Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  BODY POLITICS | From Dil Se to Mary Kom via Dansh

Women, their bodies, and movies set in the North-East have come together in different ways in three films set in the North-Eastern states over the past two decades.

Dil Se.. (1998) is the concluding chapter of Mani Ratnam’s trilogy about the intersection of the romantic and the political. After tackling the Kashmiri independence movement in Roja and moving to Hindu-Muslim tensions in Bombay, Ratnam craned his neck upwards to the North-East, specifically Assam, for the story of the ill-fated romance between an All India Radio journalist and a member of a sleeper cell out to create mayhem on Republic Day.

Shah Rukh Khan’s Amar wages battle with the heart, body and conscience of Manisha Koirala’s Meghna. He assiduously woos her through words and song, argues and pleads for her assent, and finally takes drastic measures when he learns about her suicide bombing plan. Meghna’s body is repeatedly evoked, when a forced kiss triggers a traumatic childhood memory of rape, another consensual near-smooch almost distracts her from her goal, and intimate moments between the would-be lovers, one the son of an army officer and the other the product of a decades-long insurgency against the Indian state, yet again threaten to derail her. Amar views Meghna bathing in one scene (lifted from the Hollywood film Witness), leading to a fantasy of intertwining bodies and souls in the Ladakh wilderness. He has a bizarre conversation about virginity with the woman he opts to marry when Meghna seems a distant dream (both are chaste, Meghna clearly isn’t). Meghna’s brutalized body becomes her weapon, so it is fitting that when Amar decides to stop her, he offers his own. There is literally nothing left when the battle between love and nation has ended.

Kanika Verma’s Dansh (2005) brings Ariel Dorfman’s Death And The Maiden to Mizoram. No Mizo actors were harmed during the making of this film—Kay Kay Menon, Sonali Kulkarni and Aditya Shrivastava, respectively, play the roles of rebel leader, victim of government atrocities, and possible perpetrator. Menon’s rebel leader is celebrating a peace pact with the government when in walks a doctor who might be the man who had raped and tortured his wife several years ago. The rebellion comes home for the couple, and with the doctor protesting his innocence, Menon’s character becomes concerned about his wife’s mental state. Meanwhile, Kulkarni’s character starts tormenting the doctor in the same way she was tormented, proving that while wounds on the body and soul fade, the scars remain.

Priyanka Chopra in ‘Mary Kom’
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Priyanka Chopra in ‘Mary Kom’

Another tiny being, this time one of her sons, battles a life-threatening aliment while Kom gets pummelled on the stage in another country. Separated by distance, mother and son magically communicate. One heart starts pumping again in a hospital. Another gathers courage in the ring. Motherhood and the motherland mesh into the ultimate melodramatic moment. When it’s all over, all of them (excepting the baby) rise in honour of the Indian flag, whose solidity has never been more apparent than in the moment when Kom, a resident of one of India’s most insurgency-riven states, mouths the anthem—heart, mind and body in as perfect an alignment as the colours on the flag.

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