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A Naga film maker’s perfect pictures brings out the ground realities

Santosh Mehta| Kohima 05 Apr 2014, Vol 5 Issue 14

At first glance, Tiainla Jamir can easily be mistaken for just another youngster from northeastern India. But she is woman on a mission. As a filmmaker from Nagaland, who already has over 15 hard-hitting documentaries to her credit, she feels that now more than ever she needs to tell stories that reflect the ground realities of the people of the region.

The recent spate of hostile incidents against people from the Northeast has been making headlines regularly and forcing widespread protests on the streets across India.

Tiainla Jamir, a filmmaker from Nagaland, wants to tell stories that reflect the ground realities of the people of the region (Photos: WFS)

“The Northeast is an integral part of India and as a filmmaker I want to continue to base my work on the region and its people. I think films are the best way to better understand a society and get a feel for its customs. They can play their part in bridging the divide,” observes Jamir.

Quite early in life Jamir had decided that she wanted to master the visual medium in order to fulfill her creative yearning to tell stories.

But, as she recalls with a smile, her parents were not quite thrilled with her decision to pursue Mass Communications, “They were not confident about my choice as they felt that for a person from the Northeast there was no scope to build a career in cinema. Nonetheless, my mother understood my point of view and stuck by me. Even today she encourages me to follow my heart.”

Once she completed her diploma in Mass Communications from Shillong, the capital of the neighbouring state of Meghalaya, Jamir came to Delhi to work in a production house.

During her two -year stint with the company she picked up all the practical knowhow she needed on movie making in the real world. “Film schools are a good place to learn the basic techniques. But beyond that one has to do all the hard work. In the Northeast, particularly, the competition is quite fierce as there are few opportunities available.

“So working with an established outfit was valuable experience, one that enabled me to start my very own independent venture which I set up after coming back to Nagaland. My aim has always been to highlight the regional issues we have been facing for years now. I believe it can help link us to the mainstream. After all, the problems we all are up against are common,” she explains.

Jamir’s camera truly brings to life the real stories of real people and she likes to challenge the sensibilities of her audience by capturing powerful and emotional subjects.

Her 20-plus minute documentary, ‘Going the Distance’, is a perfect example of this. It presents the realities of a woman living with HIV/AIDS and traces her complex journey that begins with her trying to come to terms with the disease and the numerous ways in which it affects her life and relationships.

“It’s based on a true story. Initially, the woman, Nukshinaro, was hesitant to come on camera but as time went by she decided to take charge of the situation and find her own way in the world,” reveals Jamir.

A still from Tiainla Jamir's documentary 'Going the Distance'

To make ‘Going the Distance’, the talented filmmaker – who incidentally is the oldest among six sisters – had to undergo the tough drill of following the protagonist for nearly three months. “I wanted to get to know her and make her comfortable in my presence. She was very shy in the beginning,” said the young filmmaker.

This inspiring film has certainly had the desired impact and even attracted high praise especially on the festival circuit. It was shown at the first film festival held in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and became the first documentary from Nagaland to be selected for the Indian Panorama at the India International Film Festival (IIFI) 2013.

In fact, during the latter event, Jamir’s work was included among 19 films selected for a special section dedicated to the Northeast in which the works of acclaimed filmmakers from the region, like Jahnu Bauah, Deb Kumar Bose, Aribam Syam Sharma, Manju Borah and the legendary Bhupen Hazarika, were showcased.

“It’s been a beautiful journey and getting selected for IIFI was an exceptional moment for me. It has given me the chance to reach out to a much wider audience,” she remarks.

Besides making documentaries Jamir loves to unwind by cooking a good meal for her family or reading the latest bestseller in town. But, of course, there’s nothing like catching up on a good movie. “I am a total movie buff and enjoy all kinds of cinema,” says this self-confessed Shah Rukh Khan fan.

As a new bride she has been working on striking the right balance between home and career. Her husband, Prabal Kotoki, is also a filmmaker and so they had already gone some distance as a team before falling in love during the editing of ‘Going the Distance’.

Today Jamir is looking to explore newer territories and ideas, even though she wants to continue doing non-fiction.

She signs off by observing, “One can say that filmmaking is a 24x7 profession, as one's mind is continuously processing the different things that are happening in society and taking in all these varied experiences. But my ultimate goal is to reach out to people with messages of integration and tolerance.” - Women's Feature Service

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