Villages of Garo Hills, a documentary by city-based filmmaker Abhishek Udayakumar, delves into the life of farmers in hills
The two-and-half-hour documentary, which was made in association with an NGO Bakdil, is all about the farmers in Garo Hills, Meghalaya
The North-Eastern part of the country is, no doubt, one of the most picturesque parts with a treasure trove of stories. Capturing these stories is city-based filmmaker Abhishek Udayakumar in his documentary Garo Hills Ni A’chik Songrang/Villages of Garo Hills, which will be premiering at the Alliance Française on May 1.
The two-and-half-hour documentary, which was made in association with an NGO Bakdil, is all about the farmers in Garo Hills, Meghalaya. “The documentary follows the lives of three farmers across different regions of the Hills. It explores their unique forms of livelihood, domestic lives and relationships through a narrative of candid conversations, immersive takes, memoirs and journeys across the landscape. The film’s collection of stories serve as a document about the villagers’ lives for the time to come, and portrays them as people and not as tribals or an indigenous population,” explain Udayakumar, adding that the film begins in the monsoon season and ends in winter during the harvest season.
Udaykumar (26), who stayed in Meghalaya for six months for the shoot, emphasises that he has tried to keep a neorealist and novelistic format, where he avoided any sort of formal interviews, but instead captured candid conversations. “The film opens by a river where the nearby villagers are busy at work. When the river dries up in winter, the villagers grow winter crops which they consume and sell through spring and summer. The film follows the life of a lady whose livelihood shifts significantly with the seasons. There are two other stories in the film,” says Udayakumar, adding that a large portion is set in the Bangladesh border. Since Garo Hills is a matrilineal society, the film focuses on the voices of women and their conversations.
Villages of Garo Hills, which is Udayakumar’s eighth film, throws light on some of the intricate details about farmers in the hills. “The economy of Garo Hills is largely dependent on betelnut plantations. In addition to this, farmers follow a pattern of sustenance agriculture where they grow crops for self-consumption to sell in local markets,” says Udayakumar, who is a graduate of Royal Holloway University of London.
Garo Hills Ni A’chik Songrang / Villages of Garo Hills will be premiered at Alliance Francaise, Vasanthnagar on May 1