Fluid, lyrical and expansive shots of the Brahmaputra’s majestic blue currents, of the ever radiant horizons, of the lush green paddy and serene musical evenings enveloping the bamboo brown hamlets will introduce the ethereal world of Majuli to us in rich, deep earthen tones.
The sound is the sound of silence and of the breeze flowing on water. The birdsong mixes effortlessly with the prayers in the monasteries.
Paradise reveals itself.
One veil lifts after another till the embrace is complete…
This year the river Brahmaputra is feared to break enter Majuli and split it into two parts. On that exact point of entry is Ritu’s home.
On the island we will live in the home with Ritu and her family. They reside right on the banks of the river next to the large R.C.C. and Bamboo porcupines – structures that have been constructed by the government to divert the river current and save the land. In the past, not an inch of land has been saved. Ritu is worried – more about the safety of her children than the poverty they may have to endure their whole life.
Every single monsoon, her home floods for over three months. They mostly sleep on their roof and rarely wear anything dry and warm for over 90 days.
This year we will face the floods with them. In front of our very eyes, we will see the force with which the unstoppable, merciless currents wash away homes and eat up lands.
We will follow Ritu and her family after the floods. They will try to fight for compensation, a tiny piece of land or some money from the relief fund. They are absolutely certain, they won’t get any – for they never have. We will see them rebuild their home on an uncertain ground, starting from scratch, once again, for the fourth time in the last 10 years.
In the month of September, in the first major festival to kick start the harvest, Ritu will dress up beautifully and she will dance.
Not too far away from Ritu, literally on the axis of Majuli’s feared division, is one of the most ancient and richest monasteries – The Bengenati Shatra.
Before, during and after the floods, time and again we will visit the Monastery where with immense pain and pride the monks have kept the 600 years of culture alive. We will see how under strict discipline and utmost devotion, the knowledge is passed on from one generation to another, in the most ancient and the most effective way. We will see the cultural wealth of the Shhatriya dance, their music, their theatre and a massive collection of scriptures.
Here we will meet Manu Hazarika, a 70 year old monk who is on the verge of losing faith in God. 80% of the Shatra’s invaluable treasures have already been lost. Manu has no reinforcements for the future. He has been waiting for a solution from the State Government of Assam , which in turn, is waiting for a solution from the Central Government of India, which in turn is waiting for a solution from UNESCO.
Living in an uncertain present, if Ritu and Manu are anticipating a scary future, then Meghnad Payeng has seen it all in his past. The 75 year old retired principal of a local school, Mr. Payeng has gone from a prince to a pauper, but the dignity is intact. Once an owner of 80 acres of land and granaries that could feed his entire village for five years, today Mr. Payeng lives in a poorly constructed house on a borrowed piece of land. His entire village eroded away in the massive floods of 1993. In mere 36 hours life turned upside down. On a warm evening, looking at the sun setting over someone else’s paddy Mr. Payeng says – “ I am standing in my winter – all the leaves are gone.”
Through the eyes of characters like these, the viewer will travel beyond the skin and meet the soul of Majuli where the beauty and the age old spiritual resonance reside in the constant fear of extinction.
These days the hopes for Majuli’s future are heavily pinned onto the next UNESCO convention where the Indian Government is preparing to re-nominate the island the third time for the prestigious World Heritage Site status. The result could make or break the spirit of the islanders. This convention will strongly feature in the narrative and will act as a connecting thread right up to its end coinciding with the film’s climax.
On the whole, this film will be a weave between Majuli’s past, present and future based on absolute facts. Using the hues of its heritage, diversity, beauty and the environmental disaster alike, the attempt will neither be to glorify nor diminish, but paint a balanced picture of the disappearing paradise. In the end, we hope this film will evoke important questions and inspire people to raise their voices and reach out before this precious thin green line is forever rubbed off the canvas of the world.