‘Memories of a Forgotten War’, a feature-length documentary on the extreme valour, sacrifice and sufferings of thousands of soldiers and local people in Northeast India during the World War II, will stream via online platform MovieSaints from September 2, coinciding with the day the war ended 75 years ago.
Produced by well-known cyber security expert Subimal Bhattacharjee under the banner of Jookto and directed by national award-winning filmmaker Utpal Borpujari, the film was part of the Indian Panorama at the 47th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 2016 and had a special screening at the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) in 2018.
Made over a period of three years, the film was shot extensively by an international crew in remote battle locations in Manipur and Nagaland, as well as in locations in the UK and Japan in addition to Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and New Delhi.
It features interviews of a number of veterans from the British Indian Army and the Japanese Army who fought each other in the treacherous terrain of Manipur and Nagaland at great human and emotional cost.
The film has some rare footage – such as never-seen-before visuals from inside the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo, which houses the urn containing the purported ashes of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In fact, this is the first instance of any video being allowed inside the temple. The only office of Netaji-led Indian National Army (INA) on Indian soil, located at Moirang near Imphal, also features prominently in the film. Another highlight is the special footage of recovery of the wreckage of a lost 2nd World War plane by an expedition of the US Army in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh.
“We are really happy that this important film is reaching the audiences via MovieSaints, which is promoting quality cinema with a special eye on cinema from Northeast India. Our film is an important part of the history of Northeast India that needed to be looked at from a humanistic point of view before it faded away,” says producer Bhattacharjee, who grew up in Assam’s famous hill station Haflong.
“As someone hailing from the region, I feel strongly about bringing out positive narratives from Northeast India that is often in the news for the wrong reasons, and this film is part of that endeavour,” he says.
“Until the National War Museum of Britain declared a few years ago that the Battle of Kohima was the most important battle fought by the Allied Army during the World War II, ahead of even the Normandy landing and many other such much better-known battles, the battles of Manipur and Nagaland hardly attracted any attention. We have tried to bring out some of the memories of those battles by retelling the tales of valour of the young soldiers and of the local peoples who participated in or witnessed those battles,” says Borpujari, who won the national award for his debut feature ‘Ishu’ (Assamese) in 2018.
“The documentary has tried to record for posterity some of the many stories of bravery and valour in a factual and emotionally-connective way. It’s a film that deals with the subject not as a military one but as one that impacted the lives of many individuals in many ways,” he says.
Commenting on the ‘War & Dehumanization’ package which also comprises Supriyo Sen’s ‘Way Back Home’ and ‘Hope Dies Last in War’ and Martti Helde’s Estonian film ‘In the Crosswinds (Risttuules)’, MovieSaints chief operating officer Anupama Bose says: “Memories of a Forgotten War is the reason the series was born for us! It probably narrates one of the most bone chilling war anecdotes ever in its telling of the Battle of Kohima…and of how dehumanizing the process of war can be!”
“That a war veteran from the winning side tells us of picking out the human debris of his own colleagues from his bedding to be able to sleep in it as a first-person account makes it even more potent! We are proud to have curated this as a part of the series because nothing can be more tragic than being pitted against your own countrymen in war. And therein lies the realization – that it is equally cannibalistic when nations fight nations, humans fight humans, governments & leaders fight those who have elected them to power,” Sen says.