6 episodes

CiNEmatters, a podcast by Firstpost, tells you everything you always wanted to know about cinema from the North East of India.

In the age of OTT, when entertainment from across the world is at our fingertips, cinema from the North East continues to remain elusive, and largely inaccessible beyond film festivals and exclusive screenings. Why?

Through CiNEmatters, it is this 'why' that we attempt to explore — and more often than not realise that it does not have a single or easy answer — with our guests, as we dissect a film available for viewing online in every episode.

CiNEmatters Firstpost

    • TV & Film

CiNEmatters, a podcast by Firstpost, tells you everything you always wanted to know about cinema from the North East of India.

In the age of OTT, when entertainment from across the world is at our fingertips, cinema from the North East continues to remain elusive, and largely inaccessible beyond film festivals and exclusive screenings. Why?

Through CiNEmatters, it is this 'why' that we attempt to explore — and more often than not realise that it does not have a single or easy answer — with our guests, as we dissect a film available for viewing online in every episode.

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 5 — 'Appa'

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 5 — 'Appa'

    Host: Arshia Dhar

    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha

    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh

    ***

    Episode 5: Appa (2019)

    Language/Region: Nepali/North Bengal

    Director: Anmol Gurung

    Cast: Dayahang Rai, Siddhant Raj Tamang, Allona Kabo Lepcha, Tulsi Ghimire, Aruna Karki

    In the fifth episode of CiNEmatters, we shine the spotlight on Anmol Gurung's 2019 film Appa, a story of an unlikely father-son duo who come to terms with their difficult circumstances after an accident thrusts their lives into absolute disarray.

    The father — a Nepali guide named Birkhey living in Kalimpong (played by Dayahang Rai) — and his son Siddharth (played by Siddhant Raj Tamang) are not related by blood. While ferrying a Bengali family to Sandakphu in his vehicle, Birkhey's alcoholism leads him to drive off a cliff, quite literally, as they tumble down a slope, thereby leaving no survivors barring Birkhey and the four-year-old child of the family.

    Upon his recovery, Birkhey pleads with the local priest — under whose watchful eyes young Siddharth was being nursed — to let him adopt the child over feelings of guilt and love for the boy. The priest agrees, however, on the condition that Birkhey would be barred from meeting Siddharth until he has completed his education from the residential school run by him.

    This decision estranges the pair for over a decade, until they reunite years later to resurfacing wounds and traumas of lost lives, opportunities, and 'could-have-beens'.

    In this episode, we are joined by Kaustubh Deka — professor of political science at Assam's Dibrugarh University — as we analyse how efficiently, and rather unselfconsciously, Appa reveals the patriarchal hierarchies framing the social and cultural structures of its premise. It also sheds light on alternative definitions of 'family' that go beyond the heteronormative.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost's YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 48 min
    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 4 — 'Phijigee Mani'

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 4 — 'Phijigee Mani'

    Host: Arshia Dhar

    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha

    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh

    ***

    Episode 4: Phijigee Mani (2011) 

    Language/Region: Manipuri/Manipur

    Streaming on: YouTube

    Director: Oinam Gautam Singh

    Cast: Gurumayum Bonny, Leishangthem Tonthoingambi Devi, Abenao Elangbam, Y Kumarjit, Shyamdhani, Shanti, Sorojini

    In the fourth episode of CiNEmatters, we discuss the 2011 Manipuri film Phijigee Mani — a story of family, abandonment, aspirations and their manifestations in a patriarchal society.

    It is the story of a budding boxer Sanajaoba (Gurumayum Bonny), who becomes estranged from his family after losing a national match, consequently forsaking his sporting dreams and moving to a city with a white-collar job. He ties the knot, has a daughter, and all the while keeps his distance from his family where his mother pines away for him.

    Phijigee Mani follows the point of view of Sanajaoba's sister Yaiphabi (Leishangthem Tonthoingambi Devi), a scientist. She sets out on a mission to reconcile her broken family, in order to end the suffering of her parents caused by the absence of their son. The film switches tracks between the past and the present, as it tails Yaiphabi on a bus ride to her brother's new home. On her way, she stumbles upon characters from Sanajaoba's past life — including his girlfriend — and reflects upon how circumstances have shaped the lives of men and women in her life, including her own, differently.

    The film examines the unbridled privileges bestowed upon the male child in a Meitei family, where the parents, in spite of depending solely on the care of their daughter, seem to only value the presence and views of their absentee son.

    Sound anthropologist and teacher of Sociology Sebanti Chatterjee joins us in this episode to unpack why Phijigee Mani is crucial to the landscape of cinema and culture of the North East of India, especially Manipur.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost's YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 40 min
    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 3 — 'Bokul'

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 3 — 'Bokul'

    Host: Arshia Dhar

    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha

    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh

    ***

    Episode 3: Bokul (2015)

    Language/Region: Assamese/Assam

    Streaming on: Mubi

    Director: Reema Borah

    Cast: Urmila Mahanta, Kaushik Sharma, Nirab Das, Udayan Duarah, Bhaswati Patowary, Dwijen Mahanta, Ankita Borah, Anupam Borah

    In the third episode of CiNEmatters, we are joined by Sebanti Chatterjee — sound anthropologist and teacher of sociology — to take a closer look at the 2015 Assamese film Bokul, a story of three individuals with the same name, living on the fringes of the same town whose feudal structures have marginalised them systemically.

