By Deepika Gurumayum
Lucky, this time! I had wanted to watch the film Karigee Kiruni Nungsiradee (KKN), a production of Introspective Media and Seven Salai Films, presented by Akoijam Communications and directed by Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, since its premiere in Imphal on 4th January, 2014 but missed out on it like always. So, I decided not to let go off the opportunity this time, which had its Delhi Premiere on 21st March, 2015, on Sajibu Cheiraoba, and it was worth the wait. As was expected from the versatile academic, who has not only written and directed the film but also written, composed and sung one of the songs titled `Sandrembi` in the film himself, has given us a film which is hard-hitting and conveys a strong political message.
This is perhaps one of the first Manipuri films to have an actor from the hills in the lead role and we also see the undoing of the stereotypical `Ching-gee Ichal, Tam-gee Ibung` into `Tam-gee Ichal, Ching-gee Ibung`. Laced with motifs and Freudian semiotics, half of which I could not understand though, the film offers a gripping experience and it is indeed a new kind of cinema making its way to the Manipuri film circuit, as has been opined by noted filmmaker A.Syam Sharma.
The story is of a young couple Thoibi, a Meitei girl and Ashang, a Tangkhul boy, both research scholars based in Chandigarh and Delhi, respectively with `the glimpses of the life and times of contemporary Manipur` as the backdrop. They `dream of a life together despite the inter-community estrangement` and yet are `haunted by the situation in their home state.` The story as it unfolds deal simultaneously with the grim reality of Manipur as well as the couple`™s love life filled with anxiety.
Rightly for me as well, the political is brilliantly interspersed with the personal as the minds of the lovers unwind slowly throughout the movie, traversing all aspects of a mundane existence. The dark scenes of suffering Manipur is constantly juxtaposed with the light and independence most of us associate with a metro.
The title `Karigee Kirunee Nungsiradee?` in the beginning draws us more towards the inter-communal relationship of the couple. As the film progresses, we slowly begin to see the interstice through which the political creeps in and by the end, there is a complete turn with the political overshadowing the personal, though there is a continuous interplay between the two. It is also interesting to note that Dr.Akoijam has chosen an epigraph to introduce his film which reads, `Fight or Flight. It`™s a matter of choice`. I see in this a projected reality as well as an irony in that the common perception is `Either stay home, be a part of the place to improve the situation or just escape`. Moreover, the epigraph may also point to the fact that what we see as present day reality is the result of the choices made in the past. Thus, we make that reality which we want to. The decisions we make as a people are crucial to revive the dying land. This seems to be the gist of the film to me.
The use of colloquial language and new generation Meiteilon words in the film gives it a different taste altogether and makes it easier for the audience to identify with the contemporary situation. The use of Tangkhul dialect when Ashang speaks to his mother is an authentic aspect of the film. The film`™s music and lyrics are extraordinary, coming from masters in their respective fields (the music is scored by noted folk musician Mangangsana Mayanglambam and one of the songs in the film sung by well-known Tangkhul singer Rewben Mashangva and a relatively new singer with a sweet and haunting voice, Premlata; lyrics by Bobo Khuraijam.
It is always a breath of fresh air to see new faces and KKN gave me that rare sense of having unacquainted faces playing out the dilemmas faced by many of us today. And I could so well connect to it! Trained for only a couple of weeks by the director himself, the lead actors (Lucky Awungshi, Anushree Kshetrimayum were students at Delhi University when the film was shot and journalist Aribam Dhananjoy popularly known as Paojel Chaoba ) are amateurs but did a pretty good job. This I see as another reason for the film being able to drive home the point effectively.
It is impossible to point out a single instance in the plot which I like because there are so many of them, but what touched me very deeply was Thoibi`™s anguished questioning if it is only the politicians and the insurgents who should think about our homeland. The same question has been lingering in my mind for quite sometime now and it is overwhelming to realize that it is not just me but there are many more tormented youth who are concerned about our homeland. This question should be addressed and need not remain behind the scenes anymore.
The film also subtly touches upon various aspects which ail the state like unemployment, subsequently leading to people going to the metros to seek a better life, frequent water and power cuts, law enforcers indulging in extortion, nepotism, civilians taking law in their hands and many others. However, we are also shown the hideous facets of life in a metro as is reported in the film by a phone call about a woman from Manipur being misbehaved with by the landlord. Altogether, the film is an eye-opener which seems to suggest that it is high time that we do something to save this beloved land of ours.
By the end of the film, the title also carries with it an additional burden- What stops us from saving our own Home? The director silently seems to reiterate the need to act urgently. There is a constant pricking of the conscience that makes us feel the need to do away with the sense of suffocation and suppression, communalism, daily dose of blasts and shootouts at home which tag along with them the uncertainty of life. Where is our land heading to? Ashang says,`Loirani natte, loirabani`. His words are pregnant with the despondency and exhaustion from the dawning realization that the place indeed has become a killing field.
So this piece of art has conveyed its message, but what about the other points of view? Say, of a normal person with no `intellectual`™ mooring as such. I fail to comprehend why, despite dealing with such a sensitive issue; does the film seem to target a restricted group? There are highlights of certain aspects but at the same time, the film seems not to have adequately that catch to keep a common person glued to the seat for the entire duration. I agree that the director might have a targeted audience but with so intense a rendering of a contemporary subject matter, the film would have actually better served its purpose if it had catered a little more towards the common audience.
There are instances of long silences, particularly in the beginning where the male lead takes his own sweet time to carry out his ablutions with the voyeuristic camera trailing his every move. There may be justifications of slowly building up the tempo of the film but it looked a bit overstretched to me, which could have been bettered. Moreover, instances of repeated dialogues and longish scenes such as the restaurant scene and shortcut through the forest scene, plays hide-and-seek throughout the film. As I have pointed out in the beginning, it may be my own lack of knowledge, but it is difficult at times to get to where the director actually intends to lead us.
Thus, the film is slightly difficult to be understood without pointers, but the point has been made and that is what struck me. As a powerful medium to convey social and political messages, such films have a responsibility to cater to a wider audience and I hope Dr.Akoijam would make this a pioneering instance to lead many more in the future. Kudos to the KKN Team!