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Indians under spotlight- Crew of Yarwng

'Yarwng' or Roots is the story of suffering and sacrifice of that which is of lesser importance for greater good. Viewers are taken to the North-Eastern state of Tripura where creation of a dam for producing electricity must mean displacement of villagers bordering the rivers on which the project will be built. The suddenness of situation does not let villagers even soak in the ramifications this will have on their way of life, they must pack and leave towards an uncertain future, leaving behind that which is not essential, material and relationships including. This tears apart the lovers Karmati and Wakhiri on the eve of their marriage to pursue their separate ways. Will a future meeting heal the scars left by events beyond one's control ?

 

Meena Debbarma in Yarwng

Meena Debbarma in 'Yarwng'

'Yarwng'* comes from the heart and that makes the back-drop and preparations of the film as important as the on-the-screen-film. A 60 strong crew from different cultural backgrounds speaking Reang, Kokborok, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam and English struggled with a naturally hostile environment to film making in locations (such as the village Isoraipara situated on a hill and 15 km from the nearest habitation) where heavy duty movie making equipments were to be transported from the city of Guwahati in Assam, a journey of 21 hours spread over 600 kms, sometimes escorted by security forces. Most of the crew, apart from the principal cast, were villagers who had undergone the displacement experience in their own lives thereby giving the story a surreal feel. Practical aspects such as accommodation, food, drinking, sanitation, transportation and medical aid etc. meant an experience for the crew which is humbling in itself, apart from the sensitive story they undertook to tell. Over to some key persons behind the 'Yarwng' project.

 

Joseph Pulinthanath SDB, Director, Yarwng

Looking Back at ‘Yarwng’

I have often wondered if there’s something I can call ‘the best thing about Yarwng? Beyond awards, accolades and media bytes! We think of our pre-shoot pilgrimage through those jhum- scarred hills of interior Tripura, ‘enfleshing’ our story. We shudder at the crazy shoot that kept 60 odd people – a veritable collection from all parts of the country going, despite being holed up for 31 days, on bare essentials of life. We recall remote-controlling from Agartala the trans-pacific passage of 3 cans of celluloid ‘Yarwng’ from New York to Brisbane. And I remember, sitting alongside full-blooded Australians and going mist-eyed, seeing them go agog over Jadu Kolija in Queensland’s ‘Regent Theatre’.

But deep inside I know, there must yet be something better. Perhaps, the best thing about ‘Yarwng’ is simply a ‘hunger’ that refuses to go away. When awards cease, and accolades stop, there still remains a hunger – the hunger of a million people for life’s freest gifts: dignity, freedom and voice. And the irrepressible ‘hope’ that despite the freckles and foibles of history, ‘all shall be well; all manner of things, shall be well’. It’s hunger and hope.

That’s why there is a heave in the lungs of you and me when Karmati sails out of the last frame without telling us where she is headed.

 

Joseph Pulinthanath SDB

Sazive Pazhoor, Associate Director, Yarwng

Sajeev


“I felt very happy to be part of this film project. It was my first work in India’s Northeast, about which I had heard so much. Besides, the film had a very strong subject – one that has national and international relevance.

As the Associate Director of ‘Yarwng’, there was much work that required me to get into the minutest details of the film. It was an extremely enjoyable experience. The people were so good and welcoming. I could sense that they emotionally identified with the film and its subject. Lack of experience in filmmaking was quite evident among most of the actors but their co-operation and motivation more than made up for it.

Conditions in which we filmed remain unforgettable even today. The terrain, the travel and other tough situations continually challenged our notions about filmmaking.

There is also something beckoning about Northeast. Its hills, valleys, rivers, the greenery and of course, the people make you want to return time and again. We came across villages where time seemed to have stood still for decades, if not centuries.”

 

Amulya Ratan Jamatia, Actor, Yarwng

“When the Gumti project was initiated, we fought against it because it displaced thousands of our brothers and sisters. In fact, we spent our boyhood days fighting against the insensitive ravaging of the Raima valley. It continues to be a cause of regret for all of us that nothing much came of all that andolan (resistance).

When I was invited to be part of this project as an actor, I felt it was my duty to accept. I did it in the hope that the film will offer yet another chance to tell a story we were beginning to forget - the story of thousands of sons and daughters of this soil who have been made homeless and landless in our state.

I am glad that the film has attracted attention from all parts of the world. Yarwng has played the role of an ambassador for the Kokborok language and its speakers. I am happy that I could put my talents at the service of my people and society.”

 

Meena Debarma, Lead Actor, Yarwng

“ 'Yarwng’ project, made me take on multiple roles. I was happy to be involved in the project right from the planning stage. Our pre-production preparations consisted in much travel and one-to-one meetings with families and individuals. It was a touching experience to listen to their stories. There was a common theme running through in all stories: one of loss – of land, property and dignity.

Gradually, I found myself becoming more hungry and passionate. The making of the film took on a different meaning for me. It was not film making any more; but a passionate protest on behalf of my people that had lost their voice, their future and their dreams.”

 

Yarwng- film by Joseph Pulinthanath

This endeavour is meant to take one on a journey to tribal India, far from the gloss of Bollywood style portrayal of contemporary India to ask questions about the stakes of development, and the sacrifices some people are forced to make in the name of progress and future generations. Even though fictionalized, the story is inspired by the submerging of villages Bolongbasa and many others in the otherwise fertile Raima valley as a result of the construction of Dumbur dam under the Gumti Hydel Project in the 70s. Around 8,000-10,000 families were displaced and forced to find other means of livelihood. The arable lands submerged, the displaced villagers were forced to take up jhum cultivation (land reclaimed for agriculture by burning the forests).

'Yarwng' is Joseph Pulinthanath's second film in Kokborok language after `Mathia’. Apart from the director, other crew from Kerala includes cameraman Kannan, sound recordist Krishna Kumar, associate cameraman Shaji Pattanam, Krishnan Unni for sound mixing, editors Sasi Menon and Mahesh Narayanan, associate director Sajiv Pazhoor and producer Fr K Joseph.

Yarwng received a national award in the category of ‘Best Feature Film in languages other than those specified in the Schedule VIII of the Constitution’ at the 56th National Film Awards in 2008 making it the first feather from Tripura to win a national film award. Yarwng has been screened at more than 40 international film festival including New York, Stuttgart, Moscow, Brisbane, Dhaka and Taiwan. It was the opening film of the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India 2008, held in Goa.
“Yarwng” also picked up a Special Jury Mention Award at the seventh Third Eye Asian Film Festival held in Mumbai in 2008.

 

More on Yarwng from its website

Yarwng Screening in Paris

Photo courtesy: J. Pulinthanath & Don Bosco Sampari Tripura Pictures