Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beyond the Next Mountain (1987)

I forgot to add this movie to my Indian film list. Whether or not it qualifies is up for debate but it deserves a mention if only for the fact that I'm not aware of any too many other films that mention the Indian state of Manipur. [I mean, Manipur is so far off the map it's like in China or something...] On second thought, I suppose it qualifies as Saeed Jaffrey (English Babu Desi Mem) was kind enough to lend himself to the production. Furthermore, the dvd cover says 'melodrama' like nobody's business.

This family-friendly production was brought to us by the same director who made The Hiding Place (1975) and China Cry: A True Story (1990). [If you don't recognize those titles, they're both Christian films that came out when people were making movies because of the story behind it, not the special effects or ability to supplement an enlarging--Left Behind--book empire. These were the glory days when entire films were shot in foreign locales yet all the characters spoke English. (Hey, subtitles cost more in the olden days!)]

Basically, the movie is about Rochunga Pudaite a Hmar from Manipur, who at the behest of his father, leaves the hill country to get an education and learn enough Greek and Hebrew to translate the Bible for the Hmar people. What makes the story interesting is that Rochunga's father was one of the area's first converts to Christianity back in 1910, before which the Hmar people were headhunters--and darned good ones. The Welsh missionary who brought the Gospel to the the Hmar had violated a British Raj directive by entering the hills in the first place. Soon after, he was sent back to England by the missionary board who had commissioned him because he had "gone native." Meanwhile, Rochunga's father was (literally) whipped at the request of missionary board authorities for continuing to teach the scriptures while no longer under the "authority" of a British pastorate.

I like this film despite the fact that it has Wisconsin's share of cheese. I mean, there's an entire segment early on where Rochunga as a kid has to go through the jungle by himself to get to school. It provides a rudimentary introduction to jungle creatures of India in case you missed Jungle Book. It's cute in a campy sort of way...

At any rate, the best part of the movie is when Rochunga goes to England and looks up Watkin Roberts, the Welsh missionary. By this time, he's like 200 years old--well, the actor looked like he was waiting until the film was over to kick the bucket--and he's all torn up about the whole situation in India. Rochunga asks Watkin to come back to Manipur but the old man tells him there's no way he could make it up the hills because of his health. Then Rochunga tells him something to the effect, "If you returned, you would not have to walk because all the men of the village would carry you on their shoulders because of their honor for you." It's a very sweet moment. In response, old man looks like he's going to cry (and/or die) and restates his love for the hill country.

Now, if you choose to watch this film, you have been henceforth forwarned about the pidgin English the hillfolks are speaking. However, I think if you pick up the dvd (as opposed to the video I saw) you can watch the whole thing in Hindi with the bad English in subtitles which would be a little more like usual.

2 comments:

superstar said...

good picture

Velu said...

I feel like I need to watch this one....