Taboola script Diabled on 7th April on request Adpushup head code Diabled on 7th April on request

From listening to oral storytellers to 100 screens in France, Garo filmmaker Dominic Sangma's 100-foot journey

24 May, 2024 11:20 IST|Sakshi Post

New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) As a child, he would sit during chilly winter nights in Meghalaya with a bonfire in attendance and listen to oral storytellers who would mostly forget when dawn decided to yawn and make its presence felt.

They just needed to be given rolled-up tobacco, and some local alcohol to invoke tales of the jungles coming to life, its mysterious creatures, and spirits breaking into a trance. Filmmaker Dominic Sangha was not even 10 years old at that time. But he was convinced that stories would drive his life.

Cut to the present: Even as his Garo language film ‘Rapture’ is being screened at more than 100 cinema halls in France and garnering international acclaim, he almost whispers, “But it is still about storytelling during those misty nights, no?” says Sangmawhose father and grand-father were also oral storytellers.

Smiling that he is still in shock considering none of the distributors picked up ‘Rapture’ even after it won the Cultural Diversity Award at the 16th Asia Pacific Screen Awards and premiered at the prestigious Locarno Film Festival last year, he recalls, “We were so disappointed and convinced that all our efforts had gone waste,’ this pass-out from Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTII), Kolkata, tells IANS.

‘Rapture’, with a certain rhythm ‘guides’ the audiences into the soul of Meghalaya's Garo Hills, exploring the intricate interplay between gullibility and tolerance within a rural village. Part of a trilogy based on his memories in his village, which he remembers vividly, the film is the second part of his trilogy after ‘Ma. Ama’ made five years ago.

While 'Ma. Ama' was based on his family, 'Rapture' dwells on the memories of the people and the village where fiction also finds some space.

He admits that growing up in the village, some fears have not divorced him. “In that part of the country, there have been so many misunderstandings owing to the language barriers -- fear of strangers, child kidnappers etc. Well, the Church would preach -- 'there would be darkness for 40 days and 40 nights', etc. As a child, you may not completely understand many things going around you, but somewhere they did leave a scar, manufactured space for fear -- and I managed to deal with them through my art,” he says.

The break for ‘Rapture’ came when it was screened at the ‘The Three Continents Festival in Nantes in France.

“And we received an invitation from the prestigious ’Capricci’, a French independent arthouse company of film production, distribution and sales. They represent high-end films from all around the world. Frankly, we had not even approached them during Locarno. The moment the mail came, I realised the film had finally found its destiny now, its journey.”

Smiling that it is almost next to impossible for a film from the North East to get a theatrical release in India, he is pleased that it has been received well at over 50 festivals in India and abroad.

“The response from Indian critics has been overwhelming. ‘Rapture’ is now in the Indian top 10 of the International Film Critics Awards (FIPRESCI Prize).”

Looking forward to releasing it in Meghalaya first, the director, who after first seeing moving images on a television wrote ‘director’ on the back of his school chair, says that while the first part of the trilogy ‘Ma. Ama’ was about his family and what happened to it, ‘Rapture’ captures memories from his village and fear; and the third untitled one is about ‘beauty’.

When Sangma was making these films, he lived in Shillong and elsewhere, not his village, thus imparting himself a unique insider-outsider perspective.

“This helped me -- in fact, it is a theme I explore with my craft. You are born into rituals and traditions of the village, and when outside those atmospherics, you discern and distinguish yourself from that space and the way people there think.”

There was a time when he thought of moving to Mumbai, but decided against it. When he enrolled at SRFTII, he was bombarded with the work of masters, and a certain un-learning of the usual Mumbai cinema metaphors commenced.

“The great masters we were exposed to could summon beauty from such simple things of life, they could so effortlessly make us see life afresh. Realising that, I was convinced that I had to go back to my village and make a film that belongs to that land, those people, and make them relatable to the world,” he asserts.

For someone who made the first professional film in the Garo language ‘Echoes’, it is not surprising that some fantastic cinema made on a show-string budget is emerging from the North-East.

Directors like Rima Das, Pradip Kurbah, Bhaskar Hazarika and Haobam Paban Kumar are making extremely ‘rooted’ cinema which nevertheless finds resonance across the world.

“We are telling stories exclusive to our lands -- you cannot just take the template and set it somewhere else. Thus, people get to see something very original, an experience they have not known before.”

Now, Sangma is married and has made a house in his native village. Perhaps on a cold winter night, a lost oral storyteller will sit by the bonfire and tell enigmatic tales all night. Perhaps, that is one of the reasons Sangma wants to live there again...

Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by the Sakshi Post team and is auto-generated from syndicated feed.

whatsapp channel
Read More:
More News