An old camera and a desire to tell the story of his people inspired Sange Dorjee Thongdok to make Crossing Bridges, his National-award-winning feature debut.
"After completing college in Delhi, I came home and did nothing for sometime. I would try to record our old folk songs and make small documentaries to preserve our way of life and culture. But I wanted to make a film on my people because it is a subject that is close to my heart," Thongdok told PTI in an interview.
A film graduate from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Thongdok did not have much when he began filming but assistance came from his family and friends from SRFTI.
"As an independent filmmaker you don't have much in terms of infrastructure. Making the film in Hindi and English was out of question because I did not have actors and I could not afford it. I decided to make it in my own language. I wanted to start on a small scale. All I had was an old camera. I called up my friends from the institute and for actors I chose people from my own family. They were surprised as we don't even have a cinema hall. They said 'We can't act' but after a workshop of three-months, we shot the film," he said.
The story of Crossing Bridges is in a way reflective of Thongdok's own journey of returning home and finding his true calling as a storyteller.
The movie revolves around Tashi, a man in his early thirties who returns to his village in Arunachal Pradesh after eight years when he loses his job in the city.
While he is waiting for a job offer, Tashi begins to experience the life of his people. He gradually begins rediscovering his roots and when he finally receives the call he had been waiting for, he finds it difficult to leave his village.
"I have lived outside all my life. At that time I was a visitor in my own home. Everything would be strange when I would go to my village and it took me time to know people there. I thought this experience was a good point to start," Thongdok said.
There were problems while shooting the fledging production but Thongdok found joy in bringing alive the story of his people, who, he feels, don't find a voice in mainstream cinema.
"I always feel that North East is a bit less represented in the mainstream media. It is an attempt to tell stories from that part of the region. Cinema is a great medium and I believe such stories will help develop a better understanding between people."
Watch the trailer here: