‘Montur Montuh’ has won a couple of awards in the international film festival circuit
It wasn’t easy growing up in the conflict-scarred Assam of the 1980s and 1990s. They were the decades when the extremist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and other region or tribe-specific groups were on the ascendancy post the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation.
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The 1974-born Ramen Borah was not immune to what was happening around him in central Assam’s Nagaon. Every second home in almost every Assamese village was affected by the armed revolution against “colonial India”, mothers losing sons, women losing husbands, youngsters killed, missing or disabled for the rest of their lives.
He connected with a short story by Sahitya Akademi Purabi Bormudoi and adapted it for his first feature film, Montur Montuh (Montu’s Mind).
The 127-minute Assamese film has been doing the rounds of international film festivals, earning the best child actor for Agnimitra Kashyap at the Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati and the best actress award for Mandakini Goswami and best Indian film award at the Waterfront Festival of International Films, Lavasa.
Agnimitra, now 11, plays Montu and Ms. Goswami his mother Karabi, whose poet and revolutionary husband Arindam left home before their child was born to be eventually jailed in a foreign country.
The film relives the days of conflict through the mother-son duo, inadvertently timed with the overtures from the outlawed ULFA-Independent to pursue peace after decades of refusal.
But the film steers clear of making a political statement, Mr. Borah said.
“Montu and Karabi are just two symbols through whom we have tried to portray the undercurrent of gloom three decades ago,” he told The Hindu.
The undercurrent has more layers of conflict than between nationalism and secessionism of that time. The most apparent are Karabi’s silent battles with her family and society for marrying a man belonging to a different ethnic community and Montu’s mind torn between expecting the warm assurance of a father and fearing the loss of his idyllic life, once “that person” comes home.
Agnimitra was 9 years old when the shooting for Montur Montuh started in January 2019 at Silghat, an interior village in Nagaon district. The post-production was completed by December 2020.
The film was a finalist at the Montreal International Film Festival held earlier this year and has been selected for the Dhaka International Film Festival.
An independent filmmaker, Mr. Borah has been associated with a few award-winning Assamese films and documentaries. His documentary ‘Sikar aru Sitkar’ (Hunt and Scream) won a special mention at the 64th National Film Awards.
Montur Montuh is produced by Simanta Sandilya Sarmah — also a 1974-born and acquainted with life in the “days of dread” — and Rupa Phukan.
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