Assamese cinema

Cult Assamese film ‘Local Kung Fu’ has a sequel – and one of its characters is proudly gay

Kenny Basumatray’s Assamese film is meant to entertain, and it does so amply.

At a press interaction before the premiere of Local Kung Fu 2 in Guwahati, a journalist asked its director, Kenny Basumatary, about the film’s message. “The film is meant to entertain, not deliver any message as such,” Basumatary replied.

For most of its 125-minute running time, Local Kung Fu 2 is a laugh riot, but it does have a message: being gay is normal and homophobia is disgusting.

The sequel to the 2013 cult hit Local Kung Fu has a gay character who is both martial arts expert and dashing police officer and the most self-assured among all the men in the movie. His sexuality is just another part of his life, and is treated as such in the film.

Consequently, the April 19 release never tries to double up as a morality lesson. Yet, for a movie that is primarily directed at an under-30 audience, it is an unmistakable takeaway.

Basumatary didn’t write the character with an intention to make a point. “Initially, I was just having some fun,” he told Scroll.in. “But later I did think I could make a little point here.”

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Local Kung Fu 2.

Its dispassionate remark on homosexuality withstanding, Local Kung Fu 2, like its predecessor, is at its heart a martial arts comedy. The first installment, made on a shoestring budget of less than Rs 1, 00, 000, went on to achieve cult hit status in Assam. While the film owed its popularity in large part to its novelty value, its rough-hewn look (it was shot on a Canon digital camera) was a marked departure from most other productions in the state. Punchlines from the movie became part of local lingo and even started featuring on t-shirts.

The second movie is a much more ambitious project, at least in terms of its budget. The post-production cost alone was Rs 8, 00, 000. A crowdfunding project raised 110% of the amount elicited.

Basumatary chose to crowdfund the film because he didn’t want any one person to have “too much clout”. He added, “Also, to be honest, we weren’t confident about risking someone else’s money. So, the money we raised is basically funds with no-strings attached.”

Local Kung Fu 2 is based on William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. “I wrote it for a short story competition based on Shakespeare’s works,” the filmmaker said. “Although it didn’t make it to the finals of the competition, I read it out to family and friends and they laughed a lot. So, I thought why not make a film on it.”

The movie is set in Tezpur and Guwahati and revolves around two pairs of identical twins who are separated at a young age. One from each pair knows martial arts. This duo is on the run from criminals in Guwahati and reaches Tezpur, where the other two live.

Kenny Basumatray (left).
Kenny Basumatray (left).

Local Kung Fu 2’s strength doesn’t derive from its hackneyed plot. Some of its comic elements, such as intense weed-induced hunger pangs, have been borrowed from Hollywood stoner comedies.

What works for the movie is Basumatary’s dialogue. Much like the first film, they are real and full of dry humour. “I don’t know to write dialogue like professional writers, so maybe that’s why,” he said.

Also, unlike most other Assamese movies, the lines borrow generously from Hindi and English. The characters sound like young people in the state: they speak in Assamese mixed with Hindi phrases and English words.

The movie’s strength, however, might work against the film’s fortunes outside the state (the producers plan to release it in major metropolitan cities). The dialogue encapsulates a very modern and carefree conversational Assamese, much of which is bound to be lost in translation, particularly in the absence of a strong plot.

The novelty element – the martial arts sequences – are somewhat laborious, though well-shot. Yet, for every clichéd sequence, there is a redeeming moment. The actors know their job, and the martial arts scenes come across as authentic. “There is no message in the film, but if there were to be one, I’d wish for a society where there is no violence,” Basumatray said.

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