May 22, 2016

New Assamese Film on the 1962 War ‘1962: My Country Land’ Creates Waves

“My heart goes out to the people of Assam..”

Assam was almost given away to China when the then prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru announced these words in his address to the nation on All India Radio (AIR) on November 20, 1962.

There have been a series of violent border conflicts and skirmishes before an unprovoked assault caught the Indians off guard. The country was at the mercy of the marauding Chinese troops rampaging across our land. It was as if the world had come to a stand-still. With no option left, the people of Tezpur began to evacuate the town for fear of life, leaving behind everything they owned. The war continued for about a month and ended on November 21 after China declared a ceasefire.

Since then, there have been quite a few conflicts and skirmishes, and intense military buildups along the border from both sides. What’s more alarming, the Chinese still claim Arunachal their own. The pain and torture that people went through during that bleak, oppressive atmosphere of 1962 are still fresh in memory.

Filmmaker Hiren Bora is making a film based on such a backdrop in his new film ‘Sima - 1962 an untold story’. The Rajat Kamal winning director of 2010’s ‘Basundhara’ is hoping to tackle some important facets of that turbulent period in this ambitious project which is budgeted around sixty lakhs. The film brings together two very well-known artistes - ‘Chameli Memsaab’s Berkeley famed George Baker and Hindi cinema’s Rohini Hattangadi. Interestinglyly, Baker was born and brought up in Tezpur. Child artiste Rodali Bora also plays an important role in the film. Apart from these artistes, none of the casts and crew have been finalised as yet. Bora has met and interviewed a number of people, surviving civilians and war veterans, who had experienced and seen it all before them. A film of this magnitude will require enough experienced crew members. It will be interesting to see who forms the film’s core members. ‘Sima..’ is scheduled to be filmed sometime in November in the locations of Tezpur, Arunachal and the Indo-China border region.

Meanwhile, a new movie on the 1962 Indo-China war made waves at no less than a film festival than Cannes, and is now expected to be presented to movie fans around the world. Both this film and ‘Sima..’ have some obvious similarities in relation to their settings and geographical locations.

Assamese filmmaker Chow Partha Borgohain’s debut film, based on the 1962 India-China war, titled ‘1962: My Country Land’ has drawn the attention of filmmakers and critics from all over the world after it’s screening at the Cannes International Film Festival recently. Borgohain, who assisted in several film projects under renowned cinematographer Rajeev Menon, is also the writer and cinematographer of the Rs 2.5-crore film whose music has been composed by legendary Manipuri folk artiste Guru Rewben Mashangva along with Shankar Shankini. The film was shot at Tawang and Mechuka in Arunachal Pradesh, Sohra in Meghalaya and in Guwahati.

"Whenever people talk about Arunachal Pradesh, the stories of 1962 Sino-Indo war take a forefront. The stories of 1962 are fresh with the locals residing in the affected region but many others forgot the pain and torture the people went through during that time," says Borgohain, who was born in Arunachal Pradesh and now based at Dibrugarh.

According to him, Jawaharlal Nehru's iconic statement on AIR "My heart goes out to the people of Assam (at that time Arunachal was a part of Assam)" was "really disheartening as I wondered how our supreme leader could so easily give up on us. And this thought really pushed me to write the story further. I managed to search the archives and also interact with many people and thus the plot began evolving," Borgohain said.

Produced by Marbom Mai under the banner of Living Dreams, the story of the 108-minute English language feature film ‘1962: My Country Land’ revolves around Luitya, an army Lance Naik who is given the responsibility of surveying the India-China Line of Actual Control in NEFA that may demarcate India and Tibet's territory.

While surveying, he and his porter Gyatso lost their way in the vast terrain of the Himalayan mountains and end up finding a patch of land which is neither in India nor in China.

They encounter Wang, a trader from the Far East in that village with dark secrets and intentions, and the village chief's daughter Yaka.

Luitya and Gyatso discover that the patch of land is an unknown and unmapped territory and there is fierce fight between Luitya and Wang to take over the land. Wang tries to get Yaka but while resisting him Luitya falls in love with her. There an underground rebel leader tries to take over the land but Luitya, Wang and Yaka join hands to defeat him. Luitya, Gyatso, Yaka and Wang then all become friends.

By that time, the war breaks out and Wang and Luitya are forced to return. Luitya promises to return to Yaka once the war is over. Wang sacrifices the land for Yaka and gives up his mission by betraying his nation. War gets over but Luitya is left heartbroken to find that Yaka and the village go missing.


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