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Bridging the mental divide

Almost six decades of insurrection in the Northeast has seen only a couple of films on the subject.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2006 03:11 IST

Fifteen years of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir has inspired at least four glossy films beginning with Mani Ratnam’s Roja.

Almost six decades of insurrection in the Northeast has seen only a couple of films on the subject -- Mani Ratnam took the lead with his seemingly un-researched Dil Se… on the Ulfa while Kanika Verma’s made-for-multiplex Dansh on the Mizo uprising had a more realistic touch.

If that is not a measure of the mental distance between a strife-torn region and the rest of India, Anshuman G Barua’s maiden Hindi feature film in DVD attempts to be.

A protégé of Jahnu Barua of Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara fame, Mumbai-based Barua’s Dooor -- The Distance is as poignant a comment on the outlawed Ulfa’s war against the “Indian union” as it is on mental divide between the two Indias connected by a narrow corridor called Chicken’s Neck.

Dooor has an “outsider” as its main protagonist -- a strict police officer Abhimanyu Singh with a mission to crush the armed rebellion in Assam. Singh believes in using force to tackle the anti-India extremists, but gradually comprehends the various aspects of insurgency.

Captured by militants during a counter-insurgency operation, he observes middle-rung leader JP and his comrade-in-arms as they keep jungle hopping. The police officer does a rethink after he is released unconditionally and chalks out a negotiation plan.

Barua weaves into his 94-minute film political conspiracy and double-crossing among the rebels that drive a spoke into the peace wheel. The young director takes care not to overdo the sermonising bit as the film climaxes to its inconclusive end.

But is Dooor all about a psychological divide? The scene where a group of militants celebrates Team India’s victory after listening to a cricket match on the transistor puts across this question.

Why did Barua choose to do the film in Hindi, banned by the Ulfa and other outfits in the Northeast? “Because Hindi has a wider, stronger reach and the subject is universal, perhaps true of Naxalism spreading across Central India,” he says.