By Utpal Borpujari /New Delhi
“Because We Did Not Choose”, the first documentary film from India that explores the examines the participation of labour from India during the First World War, will premiere at the Nehru Centre in London on September 13.
The 92-minute documentary tells its story using English, Welsh, Khasi and Pnar languages, its director Wanphrang K Diengdoh has said.
“Because We Did Not Choose” examines the First World War and the involvement of indigenous communities at a time when spaces inhabited by them were transitioning and struggling to accommodate modernity and the rest of its implications, says Diengdoh, a musician-filmmaker based in Shillong and Delhi.
Researched and shot over a period of 4 years, the film examines the participation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo labourers in the theatres of First World War in France and the then Mesopotamia.
The film has been described as “a meticulous documentation of the journey made by the labourers to the war front”.
Research and filming was carried out in Shillong and other adjoining areas including Jowai, Wahaiajer, Sohkha, Tura. It was also filmed in Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai (where the German sinker Emden struck a portion of Fort St. George in 1914), London, Liverpool and Wales. The film was also shot in France with the help and support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Meticulous research was carried out in India and elsewhere by Diengdoh. Songs sung 100 years ago were once again performed by family members of those who went to the war, personal diaries were accessed and print material during the war that further complicates the relation of indigenous Khasis, indigenous Presbyterians and Catholics was examined to understand the implications of the war on indigenous society.
Apart from the research, Diengdoh also directed, scripted, edited and wrote the music for the documentary. The film will also be screened in various places in India, including Shillong, in the coming months.
Diengdoh has made several well-acclaimed short films and documentaries and his works have received recognition both in the country and elsewhere, He is the frontman for the politico-punk band “Tarik” and engineers their sound production.