Vikeyeno Zao, the film was screened in the Short Film Corner Section Category of the festival.

`Last of the Tattooed Head Hunters`- a 15-minute film is based on the head hunting Konyak Nagas of northern Nagaland. The film has received loud applauses at screenings due to its uniqueness. Introducing a splendid mores and its people to the world, the film opens door for tourists to visit its beautiful land.

Nevertheless, it’s sad to see that our filmmakers are still yet to discover the mysterious finery of this of Northeast as most of the movies are being shot outside. In a contrast, peoples from this region find Bollywood movies and songs so endearing.

For the love of yesteryears` stars and their roles, even the older folks sit together and chitchat on their favourite heroes and heroines like Amitabh Bachchan, Dev Anand, Sridevi, Hema Malini, Rekha, Dhamendra as these icons clutch a special spot in their hearts.

The craze for Hindi films continues to grow even when most do not understand or speak Hindi in some parts of this land. Contemporary Bollywood actors like Kareena, Katrina, Aishwarya, Priyanka, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan are some of the stars that have filled the walls of yuppie youngsters.

Perhaps, with some undergrounds imposing ban on screening of Hindi movies publicly in several parts of Manipur, theatre business have been affected to some extent, but the move does not stop fans from seeing it. Moreover, as a result of this, Korean movies and serials have flooded markets, simultaneously taking a huge leap among the teens.

But, Bollywood still has it takers in Manipur as the DVDs and CDs continue to sneak into homes and parallel markets. Hence, the overflowing of the Korean pictures hasn’t spelt doom for Hindi cinemas. Rather, it has exposed the audiences to some newer sights and sounds.

I would be more than thrilled if our filmmakers lend a thought and start shooting in this dazzling landscape of our country in future. It will not only explore the exquisiteness of this land, but will also cut their budgets sizably as compared to filming on foreign soil. In the past, SRK starrer `Koyla` and Priety Zinta’s `Har Pal` were shot in the region. But the prefecture is yet to find favours from Bollywood, despite its prospective.

Some of the scenic spots which provide an unexplainable prospect where film can be shot are the Cherrapunji waterfalls, Imikhang Dare (a sight with electrifying cascades) and Wards Lake in Meghalaya, the Loktak Lake (the largest fresh water lake of northeast India), War Cemetery, Shirui Hill, Keibul Lamjao National Park (the only floating National park in the world) in Manipur and the Dzukou Valley located on the border of Manipur and Nagaland.

Also, the Lunglei hill station, Tamdil Lake (natural lake with virgin forest around), Vantawng Waterfalls in Mizoram, the Kaziranga national Park and the Majuli (largest river island of the world) in Assam, the Bomdila (at a height of 2530 mts provides a panoramic views of the Himalayan landscapes and snow clad ranges) and Tawang Hills in Arunachal Pradesh are a range of green meadows giving ultimate sites for film shooting.

Thus, the rugged and picturesque terrains of the Northeast region have brilliant sights for filmmaking, besides offering you some beautiful eco-tours with trekking and wild life.