ASIT RAI - The Story of Darjeeling
The film explores the writing style of Nepalese language author, poet and dramatist Late Mr. Asit Rai, born and lived in a small town called Mahanadi Bazar near Kurseong in Darjeeling district. One of his prominent book Naye Kshitij ki Khoj recreates for its reader historical moments that otherwise lay buried in text, government documents or jottings of travellers, that could interest only academics of social anthropology or history. The rest of the country and the world at large would have never known about his writing had this book not been translated in Hindi after he won the Sahitya Kala Akademi Award in 1981 (one of the highest literary awards in India).
Naye Kshitij ki Khoj – translated in English as the ‘The Search for a New Horizon – painstakingly puts together through documented as well as oral history the story of Darjeeling of the last 350 years since settlement began here. The women and men who made this land habitable, the deep forests, the flora and fauna, the wild animals; the various communities of Limbus, Khambus, Lamichanes, Tunga-Gurungs, Khadka-Chetris, the Lepchas, the Sherpas; the stories of joy, of severe tragedy, all happen in front of us and we witness them, like in a drama, transported in time, intimately recognising the people as we move through the ages. The film recreates for the viewer the essence of this important book and its place amongst the larger narrative that makes the history of India.
Completion Date:October 28, 2019
Production Budget:10,000 USD
Country of Origin:India
Country of Filming:India
Sanjay Maharishi has been making documentaries and short films since 1991. He is director, cinematographer, editor and sound designer for most of his films. A retrospective of his films was held at the 6th Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival, 2018.
As a cinematographer, he has shot more than 200 odd documentaries, short films and doc-series, spanning a career of twenty eight years. His more recent projects include a series of films on theatre directors for the National School of Drama. These films have been shown publicly in Bharangam Festival in Delhi and other cities.
In 2015 Maharishi completed a feature length documentary on the Jews of Kerala for the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), the film was titled Remains of a Dream. This film was first screened in IGNCA, several venues in Kerala and at the Chennai International Festival.
His film on the veteran theatre director Habib Tanvir titled Gaon ka Naam Theatre, Mor Naam Habib (My Village is Theatre, My Name is Habib), has been shown in festivals in India and outside, specifically the Himal International Film Festival, Kathmandu and Prithvi Theatre, Bombay.
His series of short films on Udaipur Central Jail and its innovative activities with inmates can be found on his YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/sanjaymaharishi.
His film on Nautanki was made for UNESCO (also available on YouTube). This short film introduces the viewer to the folk theatre form, Nautanki, its main actors, its geographical spread in the towns of Mathura, Vrindavan and Hathras and its original playwrights.
In his long career, Sanjay Maharishi has made films for the UNICEF, Save the Children Fund, National Human Rights Commission, Doordarshan, Zee TV amongst others. He has collaborated with the UN Volunteers for a traveling documentary screening program in 2002-03.
Sanjay Maharishi lives and works from New Delhi.
Filmmaking for me has been a journey of exploration. I was attracted to photography in my early teens and made my first film before leaving college.
When I started in early nineties, I made a few films on social issues but within a few years I realised that my real interest lay in the arts; performing arts like theatre, dance, music and even puppet shows; visual arts like painting, pottery and local crafts; written arts like poetry and literature.
This interest has taken me to many parts of my country, India, from the hot desert of Rajasthan to the swaying paddy fields of Assam and the forest mountains of Arunachal, from the barren highs of Laddakh and Spiti valley to the equatorial forest and busy highways Kerala, from the poor but generous dalit families in the western ghats of Maharashtra to the very loving tribal communities living in the forests of Phulbani, central Orissa, the warmth of the mountain people of Darjeeling.
In the process I have come to know the artists, craftspeople, weavers of cotton and silk, potters and poets, the myriad skills and the myriads materials that people work with in this land.
Unknowingly, and in hindsight, my quest has been to know my people, to know my land, to find its pulse, so to speak, as intimately as I possibly can. Perhaps it was also a quest to know myself.