Ri- Homeland of Uncertainty is adapted from the National Award Winning Khasi film by the same name. Trapped in the limbo between ideology and conscience, Manbha finds him himself part of a terror outfit. An unexpected opportunity, anger, squalor and disillusionment – followed by and armed combat and injury lead to the soul- searching that form the substance of this moving tale.
The story opens with the police inspector addressing the press about the recent encounter with the terrorists. As it is the norm, the media does not buy the statement given by the police.Familiar isn’t it?
There are three main voices in this story – the one of the law enforcement, second, that of the terrorists and last, the voice of the people. Like any other region rife with violence and terror activities, Meghalaya was also one such state that was filled with uncertainty between the years 2000 – 2004. Ri, documents one such story…from the perspective of all the three voices. The people are terrorized, the businessmen and merchants were subject to extortion and murder. Curfews, bundhs and living in fear had become a way of life for the people.
The law enforcement agencies were trying their best to stop and eliminate terrorism while trying to protect the people, which was a very idealistic thought but not impossible.
The terrorists’ filled with misplaced ideology that they were freedom fighters is pitiable highlighting that the youth can be brainwashed so easily to commit crime for the vested interests of some.
The story moves quickly and is gripping that it is difficult to put the book down. The character of Kyndiah, Manbha and Emika is well described. Kyndiah comes across as a dedicated and disciplined police officer who has no personal life to speak of. Manbha, the youth with an ideology of being a freedom fighter and not a terrorist. Emika the journalist turned teacher, who is a victim of terror, who believes in the rehabilitation of the young terrorists.
What I did not like:
The story becomes preachy towards the end. I would have loved to read more about the actual fears and insecurities of the people. And Emika not afraid of a gun toting terrorist seems a bit far fetched. The conflict could have been pronounced.
My question to the author:
Ri is a fictitious depiction of various mindsets of people of Meghalaya. Yet, some amount of research must have gone into writing the script which must have been drawn from the real life incidents. Can you tell us the research that went into the writing of Ri? How did you come about writing the script of Ri?
Paulami: At the scripting level there was a lot of research for every scene. Case studies and news paper clips had helped me to make the story closer to reality. I have also referred to a lot of geography texts to stay closer to the feel of the region. A lot of it is also first person account. Since we were dealing with a very sensitive subject, I had to be double sure before putting down a scene. Manbha or SP Kyndiah are maybe people I have seen around me in Shillong. These are just names that I have given to add flesh to my story. Ri talks about a treacherous phase of Meghalaya, and through different layers and emotions I have just tried to tell that story. Sometime when I read it, I almost feel I am reading nonfiction. The killing of Agarwal, or the shootout that kills Emika’s father has all happened and had left bloody spots on the hilly abode. Cinema in India has talked about Kashmir and Naxalites. Ri was our opportunity to reach out to India with our story. Thus research was the backbone of the script.
~ Janaki Nagaraj.