Shadow Assassins: A rare Hindi film showing the real picture of Northeast and other filmmakers

(Sanjukta Sharma)

When Nilanjan Rita Dutta was studying at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, far from Assam where her family then lived, she had Assamese friends who had lost a brother in “gupta hotyas” (secret murders) and some had lost their families. These were gruesome killings; Decomposed bodies were often found floating on the banks of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. There is a story of “secret murder” of many Assamese families. believed to be the result of a militant battle for supremacy between ULFA and surrendered members of ULFA, known as ULFA, on the one hand, and the state police machinery on the other, which Between 2001, there was a terrible terror. It was the darkest, darkest period of systematic violence against the Assamese people since the rise of ULFA insurgency in the early 1980s – during those four years more than 1,100 innocent civilians lost their lives.

National Award winning filmmaker Dutta’s new film Shadow Assassins has been released on 9th December in Cinepolis Theaters in Metro cities and all theaters in Assam. The film is based on the Justice KN Saikia Commission report on these secret killings. In 2018, on a writ petition, the Gauhati High Court declared the formation of the KN Saikia Commission illegal. Speaking from Guwahati ahead of the film’s release, Dutta said, “The attackers still remain a mystery, and this continues to haunt the survivors and their families.”

Shadow Assassin is one of the very few Hindi films on insurgency in the northeastern states, directed and written (along with Rohit Kumar, Raghav Dar and Bhushan Ingole) by someone who has been exposed to the insurgency in Assam since childhood. There is an experience of being affected. Dutta has lived in Nagaon, Tezpur and other districts of Assam. Dutta recalls, “I remember traveling in night buses between Gohpur and Guwahati. There was no such thing as army posts that we used to wait for. It used to be humiliating and painful especially for women. They used to ask women and young girls to get down from the bus and looked them up and down, threatened them, said things like that. It has been on my mind since those days.”

Such a scene begins in Shadow Assassins, when a military officer stops the protagonist Nirbhay Kalita (Anurag Sinha) and his girlfriend Rimli (Mishti Chakraborty) while they are riding a bike on a deserted road in Guwahati at night. The officer shines a torch and points it at Rimli and asks her to run her hands over her torso and thighs and he continues to look at her hands. Nirbhay is a college student in Pune, who has come to his home in Guwahati. His family consists of a brother (Hemant Kher), a doting mother, a pregnant sister-in-law, a sister and a nephew. The family house, a typical one-storey, Assamese gable-roof with spacious verandahs. Cinematographer Gargi Trivedi has shot it primarily in Guwahati, with minimal decorative fuss and with the rigor of a documentary. Dutta works with actors and crew members from both Assam and Mumbai.

As political turmoil in his home state, and the family’s constant reminder of a brother who has left home and may have joined a terrorist group, surround Nirbhay and his family, a series of events unfold that lead to Nirbhay’s death. fundamentally changes the purpose of life. Datta says, although there are some films made on Assam which have been made in Assam itself, which have been seen by the world, but still it is difficult to sell a film made entirely on this part of the country in Mumbai. It was a deliberate decision to make this film in Hindi instead of Assamese and to keep it simple. My thinking is that how this film should reach maximum audience.

In his first feature film, The Head Hunter (2016), set in the beautiful jungles of Nameri National Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, Dutta’s treatment of his film was really tremendous.

Being a film from this region, Shadow Assassins captures the minute details of Assam, be it the characters speaking Assamese Hindi, their environment and dressing habits or the places and food of Guwahati. This in itself is an achievement regarding authenticity. Recently, Anubhav Sinha’s soul-wrenching film Anek saw some startlingly lazy generalizations… reminiscent of Mani Ratnam’s 1998 film Dil Se. Many are based in the Northeast and its long history of complex, violent separatist movements. However, there are some such things in it as well, due to which all its seriousness seemed very mild. In the film, NE is written on the number plate of the vehicles whereas it could have been Manipur or Nagaland or any of the eight states.

There is a bewildering array of cultural groups, faiths, languages ​​and histories in this part of the country, and the disenchantment of various communities and tribes with the Indian Union is equally varied. In most of the stories, all the differences are served together by showing the same kind of violent discontent according to the plot. Both of Dutta’s films, Shadow Assassins are more precise, plot-wise and more sensitive to social and historical specifics. Dutta says I have about 12 scripts to work on, all based on the theme of Northeast.

The release of Shadow Assassins in cities across the country is expected to be a start. Stories in this area need compassionate and immersive storytellers and visual thinkers.

non-violence in the northeast
Films from Assam that have left their mark on subjects other than extremism and violence.

The best cinema in the Northeast is not linked to violence related to politics and militancy there. Two of the biggest names in Assamese cinema are the multi-disciplinary filmmaker Bhabendranath Saikia, whose film Agnisnan (1985) not only won the National Award for Best Assamese Film, but also dealt with the issues of marriage, fidelity and women’s choice in traditional Assamese society. Broke many beliefs and ideas about. Jahnu Baruah, a highly successful director emerging from Assam, whose films deal with themes as diverse as the conflict between man and nature, the family, the idea of ​​the “otherness” and being an outsider, loneliness and extremism.

Bollywood actor and guerrilla filmmaker Kenny Basumatary is as “native” Assamese as he understands. He debuted in 2013 with the campy martial arts comedy Local Kung Fu, which quickly gained a cult following, followed by Local Kung Fu 2 in 2017 and Local Utpat in 2022.

In 2019, Bhaskar Hazarika’s film based on greed of Amish love, which has been shown in film festivals around the world. Her film Amuthi Puthi in the same year was about a rebellious girl who needs money to run away from home and her eccentric grandmother who travels 500 km in search of a mythical fish to leave the world in peace. Is. The two run away from home together one night and are chased by a very upset policeman.

One of the youngest Assamese filmmakers is Maharishi Tuhin Kashyap, a graduate of the Satyajit Ray Film Institute in Kolkata, whose short film Mur Ghorar Duronto Goti (The Horse from Heaven) is an official entry at the Oscars 2023 in the live action short film category. There was an entry. An absurdist tale about the power of human perception and belief, it is about a man named Cuxhole who travels from his village to the city with his horse named Goti. He claims that Goti is the fastest horse in the world. The people around him find it strange that Goti is not a horse, but a donkey. Kashyap twists his plot in such a way that the film forces the audience to believe that Kukshhole is right.

Tags: Bollywood movies, Northeast

Leave a Comment