Two-time National Film Award (India) winner Pradip Kurbah won the second highest award at the Busan International Film Festival 2019 for his Khasi film ‘Market’. He was presented with the award by Iranian cinema icon and director Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
Kurbah’s film ‘Iewduh’, or ‘Market’ in English, is a feature film set in a local market of Shillong and delves into the everyday lives of the people who work and live there, their hopes, joys and sorrows. “This is a film about the everyday people in Shillong, the stories about those people who are not dignified as heroes,” says Kurbah. The film is not as much about the marketplace as it is about the people who bring life to it, explains the director. “I’m not talking about the market; in the film, we talk about human relationships, human bonding. They (the people) don’t look at the community (that others belong to), they don’t look into the religion. They are there for each other.”
“I believe people are the same everywhere,” says a line from the official trailer of ‘Iewduh’ and that, Kurbah believes, is also why the film resonated with the Busan International Film Festival jury. “I just believe in one thing—that wherever you go, the emotions are the same. So it’s the emotions that connect people; whether in the theatre when they saw the film or when I interacted with them,” says Kurbah of the audience at the BIFF where his film had its world premiere this past week. “I believe that cinema has no language. It’s all about the emotions.”
Kurbah, “a self-taught filmmaker”, will complete 22 years of filmmaking. At the 61st and 63rd National Film Awards, Kurbah received the award for the best Khasi film award for his films ‘Ri – Homeland of Uncertainty’ and ‘Onaatah – Daughter of the Earth’ respectively.
‘Onaatah’ has been remade in Marathi, produced by Satish Kaushik titled ‘Mann Udhan Vaara’ and was released this past weekend. A 2016 film, ‘Onaatah – Daughter of the Earth’, tells the story of a young woman, who travels to a village in Shillong, in an attempt to heal after a traumatic assault and how she finds herself and finds love and hope.
The scripting for ‘Market’ took almost 1.5 years, but the entire shooting was completed in 21 days due to the budget constraints, says Kurbah. “We believe a lot in rehearsals. We spent two months inside the market with the artists. We took local actors from Shillong, worked with them, trained them, did a workshop with them.”
While accepting his award on the Busan stage, Kurbah thanked his producer Shankar Lal Goenka, a Guwahati-based producer who has produced two National Award-winning films and his first Khasi film with ‘Market’.
“Busan happened because of Park Soo-young and I mentioned her on stage as well. She discovered us. She is in charge of the Asian section and she saw the film,” says Kurbah. For the filmmaker the award is meaningful because it represents the Northeast, he says. “Coming from a small town like Shillong where films are hardly being made and to come all the way (to Busan) and win the award and I’m still not able to believe it.”
On the Busan stage, Kurbah dedicated the award to people in the market. “The name ‘Iewduh’ actually means ‘barabazar’. The whole film is about the people in the market and I would just like to dedicate this award to the people in the market,” says Kurbha during the interview.
Every year the Busan International Film Festival committee selects eight to ten directors from across Asia and nominates them for the Kim Jiseok Award. “So when they told me that I was nominated I couldn’t believe it. We were so happy to just get nominated. I sent in the film for the festival and (Park Soo-young) saw the film and connected with us. She said we wanted this film for the world premiere and we cannot ask for more than a world premiere of a Khasi film in Busan,” says an emotional Kurbah.
Working as a filmmaker in the Northeast comes with its own set of challenges. “If you have a passion for cinema, you’ll make films. The government doesn’t ask me to go make films. If the government intervenes to help, it will be a blessing,” says Kurbah. “Otherwise, just do it with honesty. If you do anything with honesty, there is no stopping for anything, it’s not difficult.”
Making films is easy, says Kurbah, but getting them released is the most challenging part. “In my hometown, we have just three theatres. So if we get dates to get it screened in those theatres then it’s fine. Otherwise, we are dependant on touring cinemas. We travel from village to village,” says Kurbah. He travels with his films around the state of Meghalaya because he wants his people to watch it. “If they can’t come to the theatres, I go to them. The world premiere (for Market) just happened, so this winter I’ll start taking it around.”
The local audience in Meghalaya has been very supportive of his films, says Kurbah, without whom making films would be difficult. “I think they should give the same kind of reaction to other films as well from the Northeast. There are so many independent filmmakers and if we don’t start supporting each other, I think it will be difficult for us.”
Kurbah will start shooting next April or May for his next movie. “I’m still happy and I have a long way to go. I really want to see my hometown, my state as one film industry and for that, we need to keep making films,” says Kurbah.