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Habitat 2019: Don't be afraid to experiment, says Bhor director Kamakhya Narayan Singh


Kamakhya Narayan Singh, a travel documentary expert from Assam, spoke of the hurdles he faced while directing his first feature, in an hour-long segment at the 14th Habitat Film Festival.

Kamakhya Narayan Singh. Courtesy: Habitat Film Club

Yatharth Vohra

The second day of the 14th Habitat Film Festival witnessed a large turnout of cinephiles to not only watch and appreciate films, but also the work that goes into their making. Kamakhya Narayan Singh was invited to conduct a masterclass, an elaborate disquisition on filmmaking.

He began by stating the need for the most basic tools to make a movie — confidence and conviction in one's ideas. Venturing into his own past, he spoke of his interactions with the late lyricist, composer and singer Bhupen Hazarika as a young man, his initial interest in poetry, and the jobs he took up in his early years, which allowed him to travel extensively.

Kamakhya Narayan Singh, who states that he "doesn't come from a conventional school of filmmaking", never went to a formal film school. Instead, he chose to sensitize himself by completing a course in social work from Delhi University. The course, he believes, helps him to find interesting stories.

His debut feature Bhor (2018), a drama film, deals with women's empowerment and the subject of open defecation, with the characters representing an 'untouchable' caste from Bihar. With an unwavering faith in his vision, an undying desire to create this film, and proper funding, Kamakhya Narayan Singh assured himself that this task of direction would be a cakewalk. Evidently, it wasn't one.

Bhor director Kamakhya Narayan Singh. Courtesy: Habitat Film Club

According to him, it took months to merely convince people to work with a new director; months to ensure proper casting, considering the scarcity of artistes. Still more months were devoted to method acting — tanning, walking barefoot and staying amongst villagers.

The director proved the effectiveness of the technique by playing Before and After clips of the fishing scene rehearsals — city-based actors now looked like villagers.

The inclusion of a dance sequence and the use of sync sound were other issues he touched upon. His refusal to give up on his dream, despite being riddled with self-doubt during the process, is inspirational.

While discussing documentaries, he revealed that he believes in treating technicalities as secondary, always putting the story first. However, he warned against creating illusive narratives and tempering facts. "Never write a story," he suggested, "as it is all about going out and capturing the reality." For greater authenticity, he recommends talking to locals to understand their points of view.

He urged members of the audience to start experimenting, and to believe in their ideas, no matter how crazy they might sound. "Bana do, phir dekhenge [Make it first, then we'll see]," was his simple and straightforward advice.

Salim Siddiqui, an acting student from Asmita Theatre, later said, "The session was very engaging, informative and comprehensive for someone who wants to join the business of filmmaking."

Kamakhya Narayan Singh's Bhor was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival on 19 May 2019.

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival