Rajni Basumatary’s film Jwlwi – The Seed, which depicts the horror of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), was screened at the third edition of Guwahati International Film Festival (GIFF).
Jwlwi is a Bodo language film that deals with the struggle of families who lost their near and dear ones when the insurgency was at peak in Assam and the northeast region.
Writer, director and producer Rajni, who herself has witnessed the horror of the draconian law in the late 1980s and 90s, said that the world must know this sordid saga of people living in this part of India.
A strong advocate of repealing the AFSPA, Rajni plays the protagonist Alaari in the film, shows her journey to bring home her last offspring after the family crumbles amidst insurgency.
Rajni speaks to The News Mill about her film:
Q. Why is the story so important to tell the viewers across the globe…?
I’m happy that finally I could tell the stories of pain and sufferings to the viewers from across the globe. We grew up in the late 1980s and 90s listening to the horror tales of sufferings. People lost their near and dear ones. Families suffered at the hands of the state or non-state perpetrators. Security personnel used to pick up youths and tortured. My own nephews got killed amid that chaos, and one of my brothers disappeared. He has till date not returned home. My parents lived and died hoping their son would return home some day. This is a story that needed to be told.
Q. You depicted the horror AFSPA on village women and men which gave goosebumps to the viewers. AFSPA gives the Indian Army the sweeping power to arrest anyone on the basis of suspicion. What is your take on it?
As you know it’s prevalent in the Northeast states and in Jammu & Kashmir. See, I have already told you that I have witnessed the worst impact of it.
It should be repealed at the earliest. There is police and paramilitary forces. Even Army can stay, but why this law?
During the peak of the counter-insurgency days…which was most probably in the year 1999-2000, our house in Rangapara was bombed in the middle of the night leaving my mother in a bad shape. Though she narrowly escaped, she suffered from hearing loss.
This is just an example of how the people lived in Assam and most of the parts of the region. So, it must go.
Q. Though you have directed Assamese films before, it must be a different experience for you. Can you share something on the film?
Yes, absolutely. It’s a different experience for me as a filmmaker. The film has been shot in real villages and many of the actors are not trained actors and in fact they are the victims of the insurgency days.
It’s like all the horror episodes of the past came alive again. In the village, every household has to tell a story…if someone has lost their son and some are still waiting for the return for their husbands in vain.
In a scene, it’s shown that Indian Army personnel invade a household in the dark looking for their son whom they suspect to be linked with insurgents. The role of that mother was played by someone who has actually faced that moment in her real life.
That lady in Udalguri district was in tears. When she was acting in the scene, it came naturally to her as she has faced that trauma of seeing her son being taken away in front of her eyes.
Q. After all these years of pain and sufferings you have gone through, do you think you have become brave to tell the story in this way?
Yes…I would say so. When I was younger and the wounds were fresher, I was highly emotional about it but with the time I have matured and this is the right time to tell the story because I am in a position to narrate it objectively.
Even 10 years ago, if I was to tell this story, I would probably have narrated it slightly in a different way. Now, I have come to the terms and not in the state of playing victim or blame game.
The pains and sufferings make one stronger and braver.
Q. You also had a tough time to gather the funds to make this movie. Luckily you got a co-producer from Dubai…how did all this happen?
I always believed that if I start the project there will be a way to go forward. So, I just started with whatever I had in my hand and with the amount my husband contributed.
That way we almost finished 70 per cent. The last 30 per cent was also very crucial for the film. That was the post-production part.
That’s when I started looking for funds. In my previous films, I had taken loan but this time I was sure not to do that. It’s very difficult to repay. So, I started to look around and initiated the crowd funding which eventually was not enough.
After that I happened to meet Jani Viswanath who stays in Dubai through a common friend. After the first meeting itself she readily agreed to do the film. I’m thankful to Jani for helping me in completing the project.