The Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) opened on Sunday with Aimee Baruah’s ‘Semkhor’, the first movie to be made in Dimasa, a dialect spoken by a tribal community spread across parts of Assam and Nagaland.
Speaking at the screening, Baruah said it took her a year to master the dialect, which is not even listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. She did it to communicate with the people of Semkhor, a village where people live happily without mobiles, or Internet connectivity.
Baruah, incidentally, also plays the lead character in the film. She said that she had acted in 27 feature films as a heroine, but ‘Semkhor’ was her first film as director.
“I first thought I would use an artiste from the village for my film, but then, the people there wouldn’t talk in front of the camera,” Baruah reminisced.
“It was then that I decided to play the lead character myself. I selected all the other members of my unit, all of whom have never ever seen a camera. But they all gave wonderful support and acted exceptionally well. They came up with performances that exceeded my expectations,” the actress-turned-director said.
Sharing some interesting details about her film and the place where it was shot, the director said: “In this century, we are never happy in spite of all the facilities we have. Semkhor is a place where even now there is no mobile network and no Internet, but the people are happy.”
Baruah said she was curious to know how they managed to be like that, which is why she visited Semkhor in 2017.
“The people who live in Semkhor are called the Semsa. Semsa is a dialect of Dimasa. I did not know a word of Dimasa then. I realised that if I did not know the language, I wouldn’t be able to go back to the village. It takes a good 10 hours to reach this place from Guwahati. These people don’t talk to outsiders,” Baruah recalled.
It was only after she learnt to speak Dimasa that Baruah travelled to Semkhor again in 2018.
That was when she discovered that the people living in the village did not use products from outside. They still grow their own crops and don’t use oil to cook. “They use salt water from the wells for cooking,” Baruah said, adding that some of the rituals shown in her film are still practised.
“I am very happy that I have been able to bring a movie from Assam and showcase it on such a big platform for all of you,” Baruah said, signing off after narrating her fascinating story.