Twice National Award-winning Khasi filmmaker Pradip Kurbah talks about his latest film, Iewduh, which will premiere at the 24th Busan International Film Festival next week
The regional cinema of Northeast India seems to be in the limelight of late. After popular Assamese filmmaker Rima Das released her second offing, 'Bulbul Can Sing' in cinema halls of Guwahati, the spotlight has now shifted to dynamic Khasi filmmaker Pradip Kurbah whose latest film 'Iewduh' is all set to release at the 24th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea next month.
The Khasi film 'Iewduh' has been long awaited by film buffs as it is based on the iconic 'Iewduh market', which is popularly known as Bara Bazaar, of Shillong. Iewduh or Bara Bazar, bustling with energy and characters, is the nerve centre of the small hill Station of Shillong. Shot entirely inside the market, Kurbah's fim Iewduh is a perfect instance of how, at times, the location becomes a film in itself. As film critic Namrata Joshi opines, "Shot entirely in Shillong's crowded, bustling, local market called Iewduh, the film at one level is all about taking the camera, rather adventurously, to places Indian cinema has not gone before. At another, it is about reflecting on a certain way of life, of people living cheek-by-jowl in congested lanes where shabbiness and vibrancy live together. These are mazes of habitation, where people can, and actually have, got entirely lost in."
Another reason for the huge anticipation for Iewduh is the fact that its director, Pradip Kurbah, has received the National Award twice for his films. In fact, Kurbah's film "Ri: Homeland of Uncertainity" was the first film in Khasi language to win a National Award. His second National award winning Khasi film, Onaatah, has also been remade into Marathi by actor-turned producer Satish Kaushik as 'Mann Udhan Vaara' and the same is slated for release next month. Kurbah is the second filmmaker from the Northeast whose film has been made into another language. Onaatah: Of the Earth, a 2016 film, tells the story of a young woman, seeking to heal after a traumatic assault, who retreats to a small village by the hills, where she finds hope, love and new purpose.
The mélange team recently entered into a conversation with the ace filmmaker to know more about his much anticipated film 'Iewduh'. Following are excerpts.
- Your latest film, 'Iewduh' is all set to have its world premiere at the 24th Busan International Film Festival. Please tell us about the film and your expectations regarding the same?
Ans: Iewduh is the story of you and me, it is a story you find every day at the market, malls, and roads. The film talk about relationship and the team are super excited about the premiere at the 24th Busan International Film Festival. We are hoping to present Shillong, especially Iewduh, to the world during the premiere.
The film Iewduh (a famous market in Shillong popularly known as 'Bara Bazar') portrays the everyday lives of people who are heroes in some way or the other. The basic idea of making this film is that it talks about different kinds of human relationships. I have focused more on the relationships that people share inside the market place. Contrary to what many perceive, Iewduh is not a documentary. The film's protagonist is a person who collects money outside a public toilet, played by Albert Mawrie.
We have tried to look at the spaces, which has so much life in it, and which we see every day but choose to dispel from our sub-conscious mind.
- How did you get interested in the world of celluloid? You have spent your early years working for films like Raju Chacha. Please tell us about that phase of your life.
Ans: It's all about having a love for cinema. I went to Mumbai to learn the craft but I did not want to stay there. So I came back to Meghalaya to make film here. Out in Mumbai, I have done a lot of work with various directors, including those from the Telegu film industry. Working with the big brand, of course, is a big leap as you got to learn many new things which helped me in my filmmaking career.
- Critics feel that you are the face of contemporary Khasi cinema. What made you come back from outside to work in your State and what was the initial journey like which culminated in two national awards?
Ans: I am still in the learning stage. It is too early to be called the face of any cinema. There are many makers who are doing their bits. And no matter where you go, in another way, you are always rooted in the roots, and that is where you can tell your story from. And we have to tell our story. If not us, then who?
- Your films, 'Onataah' and 'Ri', are regarded to be path-breaking works in north-eastern cinema. Please tell us a bit about the films.
Ans: Both the stories are pole apart from one another. While one deals with the long drawn insurgency issue of the State, the other talks about a more humane story. Both the story talks about our story and how we deal with our situations.
- It is believed that you are the only filmmaker from Northeast India whose film has been remade in a different language. We are referring to the remake of Onataah in Marathi. Please tell us how this remake happened and your feelings at the same.
Ans: Actually no, there is an Assamese film which has been remade earlier. That's Chameli Memsaab. But yes, it is an indeed proud moment for the team and also for the region that our story has touched them in someways.
- As a filmmaker who has earned critical acclaim at the top levels, what is your opinion on the film scenario of Meghalaya and Northeast India vis-à-vis the rest of India? What are your suggestions to aspiring filmmakers?
Ans: I think I still have still a long way to go when it comes to making any comments on cinema. All I can say is that we need to have self-belief and honesty while pursuing our craft. The rest will follow.
- Do you feel that State governments of Northeast India should have a separate policy for the development and promotion of films?
Ans: Many state governments are coming up with cine policies of their own. The Assam government has announced a policy to that effect recently and so has the Manipur Government. Yes, a policy for the development of regional cinema is actually needed desperately and the filmmakers from the region should actually work on it so that our films reach a wider audience.
But at the same time, I believe that films must travel outside the State or the region in order for the industry to grow. We should not just depend on our State for inspiration and promotion. We should start making films beyond Meghalaya. Taking the film outside the state is very important. I did take my last film Onaatah to many places and luckily it is now on Netflix. We expect to do the same with Iewduh. Rather than focusing more on our state, we should look beyond our own comfort zones and our own frontiers.
- Do you feel that the people of Meghalaya come out to watch Khasi films?
Ans: Films cannot develop without an audience. And until the audience comes forward to watch our own local films, the growth of Khasi cinema will take a lot of time.
- What are you presently working on?
Ans: At present, I am tied up with the release plans of IEWDUH at the 24th Busan International Film Festival.
Melange: Thank you for talking with us and we wish you the very best
IEWDUH: QUICK FACTS (IN BOX)
- 'Iewduh' is all set to be premiered at 24thBusan International Film Festival (BIFF).
- The Busan International Film Festival is scheduled to be held in Busan, one of the largest cities of South Korea, from October 3 to 12, 2019.
- The film has been directed by Pradip Kurbah and produced by Shankar Lal Goenka.
- Iewduh is based on the story on the daily lives of the people at Iewduh, also known as Bara bazaar, which is one of the oldest and largest traditional markets in Shillong.
- The film portrays the lives of everyday people and everyday stories, not dignified as heroes, but of course, people who make each other's lives better.
- The film has been shot entirely in the crowded market of Iewduh.
- The Khasi language film is of 94 minutes duration.
- Actors who star in the film are Richard Kharpuri, Enshon Lamare, Lapynhun Sun, Anvil Laloo, Rupam Barua, Dhruba Kalita, Jeetesh Sharma, Denver Pariat, Elmer War, Khambor Nongneng, Lapdiang Syiem and Saju Ahmed.
- The film's release is much awaited by critics as the director, Pradip Kurbah, has won two national awards.
- Kurbah, who has 15 years of experience in filmmaking, is a self-taught filmmaker.