A little more than three decades have passed since Meghalaya started producing films. The first Khasi film, Ka Synjuk Ri ki Laiphew Syiem (The Alliance of 30 Kings), directed by late Hamlet Bareh Ngapkynta, was screened in 1981.
It was followed by Manik Raitong (Manik the Miserable), the celebrated 1984 Khasi film directed by Ardhendu Bhattacharya.
Manik Raitong is also the first Khasi film in colour.
Speaking about the Meghalaya film industry, Prof. Bhubon Lahkar, a faculty on film appreciation at Regional Government Film and Television Institute, Guwahati, says the Meghalaya film industry “is coming up and it shall claim laurels in the national and global scenario.
Lahkar says Dada Saheb Phalke awardee and Assam’s illustrious son, Bhupen Hazarika, had made an Assamese film — Pratidhwani (The Echo) — based on the Khasi folk story of U Manik Raitong.
The film was also shot in Meghalaya.
“Another young film producer, Yogiraj Choudhury, made a very good Assamese film, Shivam, where the locations shot in Meghalaya proved to be the jewels of the film,” he says.
Decades ago, a legend of Indian cinema, Ritwik Ghatak, in his internationally-acclaimed film Meghe Dhaka Tara, shot some scenes in Meghalaya where Khasi monoliths were projected, depicting the sorrowful moments of the film. Lahkar recalls that Khasi folk music was also an element of the epoch-making film.
Recently, Lahkar held a special viewing of one recently completed feature film from Meghalaya, Ri – Homeland of Uncertainty, and the veteran of film appreciation has termed the film a “masterpiece”.
The film, directed by Pradip Kurbah, has received “UA Certificate” from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
However, the multilingual film, in terms of characterisation, will first travel to other parts of the country and world film festivals from January 2014 before it is screened in Meghalaya.
“The film is a masterpiece, and from the beginning till the end, one’s eyes are glued to the screen due to the creativity the director has projected through the film,” Lahkar remarks.
He also says that the director of motion picture photography of the film knows the “film grammar”, and because of this, along with a control over emotions of the film, the director has made the film a realistic one.
“The subject dealt is also unique. Nowadays, we come across a lot of films dealing with insurgency. However, Ri is a different experience. I hope viewers will accept my view,” Lahkar adds.
The veteran says Ri has proved that “Meghalaya has improved in the area of filmmaking”.
“Meghalaya’s Khasi, Jaintia and Garo people have their own culture, customs, traditions and language. Hence, basing on the Khasi-Jaintia folklore, with the eternal scenic beauty of Meghalaya, any mature filmmaker can make films on Meghalaya and in Meghalaya,” he adds.
The budget of the film, which definitely cannot be considered low by Meghalaya filmmaking standards, will surprise people by the creativity that has been brought in, and will be a treat for film lovers by March next year.
Ri is a very human story revolving around varied emotions and the essence of humanity itself.
It is a fictitious depiction of dynamic societal change and its impact on various mindsets.
Touching on film censorship, Lahkar says, “As a student of filmology and a regular cinegoer, I realise that film censorship is a must prior to the public viewing of a cinema. The director of any cinema may have unlimited desires and dreams to exhibit on the screen. But sometimes it may exceed the limit and ethics of the society.”
Social ethics and prevailing law and order limits and guides the censor board’s laws and guidelines, he says.
“While in FTII Pune, we were taught about film censorship, its need and differences between film censorship abroad and that in our country. Our country has its own cultural heritage, social ethics and law and order. Hence, we should always be governed by those instructions and respect the guidelines set by the Central Board of Film Certification,” Lahkar says.
As Central Board of Film Certification is operated with human factors, aesthetic and empirical studies may vary from place to place, but CBFC laws will govern all juries, which is the only authority to certify films nationwide, he adds.
This statement should serve as an eye-opener to mushrooming film certifying agencies and associations mushrooming in Meghalaya.
With his vast experience and knowledge in films, beginning with his association with Gauhati Cine Club in 1970, Lahkar realises that “we have a long way to proceed in the northeastern region in filmmaking and film studies”.