Guwahati, Jan 13: What happens to us after death? Not just our souls, but our bodies? Across the world, there are numerous beliefs regarding this that go on to explain the three main types of post-death rituals – land burial (and cremation), sky burial, and water burial. Director Shantanu Sen’s debut movie ‘Water Burial’, that completed production in November, 2019, explores the last one through the eyes of an outsider.
Inspired by the Assamese novel ‘Saba Kota Manuh’ by Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi and produced by Faruque Iftikar & AM Television, this independent film is already doing the rounds of international film festivals. It won the Best Screenplay award at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival 2019 (Pune). So far, it has been made the official selection for the Rajasthan International Film Festival 2020 (Jaipur), the Sunshine City Film Festival 2020 (Tampa Bay, Florida), Druk International Film Festival 2020 (Paro, Bhutan), and the 7th Noida International Film Festival 2020.
The film revolves around an anthropologist, played by Alex Piringu, who wanders off on a journey in Arunachal Pradesh to find his friend’s favourite drink, but on the way finds himself in a remote location called Jung, commonly known as Nuranang Falls in Cona, Arunachal Pradesh. The local tribe there pays great attention to sustainable environment and the importance of biodiversity. On his venture, the anthropologist discovers what water burial is.
There is a whole ecosystem underwater, that plays out the cycle of life and death just like with other humans. Water burial among the Monpas of Tawang, Arunchal Pradesh, is a rite of passage after death through which the tribe offers their bodies to the water, contributing as food for the aquatic life and enriching this ecosystem as old as life itself. This sacred ritual of the Monpas strive to help humans assimilate with nature in a way that benefits other creatures, once their time on earth is over.
The anthropologist grasps the significance in the philosophy of the tribe and sets out on a mission to spread awareness about them, their beliefs, and how they can be made socially acceptable. Shot in Tawang and Karbi Anglong, this film manages to balance the gravity of the subject and the interpersonal drama among the characters with the picturesque setting. It stars a main cast featuring new faces – Tshering Dorjee, Sonam Lhamu, and Tshering Petton. This film is yet to be released for public screenings, as the makers continue to travel for the film festivals.