Video | The Karbi Ramayana in Assam and its Modern Re-telling in Documentary Film: Papers presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

A recreation of the living oral rendition of the Ramayana from the animistic tribal society of the Karbis of Assam. Award winner at Thrissur and screened at Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Kolkata and Mumbai (duration 52 minutes). | Learn more >>

Abstract 1: The Karbi Ramayana in Assam and its Modern Re-telling in Documentary Film

Paper presented for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference) – New Delhi

ANANYA BARUA
Department of Philosophy, Hindu College, New Delhi

KEYWORDS: RAMAYANA, DOCUMENTARY, INDONESIA, SABIL-ALUN, KARBI

While Ramayana: The Epic is a 2010 computer-animated film from India’s Maya Digil Media, the film is a retelling of the story of Lord Rama, from his birth until his battle with Ravana at Sri Lanka. Altaf Mazid Rija’s 52 minute Karbi film, Sabin Alun (The Broken Song) has been selected at the 47th edition of the International Film Festival of India. The documentary introduces the audience to the Karbi tradition and includes interviews with the community members. Sabin Alun examines the oral singing traditions of the Karbi tribe from Assam. Ravana is depicted as a gangster who is surrounded by photographs of himself (a clever way of referring to his many heads), while Rama wears glasses and looks clueless when Sinta (Sita) is kidnapped.

Garin Nugroho’s Opera Jawa, a 2007 musical inspired by the Indonesian version of the Ramayana, sought to address gender discrimination and environmental degradation. Mazid’s film draws inspiration from some such sources though he adds his creative and innovative touch in its final product. In the Karbi version, Sita emerges out of a peahen’s egg unlike in other versions where she is born of mother earth. Mazid is playful in his treatment when Sita drives off into the fields on a tractor at one point. Adapting his work according to the taste of the common folk, in order to make it more popular,   characters are portrayed as human characters.

Sabin Alun is a living oral tradition of the animistic tribal society of the Karbis of Assam. The film is an attempt to recreate the tale in a contemporary context where the animistic point of view gets prominence. According to the jury members of the festival, the potential of the film lies in its multi-layered deconstruction of an old tribal myth through a uniquely contemporary and irreverent treatment.

BIONOTE: Dr. Ananya Barua is currently employed as Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Hindu College, New Delhi. She may be contacted at the email ID: barua.ananya@gail.com

Source: Report for the ICSSR-sponsored Two-Day National Conference Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative organised by The Department of English & Outreach Programme Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi, 27-28 February 2017)

Courtesy Dr. Ivy Hansdak, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia University New Delhi (email 4 October 2017)

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