Flickering Lights review – how the arrival of electricity heralded peace in a turbulent Indian state

Flickering Lights review – how the arrival of electricity heralded peace in a turbulent Indian state

With great patience over a period of years, Indian film-makers Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan recorded an interesting cultural footnote to history, happening ever so slowly in the tiny, remote village of Tora in Nagaland in north-eastern India near the border with Myanmar. The Naga Peace Accord, signed in 2015 between Narendra Modi’s government and the separatist-insurgent National Socialist Council of Nagaland, theoretically resolved tension which had existed since the Naga people proclaimed independence in 1947. As a result of this peace process, the little village of Tora and surrounding communities were going to get something very new: electricity.

We see a shopkeeper look forward to getting a refrigerator and her children excitedly talking about the Bollywood movies they can watch on TV. Other women are unconvinced by this brave new world of watching TV every night: “I would rather weave shawls!”

Some of the younger village men are pretty gung-ho about this technological marvel and unworried about the fact that the electricity poles, fuse boxes and solar panels are very slow to arrive, with the government appearing to expect the villagers to put the poles up themselves. The film shows that erecting each pole is a monumental challenge, like raising the flag on Iwo Jima, if the flag were 20 times as big and heavy. Meanwhile 96-year-old Naga campaign veteran Malungring Khamrang, or “Grandpa Khamrang”, is smilingly sceptical that anything will happen at all.

This is a sweet, gentle film with some lovely moments, chiefly the community’s choir, which sings beautifully. With some subtlety, the film-makers allow the audience to absorb the political implications of electricity; it binds Nagaland to the Indian state more, and perhaps all this TV soften remaining separatist ambitions.

Source: theguardian.com