Mehdi Jahan


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Original Title : Maaye ketiyau bisari nupuwa ghorkhon
Year : 2021
Language : Assamese, English
Duration : 5 minutes 56 seconds
Shooting Format : Digital
Aspect Ratio :  4:3
Genre : Experimental
Film Colour : Colour, Black and White

Crew :

Writer, Director, Producer, Camera, Edit : Mehdi Jahan
Sound Design and Mix : Rahul Rabha

Synopsis :

My mother suffers from general anxiety disorder and experiences panic attacks from time to time, during which she often mumbles incoherently. When she feels better, she recounts some of the thoughts which occurred to her during these attacks. Her personal experiences mingle with turbulent political events from India and Assam’s history - images from Partition, Indo-China War, The Assam Movement and the subsequent insurgency being inseparable from not only her but the mental landscape of entire generations of Assamese people since India’s independence. My mother often writes down these experiences in the form of letters which she addresses to her mother who passed away several years ago. These letters, which prove to be quite cathartic, give her a sense of peace. This film is an attempt at reconstructing my mother’s process of engaging with her memory triggered by her panic attacks.

Screenings :
1. TENT (Theatre for Experiments in New Technologies) BIENNALE 2020, Kolkata, India  ( December, 2020 )

2. Moscow International Experimental Film Festival ( MIEFF ), 2021

3. MUTA Festival Internacional de Apropiación Audiovisual, Lima, Peru, 2021

4. Simultan Festival XVI, Timisoara, Romania, 2021

5. Cámara Lúcida - VI Festival Internacional de Cine Contemporáneo, Cuenca, Ecuador, 2021

6. Ribalta Experimental Film Festival, Vignola, Italy, 2022

7. Pan Cinema International – Curitiba International Experimental Film Festival, Curitiba, Brazil, 2022

8. Designed Reminiscence Volume 3, Millennium Film Workshop, New York, USA, 2022

9. Personal Cinema : Mehdi Jahan (A Collection of Films by Mehdi Jahan),  Millennium Film Workshop, New York (Curated by Alex Faoro)

Director Statement :

The process which eventually led to this film began a while ago when my mother was experiencing frequent panic attacks sometime around late March 2020, when the Covid pandemic first began in India, and her health deteriorated. During this period, there were phases when she mumbled incoherently quite often. Needless to say, it was quite worrying and we had to calm her down. Thankfully, these attacks didn't last for long periods but they did make her quite feeble. I could make out some of the words she said and the periods where she felt better, she used to share her thoughts with me in a more coherent manner. Her train of thoughts often used to remind me of my paternal grandparents' Sufi storytelling style, since they were quite discursive, circular, and fragmentary, but the pace at which she narrated set them apart since it was quite frenetic. It felt like a sudden eruption of thoughts which ruptured the spatio-temporal reality of the events, where events from various times and spaces blended into each other in such a way that they seemed seamless and discordant at the same time. She recalled some of the stories her parents and grandparents used to tell her, the common theme linking the stories was the fact that they were all related to major political events of modern India, be it the Partition or the Indo-Sino war, which led to the separation of families on a grand scale. In her narration, her personal memories get inadvertently and inevitably intertwined with political events beginning with the Partition. It felt like looking into a bioscope where images are played randomly but together, they evoke something not only very sensorial but also, political. I wanted this particular film to be very faithful to what my mother experienced during this recent period of immense distress. I allowed the strong sense of loyalty to my mother's narration to guide me towards this film.

Several years ago, my mother stumbled upon a bunch of letters at her mother's place, some of which my mother wrote to her. She misplaced all of them over the years, barring one, which she revisits time and again. It's a letter she wrote to her mother a few years after her marriage, expressing her discontent with the world, life in general, and an intense desire to return 'home'. That became the starting point of the film, especially since her memories come flooding back every time she recalls this letter, transforming the letter into a site where personal memories and the nation's history come in contact with each other and as I mentioned earlier, blend into each other seamlessly, making the thin line between the personal and the political disappear completely.