February 9, 2019

Reviving the Terror Times

When I first heard about the documentary “Loralir Sadhukatha (Tales from our childhood)” by Mukul Haloi, I was very interested in watching it since it was about the dark times of the ULFA movement in the 1990’s. I have always heard about those terror stricken  days from my parents and when I got to know about its screening at the 1st Guwahati International Docu and short film festival on the 23rd January, I just ran to grab my seat to experience those times. 

The film started off with one of the director’s friend borrowing a camouflage uniform and posing like a rebel whom they have seen in their childhood. This beautifully composed shot of posing in empty paddy fields really creates a wave of the gloomy period of turmoil. Then stories about blackouts, ambush, secret killings and disturbance begin to unfold by the maker’s friends, parents and relatives. They recollect how the Indian Army used to come suddenly at the middle of the night and check whether there were any militants hiding.  They speak about the designated campsites which used to exist in various places of Nalbari, Digboi and Tinsukia. They also expressed their grief over the local boys who were involved in the armed struggle and got killed unknowingly by the Army. While many of them got martyred, others used to disappear suddenly and never returned. 

It is captivating to hear all the memories of those chaotic days.  It creates a sense of agony whenever somebody narrates about the innocent killings during the ULFA-army clash. The director narrates some heart touching poems about the martyrs which enhances the flavour of the narrative.  The poetic form tends to create a mood which sets the mind of the audience with the tone of the dark times.  While others recollected their memories, one of the director’s friends opens up her diary of her childhood and tell how her uncle used to go to the forest and never come back for many years.  There are many such spine chilling moments which tend to take us 20 to 30 years back.

Amidst all the disturbance and violence that continued for so many years for the Independence of Assam, one of the director’s friend states as to how they grew up amongst all these happenings but sadly nothing has changed even after 30 years of this struggle. The sound design by Rahul Rabha serves as the spine to the real visuals.  In all, Mukul Haloi has really done a commendable piece of work by reviving those turbulent times on the screen with the essence of poetry. The film has been produced by the School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS Mumbai.

Anurag Barman