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Review

Angh review: Charting the historical demise of a way of life

/ 22min


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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The film won a Special Jury Award at the 2021 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and is being screened as part of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

Theja Rio’s short film Angh explores a seldom revisited moment in history — the time when Christianity came to the North Eastern state of Nagaland, a region known for having one of the largest Christian populations in South Asia. The film is an ethnographic examination of how the legacy of the indigenous population was eroded by the coming of modern civilisation. 

Set in 1963, the story revolves around a father and son who try to come to terms with the growing influence of Christianity in their village. The father, is the former village chief, a well-respected head-hunter, who finds himself abandoned when his wife, the queen consort, dies. As the pastor urges the chief and his son, Amao, to embrace the new religion and its ways, the chief, despite immense social pressure, tries to hold on to tradition and his ancestral way of life. However, the young son does not understand his father’s reluctance in adopting what seems to be a more comfortable life, and with the walls closing in on the chief and his way of life, the son’s response becomes the final nail in the coffin. 

As a film depicting a lesser-known moment in history, Angh gives a feel of the past through small details. We see how forest land is being cleared for cultivation, the growing influence of the church and through it, the demise of a traditional way of life. But while larger forces are at work, we see its impact on the chief and his family, their dilemma, helplessness, and, effectively, lack of choice. 

Rio, the writer-director of the film, chooses sparse dialogues to depict the inner turmoil and growing desperation of the chief. The use of a softer focus along with an evocative colour palette effectively reconstructs the moment in time. The end credits underline the historicity of the moment as it presents a series of photographs that depict this moment in Nagaland’s history, conveying the sense of loss poignantly. The film makes us think about the idea of belonging and the erosion of centuries of tradition in one swoop.

Angh won a Special Jury Award at the 2021 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and is being screened as part of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

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