Friday, July 13, 2007

"A life in SHACKLES"- The Assam Tribune

"A life in SHACKLES"- By Neelakash Baro ,The Assam Tribune,13/07/07

"A life in SHACKLES"-Neelakash Baro

Movie buffs of the state have a good reason to rejoice – Guwahati-based filmmaker Aneisha Sharma’s docu-feature Freedom at the Edge has won the Cladie Special Best Documentary Award recently. Back home too, at a screening at Rabindra Bhavan recently, the film has received rave reviews from both the masses and the critics. That is not all. The film is gearing up for its next trip to various film festivals around the world. This is indeed good news for Assamese cinema which is on the verge of extinction. Though it is unlikely that the film will have an impact on the moribund film industry, still the awards and accolades the film has won will encourage the filmmakers of the state to make more meaningful films in future. Now that may not be a big deal for all, considering the fact that a good number of Assamese films have earned accolades and won awards before. But what sets this film apart is that it is based on a tragic true story that every movie buff should be aware of. A film that everyone should watch for the sheer reason that it has different messages to convey. That apart, Freedom at the Edge is a well-made film. What is the story about? The film is based on the story of a tribal youth named Machang Lalung, a man who had to spend 54 long years in jail despite being innocent. Machang Lalung, a tribal youth hailing from middle Assam, was arrested by the police for a minor offence in 1951. At that time, he was 23 years old. He had no clue as to why he was arrested. He was taken to jail. After spending a few months in prison, he developed epilepsy disease. To his misfortune, the jail authorities mistook him to be a mental patient and that is how his journey to ‘hell’ began. After 54 long agonising years, Lalung was detected by the National Human Rights Commission, which ordered the government to release him at the earliest. The Human Rights Commission’s initiative eventually caused the release of Lalung. He was 77 when he finally tasted freedom. The tragedy of the man is that he had to spend the best part of his life in illegal detention, the years that he can never get back. The media reports on Lalung pulled the heartstrings of Aneisha Sharma, who has a nose for good storylines. She was hell-bent on making a movie on him. That was exactly what she did and thus an award-winning film came into being. Freedom at the Edge has managed to strike a chord with the audience simply because it deals with the message that at any part of the world, at any time, life is unguarded. Besides, Sharma has captured the emotion and tragedy of a man who must be struggling hard to come to terms with the fact that the maze of red tape and Indian law has taken a heavy toll on him. If the realisation is finally dawning on him, he must be a bitter man. He must be angry with his destiny for leading him to prison for no fault of his and making freedom an alien concept for him. The power of the film lies in its performance and the script. Coming to the latter, Aneisha says, “Whoever went through the script, they declared there and then – the film is going to win an award. Period.” Aneisha Sharma was determined to rope in Indra Bania to play Machang Lalung’s role as she felt that his facial similarities and acting prowess (Indra Bania has several national and international awards to his credit) made him the most likely candidate to play Lalung. And Bania did not let Aneisha down. He played his role to perfection. No wonder then, the film is very powerful in the acting front. The other actors too did justice to their respective roles. Aneisha Sharma is a familiar name in the film industry. She has already won a number of national and international awards. She basically makes documentaries on wildlife and other myriad issues. That is probably where she has grown as a seasoned filmmaker. In her bid to make the film a success, Aneisha did not want to compromise on any front. Be it budget, realism or performance, she wanted everything to be perfect. That explains why she imported a quite expensive camera exclusively for the film. And to give a real touch to the film, Aneisha chose to shoot in the same jail and mental hospital where Machang Lalung spent 54 years of captivity. Now that is a rare feat, because Aneisha Sharma was the first film maker to have got an opportunity to shoot in that mental hospital. To get the permission to shoot in the mental hospital was an uphill task. But she did not lose heart as she had her well wishers by her side to encourage her. “My mother, husband, friends and the government helped me a lot in making the film a success,” she said gratefully. Moreover, the native village of Lalung was also a major location of the shooting of the film. On the whole, the film has an universal appeal. In fact, it was this quality that moved the audience as well as the jury members at Boston. “It is a powerful film. It touched my heart,” expressed a jury member. A 70-year-old Chinese lady remarked, “You have made a wonderful movie.” Aneisha Sharma was naturally elated, and admits that the accolades will motivate her to make more films based on subjects close to her heart.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Nitin Pai's View

Monday, July 2, 2007

Justice delayed is justice denied
Some months back there was a heated debate among the various intellectuals regarding judicial activism. The editorial pages of prominent newspapers served as the battleground for a heated and well articulated debate about how judicial activism is violating the Constitution. The debate has died down. But it will resurface as and when the Supreme Court will pass judgments which will put the political parties in a quandary.The citizens of India are increasingly depending on the judiciary to take actions which are the prerogative of the Legislature. This is not liked by our political clan. Also, they do not like the authoritative tone adopted by the Judiciary while pronouncing judgments. Hence the tension.I believe that both have failed the Indian citizens. That the legislature has failed us requires no explanation. The Judiciary through inordinate delays has inflicted great injustice on the people of India. One example will suffice.Machang Lalung was kept in prison for more than five decades without any trial. It was not until the National Human Rights Commission discovered him that he was freed. Justice denied for five decades.As Aneisha Sharma a film maker who made a film on him said "I think silence is his way of expressing himself....... It's full of anguish which is yet to find an expression"My humble request to the Judiciary and the Legislature. Stop debating and start acting before civil unrest takes over in the country.

A lifetime in illegal detention -The Hindu

A lifetime in illegal detention
Sushanta Talukdar
Guwahati: There was a shiver of emotion in the air-conditioned auditorium here as 79-year-old Machang Lalung was helped up the steps by relatives. The tribal was there on Thursday evening to join viewers of “Freedom at the Edge,” a short film, which documented his confinement for 54 years in prison without trial.
Many sobbed after watching the film, which bagged an award at the recent Boston International Film Festival. The 27-minute documentary by the Guwahati-based film-maker, Aneisha Sharma, was among the 100 films selected from 1,650 entries. Machang, in the traditional attire of the Tiwas, a tribe of Central Assam’s Morigaon district, was seated next to the then Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup (Metropolitan), H.K. Sarma, who ordered his release on a token personal bond of Re. 1 in July last.
To his right was Indra Bania, Assamese actor, who played the lead role of Lalung in the film. Bania, who bagged the best actor award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1988 for his lead role in Jahnu Barua’s Halodhiya Ch oraiye Baodhan Khai, was trying to make Machang understand that what was being shown on the screen was a film on him.
Machang’s face was expressionless — he did not seem to comprehend what was going on either in the auditorium or around him.
Ms. Aneisha Sharma did the shooting in the Guwahati central jail and the mental hospital at Tezpur, where Machang was held captive, and in his Silchang village. While Bania described his lead role as “the most touching role being the real-life story of a living person,” an emotional Rajib Kro, who played young Machang, broke down in the midst of a media interaction after the screening.
Machang was only 23 years when he was arrested by the police in 1951 from his village. It was NHRC Special Rapporteur Chaman Lal who brought to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission the shocking neglect of five undertrial prisoners, including Machang, in the mental hospital. The NHRC found that Machang was never produced in court though he was declared fit to stand trial after August 9, 1967 and he had remained an undertrial prisoner in the case under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code. The NHRC ordered the Assam Government to release him immediately. Compensation
Later, the Supreme Court, taking suo motu notice, ordered the State Government to pay Machang a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh and a monthly assistance of Rs. 1,000 for life.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

"56 years later, Lalung sees his story on screen"-The IndianExpress

56 years later, Lalung sees his story on screen

Samudra Gupta KashyapPosted online: Monday, July 02, 2007

GUWAHATI, JULY 1: Fifty-four years in prison and that too without
trial, Machang Lalung has probably realised that words mean little.
Released in July 2005, Lalung, a poor tribal from Silchang in Morigaon
district, was recently at the Boston International Film Festival as the
central character of a film made by Aneisha Sharma, which also won
an award.
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life supportPresent at the screening of the film Freedom at the Edge in Guwahati,
Lalung did not utter a word. Instead he sat silently beside noted
Assamese actor Indra Bania watching the story of his life unfold.
He did not even offer a smile, not even when he was felicitated with
an aronai, a traditional Bodo tribal scarf, at the end of the screening.
“For me, it was really difficult to enact the life of Machang Lalung. I
have never heard of anyone with such misfortune, being dumped in
jail for 54 years without any trial,” said Bania. This was the second
time Bania had played the role of a living person. In 1986, he played
Raseswar Saikia, a wronged farmer in Jahnu Barua’s Halodhiya
Choraiye Bao-dhan Khay.
Machang Lalung was picked up by the police back in 1951 and was
dumped in Guwahati jail. He was shifted to a mental hospital at
Tezpur and the jail authorities lost track of him there. When members
of the National Human Rights Commission discovered him at Tezpur in
2005, Lalung had already lost over five decades of his life. No records
of any case against him have been found till today.
Sharma’s film on Lalung was among the 100 films selected from over
1,600 entries for the Boston Film Festival. “My film got tremendous
response from the viewers,” said Sharma. Speaking about Lalung
Sharma said that even during the shoot at his native village, Lalung
used to just sit in a corner and watch silently.
“I think silence is his way of expressing himself. And at times, when I
tried to interact with him, I realised, the silence was not just
eloquent, but frightening as well. It’s full of anguish which is yet to
find an expression,” Sharma said.