One of the many odds that the film,Bom – One day ahead of Democracy,faced was to convince government agencies in Himachal Pradesh,particularly in Kullu,to help the people of Malana lead an alternative and sustainable lifestyle. The film that portrayed how the livelihood of people of Malana was devastated after the government banned growing of cannabis,citing its use as an illegal drug,has finally managed to get its way to the decision makers a breakthrough that could finally bring about the change the film desired.
Impressed by the message the film intends to deliver,the Kullu police will be holding a special screening of the film for senior bureaucrats,politicians,judges and other officials on April 5 a development the filmmaker,Amlan Datta,considers significant.
According to Datta,the Kullu superintendent of police approached him some time back asking for a copy of the film. He saw the film and called me over the next day and told me that it would be nice if a screening of the film could be arranged for the officials so that they can sit down to working on the problem that Malana faces, said Datta,a 1997-batch student of cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
Though Datta shot the film between 2007 and 2009 in Malana,the responsibility of the filmmaker in him did not end with mere screening,he says. These people in Malana belonged to a centuries-old civilisation with their own language,cultures and ways of living. This was all being threatened with the invasion of modernity. The ban on cultivation of cannabis took away the basic livelihood of these people. The fact that government officials have now at least started looking at these people with an aim to help them is encouraging, he adds.
The film argues that while a component of the plant is an alkaloid and used as a narcotic drug,the plant itself has many other alternate uses. We can make fibre from the hemp,make paper,use the seeds as a source of protein and even derive oil from them. The fact that the plant has been banned because cannabis has been classified as a drug is wrong. Further,people here are not exposed to the outside world. Their children are not educated; underage marriages and pregnancies are an unwritten norm and their traditional culture is dying. How much more terrible can it be for them? Datta asks.
After the screening of the movie,there will be a joint open discussion,which he says will hopefully work towards the officials working in the right direction to help out the residents of Malana.
The fight has not been about legalising cannabis plantation for distribution of the drug,but rather to help the local people generate a sustainable lifestyle. Even if the government wishes to regulate the production and buys it all from the people directly and in return provides them with good living conditions,education,healthcare facilities and ways and means to protect their own culture and diversity,it would be the ultimate victory for the movie,the people of Malana and me as a filmmaker, he says.