blogmistri will be biased- he is from shillong.
the mysterious screening journey of the film continues. technically, the first preview of the film should have been at Gorakhpur, but hindu right intervened in the city with their favourite festival- riot and to our unhappiness-delhiwallahs got the first official taste of the film not the gorakhpuris. then the film travelled to Srinagar’s truly inspirational screening followed by an exciting and very political screening at Patna– and then Shillong on saturday, 26th May 2007, 3pm.
Shillong- capital of Meghalaya-56 kms north of Cherrapunjee (wettest place on earth) is known more for its hill station charm than its cultural/political life. as in all places cursed with the discourse of tourism – Shillongites struggle between the cunning despair of tourist guide and the banal excitements of everyday life. alt-space of the freedom project which hosted the film, is one of those groups which in a very small town way has been trying to create critical/dissenting spaces through films, music, conversations, politics, etc. They were thrown out of the small place they had been functioning from, and thus had hired the 108 year old Assam Club, opposite the old Presbyterian Church in Laban,with wooden floors and colonial charm for the screening.
Apart from the fact that we had a full house (around 130 people), thanks to Julius Basaiawmoit – an SRFTII graduate- great sound too. For the first time outside the studio setting, we could enjoy the elaborate sound design of Madhu Apsara.
Although Shillong screening was blogmistri/editor’s way of telling his town folk his reason for his regular vanishing acts to Delhi, people chose to read deep political significance in the choice of location. Their reading was to do with the usual discomfort which the societies of ‘North east’ India feel with the idea/geography of India. Historically most of the states/communities which reside here, have one time or the other challenged the territorial integrity of India. It was not that we were not aware of this connection, but we wanted to go beyond the facile similarity into the specificities of various different nationality movements. The profile of the audience was mixed- students, activists, relatives, academics… the usual. Questions- pandits, violence, islamicism, form, etc. One thing which is becoming quite exciting for us is the reaction of the ‘progressive/secular/liberal’ crowd to the religious tonality of the Azadi Movement in Kashmir. From an initial discomfort- the conversation moves on to the false dichotomies between religion/secular which the liberal discourse draws out.
Some of the reactions which we would classify as NGO/Conflict resolution industry type which blights any place where movements challenging the idea of India exists, is best exemplified by this piece which appeared in the North East Telegraph two days after the Shillong screening . Reactions of this type try to dehistoricise and reduce any struggle to a ‘conflict’ and attempts to manage and control the ‘conflict’ on behalf of the state. So the usual questions about the Peace Process, Human cost of the conflict etc.
But then an engagement which made the screening come alive for us was this short poem by Robin S Ngangom, sent to us via sms few hours after the screening.