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Sikkim’s Documentary on Folk Instruments screens at 17th Mumbai International Film Festival

Sikkim’s Documentary on Folk Instruments screens at 17th MIFF

Is there anything more up the sleeve of Sikkim’s homegrown cinematographer, Karma Palzor Bhutia? A musician, an athlete, an animator and now a recognised director by Mumbai film festival, Bhutia has earned his small budget documentary, “The endless note – Folk instruments of Sikkim”, with the justice that it has always deserved.

In 2012, Bhutia had documented 11 folk instruments of Sikkim, capturing the melody and essence that brings together the diverse community of the Golden State. His idea behind this documentary was to symbolize the beauty of folk instruments which according to him is like our shadow that never dies but follows us and our journey for lifetime. Talking about lifetime, the title of the documentary, “The Endless note” itself is derived from the endless cycle of suffering of birth, death and rebirth within Tibetan Buddhism called the “endless knot”. Similar to the “endless knot”, music also gets revived and rejuvenated with traditional authentic sounds of folk instruments.  

“Every place has its own sound and these folk instruments are the root of our music that reverberates inside all of us at every walk of life.”, says the multi-talented film maker. “Music and tradition is always connected. The various instruments hailing from places is shaped by the tradition of the vicinity and in terms of Sikkim, instruments like Nembryok, Dramyen and Tingbuk from different communities has moulded nurtured, and lived with the Sikkim tradition,” he adds.

The 37:17 minute documentary was uploaded on YouTube in 2014 by Karma without any desire of fame. In fact, he vouched to have worked at his own pace without being accountable to anybody. 8 years later, after simply using YouTube as his platform for his documentary, his art was discovered by the Mumbai Film Festival, making it the very first feature film of North East India to get screened at the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF). His authenticity and composition was appreciated and his film was also screened on June 23 at the Portraits from the Northeast, Festival of Film, Guwahati.

“I had forgotten about this documentary made ages ago. Yes, I had put my soul making it, but I had suppressed this somewhere inside of me and now when my work suddenly getting this sort of recognition, I am simply overwhelmed and excited as to what more the documentary can offer,” says Bhutia.

When Bhutia was ready to leave for Mumbai for screening in 2019, he suddenly got a call from the film festival officials saying that his film would not get screened due to some resolution problem. “Since it was shot in 2012 and it was a small budget film, I did not have my hands on good cameras. It broke me when I got the news and I remember hanging up their call.” Bhutia solemnly recalls. Later, Bhutia was reached out again and this time the screening was happening.

“People say that folk music is dying but I disagree with this statement”, says Bhutia. He adds, “New genre of music hits the market and when such kind of music is played time and again, it bores the listeners. That’s where traditional folk music makes its appearance again in the music world.”

He talks about how musicians like Bipul Chhetri, and many other bands hailing from Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim includes the magic of folk instruments in their music. “The folk instrumental sound is being played softly and beautifully. We can hear their sound being played but the magic is still suppressed among all other mainstream instruments,” he adds.

After getting the accolade that his film, The Endless Note, so meritoriously deserved, Bhutia is currently working on a Nepali feature film, which is written, edited, and directed by him. The film is produced by Kilp Namgyal Barfungpa. He informs that the film is shot entirely in and around Gangtok, and has local actors working in it. The film is still in post-production.

Report by Rhea Chhetri.

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