Ladakhi filmmakers tide over problems with passion

Leh, Sep 15 (IANS) If there's a will, there's a way is one motto filmmakers in Ladakh in the Jammu and Kashmir follow. They make movies though they have no financial support, government aid and infrastructure. They say it is all about passion for the craft.

"It is the passion that drives me. I make films for myself, to satisfy my creativity," Stanzin Dorjai, a young filmmaker in his 30s, told IANS here.

For the filmmakers from the region, problems are in abundance.

They battle multiple dialects, extreme weather conditions, financial hassles and the exorbitant costs of exhibiting the films.

As if that is not enough, the filmmakers just have a dilapidated auditorium, filled with broken chairs and stained walls at their disposal to showcase their works of passion.

The theatre, which screens Ladakhi films, charges the moviemakers Rs.800 a day for two shows. To screen their films at the only modern auditorium in the region - the Sindhu Sanskriti Kala Kendra - the filmmakers have to shell out Rs.30,000 per day. There too, there's DVD projection only.

In short, the avenues to showcase their works are not only few, but tough and expensive.

"After making a movie, who has so much money for screening? So what most filmmakers do is to release the movie at the old theatre for 10 to 15 days, and then they take it to different villages for community screenings," Jigmit Angchuk, president, Ladakh Film Industry Association, a group of 55 filmmakers, told IANS.

Jigmit also pointed out that financial support from the local government is nil.

"There is an autonomous film development council for promotion of art and culture in Leh, but all their funds of Rs.10 lakh to Rs.12 lakh are spent on culture. Nothing for films," he added.

Filmmakers fund their own movies - and their budgets could range from Rs.3 lakh to Rs.5 lakh. Some even spend more and shell out Rs.10 lakh to Rs.15 lakh from their own resources.

"We use high definition cameras," said a filmmaker. But it is pertinent to note that there is no post-production lab here.

Even if they overcome these problems, they can screen films only for a limited period because during summers the locals mainly focus on earning money. It is only around December and January that the Ladakhi movies are released, and for a ticket price of Rs.60 per person.

Nevertheless, the local filmmakers are united in their urge to reach out to the world outside of Ladakh. They attended a Film Shoppe here on a bright sunny day on the sidelines of the ongoing second edition of the Ladakh International Film Festival and showcased their stories ranging from love, romance and social issues.

"I'm a labour before and after the shooting," said a young Tashi Dawa, who has made 13 movies and 15 documentaries so far. He makes movies, and says he earns "nothing" out of it, while his wife runs a mobile accessories shop in the Leh market. "I can't depend on filmmaking alone," he said.

Another filmmakers said: "Film shooting in Leh is like being in the army without weapons."

But Hannah Fisher, co-founder of the South Asian Film Festival in Canada and someone who has extensive experience in the world of film festivals, gives Dawa and others a ray of hope.

"Don't lose hope," Fisher told a group of 10 Ladakhi filmmakers here.

The need of the hour, she said, is to have film workshops in scriptwriting and technical aspects of filmmaking.

She also recommended the filmmakers to read more on filmmaking, market their films and look out for opportunities for co-productions with banners in countries where India's National Film Development Corporation has signed co-production treaties.

Germany, especially, must be a target, advised Fisher.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at


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