Veteran filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj’s pre-Independence drama Rangoon hit the theatres on 24 February. The film is set in 1943 when British India participated in World War II. As the title suggests, the film is centred around an Army regiment stationed along the Indo-Burma border. It has been shot in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and the beautiful picturisation is evident.
The sight of a vintage train passing through dense forests and over a bridge is just blissful. While watching the film, I could not keep my eyes away from the exotic locations in the North-East. A question out of nowhere popped up in my mind, which I am sharing with you people. Has the Hindi cinema actually utilised this part of India in a manner it should have been?
Last year, the union ministry of information and broadcasting set up the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) with an aim of providing a single window clearance to the filmmakers and promote India as a filmmaking destination. Last year in November, the Narendra Modi government had also set up a film promotion fund under which it would provide assistance to the films which are selected for international film festivals, as well as India’s official entry to the Oscars. Just see this song from Rangoon which captures the picturesque North East.
But formulating policies will not yield any benefit if the filmmakers do not step up to explore north-east as an ideal filming location. Last year, Farhan Akhtar-starrer Rock On 2 was shot in Meghalaya. Later, Akhtar said that more films could be shot in this region in future. Sadly, the north-eastern part of the country has been ignored both in terms of location and creative aspects.
In recent times, one state which has been on the radar of filmmakers is Rajasthan. Blockbusters like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and PK had a connection with the desert state in terms of plot. On the other hand, films like Shuddh Desi Romance and the upcoming Badrinath Ki Dulhania have links to Rajasthan. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been sought by directors for their ventures. Prakash Jha has filmed Raajneeti, Aarakshan, Chakravyuh in Madhya Pradesh.
But barring Rangoon, have we seen any mainstream Bollywood film centered in North East? Is it because of the age-old stereotype that the seven sisters are all about gun-toting militants wandering in tea plantations? Or, endless demonstrations against the Indian government in these states?
When films like Haider can go on in Kashmir without any trouble, North East is still a safe bet and replete with beautiful locations. So, the filmmakers need to show inclination and a bit of risk to highlight this portion of India among the masses. It might help in erasing several stereotypes about the North East.