| Irom Sharmila: Iconic status
Guwahati, April 5: Manipur has always revered its womenfolk as the epitome of courage and sacrifice. A New Delhi-based filmmaker has now come up with a short film that looks at these stories from the perspective of an admiring 'outsider'.
Kavita Joshi, also a women's rights activist, brings to light the struggles of Manipuris through extraordinary stories of its never-say-die women population in Tales from the Margins. It is for the first time that a filmmaker who is not a native of the land has attempted to deal with critical socio-political issues of Manipur in camera.
'Manipur, a conflict-ravaged corner of the northeastern region, has witnessed insurgency and armed separatist movements for decades. The Indian government has attempted to crush these through force, using its military power. Arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings, Manipuri people have faced them all. Yet, little is heard about Manipur and its troubles. This is a place that mainland India has marginalised, the world has forgotten. The film brings all these to the forefront,' Joshi told The Telegraph.
The images are stark ' 12 women stripping naked in public as a mark of protest against army excesses and a mother's lament over the extra-judicial killing of her teenaged son. Then there is Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast-unto-death for five years.
'The film travelled to this far-flung, violence-torn corner of India to seek out stories of uncommon courage in the face of despair, to give a voice to the anger and anguish of Manipuri women and to document their extraordinary protests,' Joshi said.
The filmmaker and rights activist had been to Manipur for two of her earlier films, too.
'I have a long and close relationship with Manipur and its people. But this is for the first time that I have used a wide canvas to highlight the real issues plaguing the people and the state,' the alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune said.
'Nowhere have I made any kind of comment on several issues facing the state. The film only shows what has happened to the state and raises questions that need to be answered,' she added.
Ready for release, Joshi is planning to carry the film to different parts of the country.
One of her previous two films on Manipur is Some Roots Grow Upwards, a documentary on theatre icon Ratan Thiyam and his exploration of the feelings of oppression and injustice that pervades the psyche of the Manipuri people through his art.
The film was screened at the Vikalp Films for Freedom in Mumbai (2004), Karafest (2004) in Karachi, the Hungarian Film Festival, Amsterdam (2005), Lausanne, New York, Oslo, Calcutta and New Delhi.
Her other film on Manipur, Narratives, is a trilogy of five minutes each and deals with the state, its people and customs.
Joshi, who works independently, has a body of work spanning diverse subjects ' conflict, the arts, people, environment and gender issues.