Assamese Film ‘Haanduk’ Selected to MAMI International Film Festival

Haanduk‘, a film by young Assamese director Jaicheng Jai Dohutia, has been selected for screening at the MAMI International Film Festival. It was a breath of fresh air for many moviegoers and critics and showed everyone that young filmmakers have a creative, new voice that needs to be heard.

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The film, based on a true story about insurgency, will also compete in the ‘international competition’ category at the festival that began from October 20.

“It’s a great thing to happen for the entire team of ‘Haanduk’ and for the state. Our film has been selected from more than 170 films from across the country,” Dohutia said.

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‘Haanduk’, made under Mayamara Productions, is one of 11 films that will be screened in the ‘India Gold’ segment of the festival. ‘Haanduk’, a Moran word, which means a very remote interior place or the dark corner of a house, depicts the plight of Heramoni, mother of extremist Mukti who goes missing. When the mutilated bullet-ridden body purportedly that of her son is brought home, Heramoni performs the customary last rites, but then to her dismay, is told that the body may not be Mukti’s. Thus begins another long wait as the incident sort of rekindles some hope in her that her son will return home someday.

The unassuming Heramoni has got company in Sewali, Mukti’s childhood companion whose love for Muki is unflinching. And, there is Biplob who had left the outfit to lead a normal life.

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The film is a reflection of Dohutia’s childhood years when he used to observe a lot of people in his locality go through insurgency-related problems frequently, making it extremely tough for the community to lead normal lives, which had seen a lot of human rights violations, and forced displacements.

It all started with an article published in the local weekly newspaper Sadin in 2007, which had him thinking more deeply about the subject. “I read the story around nine years back and wanted to make it into a film,” the director said.

Dohutia has made an indepth probe into the story, furnishing his movie with authentic elements. It was filmed in actual locales, amongst people who have been a witness to the uprisings, armed insurgency, angst-ridden youths taking to arms, their frustrations, state’s apathy, the abysmal socio-economic discrepancies, demographic changes and the alienation of tribal land, finally giving away to a volatile insurgency in an otherwise peaceful region, which has persisted for well over 30 years now.

The film further delves into the volatile issue of illegal immigrants from across the border, threatening its very indigenous identity – in terms of language and culture.

Shot on locations in Kakopather, Digboi, Ledu, Mergherita and Tinsukia, the film introduces artistes like Bandoi Chetia, Bishal Anuraag, Nivedita Baurah and Jitu Moran.

It is perhaps for the first time that the state’s indigenous Moran community, hitherto unknown to the world, has been explored in the film. The vibrant community, a strong player in the state’s socio-cultural and political sphere, remains deeply connected to their noble heritage. Jaicheng’s short film ‘Cuckoo’ (Chaak-Soni), made in 2014, too was deeply rooted in the culture of the community.

Jaicheng Jai Dohutia is planning to send the film to more film festivals in India and abroad.

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