    Themes of identity and homecoming overlap with the two films — Jwlwi: The Seed and Maj Rati Keteki — previously discussed on CiNEmatters, as the story is largely framed by the point of view of the character of Raktim (Udayan Duarah), who returns from Mumbai to his hometown in Assam after several years to attend his sister's wedding. It is through him that we meet the three protagonists — Bokul Ali (Kaushik Sharma), a rickshaw-puller of Raktim's age, who went to school with him and was a bright student. Bokul Ali lost his father Joy, a music teacher, to communal violence. We then meet female Bokul (Urmila Mahanta) — a weaver, tea-shop owner, and single mother to a school-going daughter — who, on account of being rendered a social outlier due to her early pregnancy, continues to fight for her dignity and that of her daughter's. Finally, we meet the third Bokul (Nirab Das), a poor fisherman who lives with a cat and waits endlessly for some news of his missing son, who is said to have joined a rebelling outfit.

    The term 'bokul', borrowed from the local tree and its distinctly fragrant flower that is found abundantly across Assam and other parts of east and south India, exemplifies the lives that survive — and often thrive — on the margins of society, forced to turn invisible, much like the film's protagonists. Reema Borah's nuanced, autobiographical screenplay captures this dichotomy associated with the plant — of being a silent non-entity that does not seek much attention despite its omnipresence — and its name through her Bokuls to explicate the cracks in Assamese society.

    In this episode, we also examine why Bokul comes at a crucial juncture in Assamese cinema, and beyond its subject, how its making reveals the cultural situatedness of Assam's film industry whose evolution reflects the state's relentless tussle with identity.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost's YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 48 min
    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 2 — 'Maj Rati Keteki'

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 2 — 'Maj Rati Keteki'

    Host: Arshia Dhar


    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha


    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh



    ***

    Episode 2: Maj Rati Keteki (2017)


    Language/Region: Assamese/Assam


    Streaming on: Netflix


    Director: Santwana Bardoloi


    Cast: Adil Hussain, Shakil Imtiaz, Sulakshana Baruah, Mahendra Rabha, Bibhuti Bhushan Hazarika, Gayatri Sarma, Rahul Gautam Sarma, Kasvi Sonkorison, Pranami Bora



    In our second episode, we are joined by our guest Sebanti Chatterjee, sound anthropologist and professor of sociology, to talk about Santwana Bardoloi's National Award-winning Assamese film, Maj Rati Keteki, starring Adil Hussain in the lead. The film, largely told through Hussain's character Priyendu Hazarika — a  celebrated English novelist from Assam — is a meditation on the complex issue of identity that steers the culture and politics of Assam.

    Maj Rati Keteki functions meta-narratively, as the story often mirrors the events in Priyendu's fictional book, for which he wins an award in the film. The story travels back in time through flashbacks that take the audience to a simpler, rustic North Guwahati of the 1970s where Priyendu grew up, and juxtaposes those years against present-day Assam, which has been completely refashioned, albeit, on the surface.

    The dual tracks in the film reveal to us characters who react to their surroundings and circumstances in manners that reflect their social situatedness, with caste, religion and gender steering the narratives most prominently. It also makes evident the futility of cosmetic changes that fail to dismantle age-old feudal structures, which continue to govern social norms, hierarchies and conversations.

    In this episode, we investigate the film's poignant commentary on how, more often than not, one is barely ever able to outrun the identities assigned to them at birth, for the better or worse.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost’s YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 34 min
    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 1 — 'Jwlwi: The Seed'

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost: Episode 1 — 'Jwlwi: The Seed'

    Host: Arshia Dhar

    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha

    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh

    ***

    Episode 1: Jwlwi: The Seed (2019) 


    Language/Region: Bodo/Assam 


    Streaming on: Moviesaints


    Director: Rajni Basumatary


    Cast: Rajni Basumatary, Shimang Chainary, Queen Hazarika, Sattyakee Dcom Bhuyan, Jayanta Narzary, Kanyakorn Kiratichotiyangkoon



    In our first episode, we are joined by our guest Kaustubh Deka, professor of political science at Assam's Dibrugarh University, to talk about Rajni Basumatary's film Jwlwi: The Seed.

    For the uninitiated, Basumatary played Priyanka Chopra's mother in the 2014 Hindi film Mary Kom, and is also seen playing the protagonist Alari, in this film.

    Alari is an everywoman living in the insurgency-riddled 1990s' Assam, who loses her husband to the conflict. Years later, her son Erak joins a banned outfit, only to thrust her life into complete disarray, shattering her hopes of ever leading an ordinary life with a family. Jwlwi allows us to enter this fraught terrain where people are assigned markedly different roles based on their gender, religion, tribe and language, with women being relegated to the margins of their households in a hyper-masculine machinery of unrelenting violence.

    In this episode, we explore how the film is located in Assam's and the North East's history and socio-political landscape, besides examining how Basumatary's screenplay was heavily influenced by her personal life, and the role the army played in bringing her film to life.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost’s YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 42 min
    CiNEmatters by Firstpost

    CiNEmatters by Firstpost

    Host: Arshia Dhar

    Theme Music and Editing: Sourjyo Sinha

    Artwork: Adrija Ghosh

    CiNEmatters, a podcast by Firstpost, is your definitive guide to cinema from the North East of India. In the age of OTT, when entertainment in languages from across India and the world is just a click away on our screens, the same cannot be said about cinema from the North East. But why?

    Through this podcast, Firstpost attempts to investigate the ‘why’ — a question that does not have an easy answer — with guests, as we discuss a film from the North East, available for viewing online, in every episode. We tell you where you can find some of the best films from the North East of India, and what all we have been missing out on culturally and sociopolitically by not watching and discussing them as much as we should have.

    Tune into CiNEmatters on Firstpost’s YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, and wherever else you listen to your podcasts.

    • 3 min

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