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.”

Play
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.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
__('Sponsored Content') BY 

London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

Play

For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.