Take One! Sikkim's youths push forward their vision to establish a film and entertainment industry
Cinema is widely accepted as one of the most admired modes of entertainment across the globe. India's cinema and film industry has grown to colossal heights, garnering a tremendous response from viewers across the world and marking its spot among the top 5 most popular film or cinema industries across the world. The step towards building a film industry started back in the year 1934 with the starting of Bombay talkies. In the 21st century, India produces about 1000 films a year varying with different languages from different regions of the territory. Following which the state of Sikkim has also contributed with many famous artists, Danny Denzongpa being one.
Filmmaking and entertainment channels have seen an upward growth in Sikkim, with the entry of many young directors, producers and artists. Local work is admired by a large audience and the scenic landscapes have only added to the charm.
Tribeny Rai, an independent filmmaker from Sikkim completed her diploma in direction and screenplay writing from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, India. She has represented Sikkim at various film festivals for instance 37th Fajr International Film Festival (FIFF) 2019, held at Tehran wherein she bagged second best film in the ‘short film idea’ category.
Rai narrating her journey stated “My mother used to tell us stories every night before going to sleep. Until I went to boarding school the tradition continued. While she narrated; I visually imagined the setup and gave life to those characters. I think my journey as a filmmaker subconsciously had begun then. But later on, I made a conscious choice of perusing my higher studies in direction and screenplay writing.”
“In the span of the last two-three years, the scenario has drastically changed. There are a lot of projects being shot in our region by our people and others. There are a couple of production houses and individuals that are setting the bar higher and regularly producing quality projects.” Rai believes that we should take cues from sates likes Kerala, West Bengal, Manipur. "To cultivate film culture, we must create and showcase films that aim to help foster a healthy and fervent space for public engagement and meaningful community discussion.”
Biswas Timshina, a comedian and YouTuber from Sikkim has almost 98k subscribers on the video-sharing platform. He has created many significant works including 'Moonlight', currently screening on Hotstar and 'Black and White rules' where he worked as an Associate Director and is streaming on SONY LIV.
“The seed was planted during engineering. Just going around with a camera, making documentaries, short films so I applied for SRFTI twice, got rejected both times. So studied film editing at an institute but left the course mid-way coz they weren't teaching filmmaking, just how to use the software. Then came Pahuna. I wanted to work on that film so I messaged everyone involved with the project on Facebook and one person replied, they were looking for interns but seeing that I had written books in the past, I was given the task of writing the dialogues", recounts Timshina.
"So I ended up doing the dialogues and wrote two songs along with my friend Peeyush. Then I decided to help with the post-production of the film in Mumbai and ended up working in the big city for 3 years. Got associated with Abbas Tyrewala and Paakhi Tyrewala as an assistant writer while doing AD work for ads and shorts on the sides. So, from the first movie itself, fell in love with the process of filmmaking and now I don't want to do anything else.”
He adds, “The Nepali population across the globe are loyal when it comes to acknowledging art. The only thing a filmmaker has to do is to create quality products and tell honest stories. The best example I can think of is Dhokbu, a well-made film that told an honest story and it did well. As a storyteller, the only thing in your control is your story. The audience will see through your hard work and a film will self-promote itself."
Aadarsh Chettri, co-founder of AS presentations says, “During school days I was involved in dramas and school plays, eventually I got a chance in music video and telefilm from DD Gangtok. And the process of becoming a filmmaker started from my observations from the shoot which was from different productions. So, it was a transition from an artist into a complete filmmaker.”
“Directing has always been an essential part of my filmmaking journey, though I have not directed a feature film, I have restricted it to short films, most of the challenges I faced is obviously technicality, as we lack with equipment’s and other technical accessories, the film is never complete.”
Now without a proper financial backbone, many of these music videos of young artists and actors would never really see light of day or even be acknowledged. Sushma Gurung of Sushma Productions, who is currently working on an Indo-Nepal film which happens to be her first feature film, explains that film culture in Sikkim has existed since long, but due to lack of promotion the films have not been able to reach to the top.
“Sikkim till date has no such film industry but we are working hard to establish one and in future, if all goes well then it would be a huge achievement for the state as Sikkim is very rich in its ethnic culture which needs to be featured and on the other hand the talented artists will get a platform to showcase their ability and creativity to the world".
Pramila Chettri Femina Miss India Sikkim 2018 also debuted as an artist in a music video directed by Anmol Gurung and produced by Sushma Productions. “My journey as an actor began just recently with the release of my debut short musical film ‘Timro Muskan Ley’. I was given this opportunity by the talented director, Mr Anmol Gurung and Sushma Production, we are at beginning of a new era with the film industry taking centre stage with both local productions & national. Many aspiring filmmakers, actors and producers are coming together to work on beautiful projects and stories.”
Chettri adds, “From my experience, I believe that an artist requires self-confidence to begin with. An artist is required to study and appreciate the craft of filmmaking and genuinely convey the emotions. Having a supportive team and family is an added benefit.”
Bkey Agarwal, an actor, director and stand-up comedian from Sikkim, was acquainted with filmmaking when he was asked to act in a film for his brother's university project in 2011. After this quick brush, he developed a hidden interest in acting and filmmaking, leading him to direct his first short film titled Jyoti. His most recent work has been significant to Sikkim's art and culture community as 'Mohan ra Madan' became the state's first LGBTQIA+ short.
"There are lots of talents in this field, short films, music videos come up every day, but due to lack of exposure the professionalism lacks and the end result is always not satisfactory, if one wants to build their career in this field then they have to take film making seriously rather than just a hobby”, says Agarwal.
“I think that there should be convention wherein all artists including directors, producers and others should come under one roof so that the artists can get a platform to showcase their talent, as it would act as a bridge between the artists and the producers which it seems is missing at the current situation. In the future, there is a high chance in the creation of film industry as now due to social media platforms many creative people are able to create great contents, I would say the future in this field will bloom but behind it, there should be a lot of grooming and hard work."