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Unravelling truths on screen

Two feature films ‘In the Land of Poison Women’ directed by award winning film director Manju Borah and ‘Bahattar Hoorain’ directed by Sanjay Puran Singh were screened in the Indian Panorama (Feature Film) Section at the International Film Festival of India 2019 (IFFI 2019).

Borah who has served as jury member for Indian Panorama at IFFI 2007, for the 10th MAMI International Film Festival 2008, and for Third Eye Asian Film Festival Mumbai 2008 was ecstatic that her fifth film was chosen to be screened at IFFI.

Based on a novel ‘Bixkonyar Dexot’ written by Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, ‘In the Land of Poison Women’ is the first film in Pangsenpa language, which is spoken by only 5,000 people who live near the India-China border, around 100 kilometres from Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh. The film is about a myth that women have poison hidden in their nails which they can use to kill men while serving them food.

The director who enjoys making films which are about the people and culture of North East said that the experience of making ‘In the Land of Poison Women’ was both physically and financially challenging.

“It would take me four days by road to reach this distant village and the cost would naturally shoot up. Also the snow during the time of shooting posed a problem and we had the army troops help us to get out 10-12 vehicles of the crew that got stuck,” she recalled.

Chosen to compete with seven other films for the UNESCO Gandhi Medal at IFFI and in Indian Panorama, ‘Bahattar Hoorain’ meanwhile, is about an extremist training facility where Bilal and Hakim are instructed that if they give their lives in the name of Allah, they will be rewarded with ‘bahattar hoorain’ (72 beautiful virgins) in heaven. Following their terror attack in Mumbai, Hakim and Bilal are surprised to not end up in the arms of a beautiful virgin, but in a hospital where their ghosts watch an autopsy being performed on their bodies! The dark comedy examines the real consequences of violent extremism and urges that every human life should be treated with dignity and respect.

Singh began shooting for the film in 2013. And his aim as a director, he said, has never been to win an award, but rather to tell a compelling story. “This time I wanted to highlight how our youth are misguided, and what the perception is of people when it comes to terrorists,” he said.

He went on to say that terror organisations have spread across the world, and have nothing to do with religion per se. “Their work goes on even if a leader is killed, as a new one gets appointed. It all has to do with promises made to them about a life after death, when in reality they can have a life right here on earth,” he said.

He further said that it was sad that these young minds are brainwashed to such an extent where there is no comprehension of facts and actuality. “I have seen how even five and six year olds, completely oblivious about an agenda are distraught as they are auctioned as suicide bombers for an advance of 50 dollars and the rate goes up depending on how many people get killed in the bombing,” he said.

Actor Pavan Raj Malhotra who has acted in the film revealed that he immediately agreed to be a part of the film. “ I know a single film cannot change society, but such films are important to educate people,” said Malhotra, adding that though education is important in shaping our thoughts, religions somehow plays a role and has some effect on us.

The look of the film is like a graphic novel shot using chroma with visual effects.

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