Kolkata, 17 Mar 2022 1:54 IST
Directed by Shishir Jha, the docufiction, which features minimum dialogues, speaks volumes but demands a lot of patience from viewers.
Shishir Jha’s docufiction Dharti Latar Re Horo (Tortoise Under The Earth) is a stark yet empathetic portrait of an embattled tribal community, which is facing exploitation, in Jharkhand's Godda district.
Jha has captured the vanishing legacy of the Santhals of the area, who have been forced to abandon their native village due to the land acquisition policies of the government. The film also documents how the naive inhabitants have been adversely affected by uranium mining activities for years and have accepted the horrific consequences as their fate.
With his narrative that revolves around a couple who have lost their daughter, Jha has attempted to portray the strong attachment the locals have to their surroundings and culture. For the couple, who are deeply in love with each other, their land and forests bear witness to their daughter's memory.
They are aware that sooner or later, they too will be forced to migrate to a city and be separated from their roots. For them, the displacement means going further away from their daughter. While the wife laments the death and the impending dark days, the husband encourages her to enjoy her stay in her own land when there is still time.
In the film, various subjects such as government policies, activism, the rights of indigenous people and the couple’s internal turmoil are delved into with minimum dialogues. Jha’s camerawork, which explores the overall degradation of the settlement amidst the vastness of nature, speaks volumes.
Here people take shelter in the majesty of nature, directing their sorrows, helplessness and prayers to the trees, hills, rivers and the sky. Their folk songs and poems are testaments to their deep entanglement with the physical world. They have their own myths. lore, traditions and beliefs. Later, when they are forced to leave their village en mass, they carry out a form of resistance with the aid of their culture.
It is interesting how Jha focuses on exploring the abundance of nature in order to express the pangs of the displaced. As government projects gradually distort the beauty of the place and sever the deep yet intangible bond between humans and nature, the film leaves a lingering effect on the mind. Initially, the visuals throw light on the customs and collective consciousness of the Santhals. Towards the end of the film, they express a loss that is hard to bear.
However, the film which retains a real-time pace, demands attention and patience from the viewer. Durga Prasad Murmu’s music and the ambient natural sounds sometimes help one concentrate better.
Dharti Latar Re Horo is an important step in making the voice of the tribal community heard. While watching the film, you will feel uneasy about the lack of agency of the people, who are in a constant struggle for survival.
Dharti Latar Re Horo was screened from 12 to 14 March at the 22nd Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.