Interview: Amlan Datta – BOM Screening at Malana, Himachal Pradesh
A few days before the screening of the film BOM, we had the chance to catch up with Cinematographer Amlan Datta who was en route to Malana, Himachal Pradesh, where the screening will take place on 15th August 2012, Independence Day. Here’ s what he had to say about Malana and BOM.
1. BOM has already been screened at a few venues globally can you please elaborate on that.
BOM World Premier was at, IDFA Amesterdam 2011. Consequently the film has received several awards including a special mention Award at MIFF Mumbai 2012, Silver Lotus, Best Ethnographic Film 59th Indian National Film Awards, Nominated, TRT Documentary Awards, Istanbul’12, Cinema Of Resistance Award, SIGNS Kerala’12 and Special Prize of International Jury, 26th Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, Estonia to name a few. BOM was selected as the Opening Film at Persistence Resistance, New Delhi ‘12.
2. Malana is such a beautiful location to film. What was your inspiration behind Malana, as a project and subject?
I came to know of Malana when I was in Pune, studying in FTII (Film & Television Institute of India) between 1994-96. Back then we used to smoke up regularly and Malana crème was quite popular. Attached with the crème were some urban legends; the people of Malana are descendents of war heroes that fought for King Alexander, that they have their own ‘system of democracy’ which significantly varies from our very own; that the women are very beautiful and most importantly ‘outsiders are not allowed’. An aura of mystery remained inside my memory which I had to pursue.
Having been an idependent filmmaker since 1997, I travelled extensively within the country and abroad, but somehow, it took an entire decade before the pull of destiny brought me to Malana.
3. Malana being a relatively secluded location, what are some of the challenges you faced while working on this project?
It has not been easy working and living there. Sometimes because of limited resources, it would take us over 4 hours to cook a simple Kicchdi. At other time it would rain continuously for days on end. With no electricity, we were left for days without the ability to recharge our equipment. If you injured yourself it was impossible to get dettol to clean out your wounds.
But when you are as involved with your subject as we were, then you find a way to live with an embrace those natural and physical obstacles. With patience, nature rewarded and never disappointed us.
4. Your insight and personal view of the people of Malana, who were a big part of the film. How did you find working with them?
The people of Malana have been so welcoming, in fact I consider them my second family. Through the magic of imaging I gained the trust of the people. I shot my first wedding video at the village. The mother of the bride took me to her heart as a godson, brother of the bride Hemaraj became my god brother. I became a part of a family of five brothers and four sisters with a room for myself in their house. Hemu, my god brother and Shanta, the groom became the protagonists of my film. Slowly I became a part of their village; my camera became an unobtrusive witness to their destiny and mine too. They are the main characters in the film.
5. In Malana, where will you be screening the film and for whose benefit? Where else will you be taking the film in the coming days?
On 15th August 2012, India’s day of independence, we will screen the film in the temple area, close to which the courthouse is located. Screening the film is my duty. I had spent 5 years in the village and a reticent village like Malana wholeheartedly participated in the film, helping me throughout. The people of Malana need to see what their brother has done. Through the film they will see a village which is no more, loved one who no longer live and a democracy which has also faded. As long as the people of Malana take pride in the film, associate and benefit from it, I am happy.
6. Any future screenings of the film?
The film travels to many festival around the world. I also have some screening invitations/ plans in academic institutions (JNU, National Law Schools, Film Schools etc). Last month we ran it for two shows a day for one week at the Gaiety Theatre, Shimla. I plan to screen it in Kullu during Dusserah and soon in Kolkata too.
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