Nongphadok Lakpa Atithi, the latest Manipuri feature film from Aribam Syam Sharma, was the inaugural film of the 12th International Film Festival, organised by the Gauhati Cine Club, from February 7-10 at Kanaklal Baruak Auditorium, Assam State Museum, Guwahati.
The film, which has a 73 minutes runtime, is produced by Deepak Sarmah, PPC (NE), Doordarshan Kendra, Guwahati.
The filmmaker could not be present in person for the inaugural function. His videotaped address to the audience and organisers was screened as a part of the function.
The film is based on the short story Atithi written by Lamabam Viramani. It also draws inspirations from MK Binodini’s adaptation of the short story into a popular radio play titled Nongfadok Lakpada.
The title of the film suggests the filmmaker’s intention to retain the links to these sources. The story unfolds with Tamubi coming to her husband’s (Ibohal’s) home, for the first time in 12 years, to attend the wedding of their daughter.
Although Tamubi does not want to stay, tradition, with some help from Ibohals’ second wife, forbids her to leave that night. The missteps that led them apart are retraced; regrets and hurts are recounted. Through these, an opening for the estranged couple to stay together again, under the same roof, seems to present itself.
Human vulnerability, the swiftness of turns that life takes and the ever present chaos that lurks beneath order and stability, find moorings in the idiosyncrasies of Meetei culture as depicted in the work.
These are treated with a lightness that comes only to those who are masters of their medium. The filmmaker rises to the challenge. His sense of rhythm and pace and his sensitivity to the particular world that he inhabits are evident in his cinematic adaptation of the story.
Director Syam Sharma takes full advantage of his medium’s ease of representing temporal space. For any work that is rooted and sustained in the peculiarities of norms and values of a particular community, there is danger of them being lost across cultural borders.
But the film does not make jarring attempts to explain them. Rather, the audience is asked to meet it mid-way.
The audience appreciated the fine performances by the actors. The restraint, poise and naturalness of the actors and their performances were noted. The women-centric nature of the work and the dignity of the female characters in face of the tragic circumstances became a theme of the interaction.
Some of the young filmmakers present talked about the prevalent challenges of filmmaking within limited resources and expressed their gratitude at the reaffirmation that the film makes — that good film could still be made even within these limitations. They welcomed PPC (NE)’s initiative to produce such feature films.
A total of 11 fictional and non-fictional movies were screened from various countries, including Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Hungary, Turkey, Bangladesh and the Czech Republic.
(With inputs from Waribam Dorendro and Mandakini Phuritsabam in Guwahati)