A Story of Our Times

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This is a film born out of necessity. A necessity that is frivolous yet integral. Frivolous because it is a film which reminds us about the importance of respecting the identity of our fellow countrymen. Considering that we are a democracy about to touch the ripe age of 70, such reminders seem outright ridiculous. Are we humans or what? And integral because it so eloquently lays bare the reality faced by people of the North East when it comes to ‘getting along’ with the rest of India.

Aisa Yeh Jahaan directed by Biswajeet Bora addresses the twin issues (alienation and environment) with the craftsmanship of a master surgeon. Bora has roped in Euphoria singer Palash Sen (Rajib Saikia), Ira Dubey (Ananya Saikia), Kymsleen Kholie (Pakhi) and Prisha Dabbas ( Kuhi ) to complete the family that has left Assam’s Golaghat district and moved to the bustling economic hub Mumbai in search of a better life. Rajib and Ananya are a working couple who bring Pakhi (Kymsleen) to look after their daughter Kuhi played by Prisha.

The film starts as a lighthearted modern family drama where the family’s situation is shown in a rather humorous way. It takes a provocative turn when Rajib and Ananya are invited to a colleague’s party. As the family is new in the city with a small baby, the only option left for them is to present themselves as a family along with Pakhi.

After a couple of drinks, the party gets a little noisier and a whisky glass is accidentally broken in the jamboree. One of the guests rather rudely calls Pakhi a ‘chinky’ (because of her Mongoloid features) and asks her to clean the mess. The incident gets to Rajib’s nerves who angrily retorts,“Woh Assam ki raheniwali hai, aur Assam Hindustan mein hai (she is from Assam and Assam is in India),” and leaves the party in a huff. This particular scene serves to highlight the feeling of alienation that millions of people from the NorthEast deal with every day in different parts of India. “She’s (Pakhi) is a dreamer and the harsh realities of Mumbai don’t suit her. The bias against Pakhi’s Mongoloid features is something people from the region face regularly,” director Bora told a news daily

The film also talks about fulfilling our obligations when it comes to dealing with mother nature through the mouth of babes. The scene where Kuhi innocently asks her parents, “Ab toh hum bach jaayenge na (we will be saved now),” pointing to a mango plant sapling that she and Pakhi plant in the film, highlighting the issue of pollution in cities.

The film has several firsts. It features Klymseen Kholie, an actor from Arunachal Pradesh. Kholie is the first female actor from her state to hog the mainstream Hindi cinema silver screen after the ubiquitous Bollywood ‘baddie’ Danny Denzongpa, who is from Sikkim. And she does an excellent job in the film given that she has no prior experience of acting in accident films. Her screen presence is impressive and she appears promising in the gana-bajana format of Bollywood films. The camaradrie her character Pakhi shares with Kuhi as they gel over a mango seed planted by them, is simply a delight to watch.

The film is also India’s first carbon neutral production. The film crew has reportedly planted over 400 saplings in and around Mumbai and the North East region— an endeavour that aims to achieve zero carbon footprint produced in the course of the film-making.

The film has also won international accolades for its simple yet impactful message and why not? The essence of films is to bring about change in the crooked notions and iron out the social wrinkles of society/community and Aisa Yeh Jahaan has done just that.

Aisa Yeh Jahaan had to get over its own share of birthing hurdles. The crew had to run after distributors who didn’t take much interest in the film . “Since there is no Salman Khan in the film, it had to face a lot of hurdles,” admitted Palash Sen during the film’s special screening at the Northeast Films Festival recently held at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi.

It’s both heartening and sad that such a film has been made but hasn’t got due recognition in India.

Are we not game for change even for a story of our times?

jonathan@tehelka.com

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