An award winning documentary

Rajeshwar Singh Raju

“The Golden Thread” is a Documentary on the travails of Assam growers finding glimmer of hope in scientific approach. Let me share concern of an Muga Cultivator of Assam, who says ” It is beyond our understanding…while we hope Muga yield of fifty thousand, what we now get is not even a thousand. Our livelihood is threatened,”
The gleaming golden shimmer gleaming upon a rustic spindle is awesome. The loss of this spectacle is heart rending across Assam. The epitome of silk is the Muga variety, mostly grown in Assam. It now faces the imperative and imminent onslaught of climate change with dwindled production. Its berserk rampage has even scuttled the cultural mores of the folk.
Seers of climate change Sey that carbon emissions must plummet to zero level by 2050 to instil warming at 2.8degree F or1.5 degrees centigrade. This was the outcome of Paris negotiations on climate change and global warming. For a documentary film maker, it was a trigger to observe the noxious impact of huge carbon accumulation across India, through camera.
Anoop Khajuria, a creative man hailing from Jammu who loves to work on untouched subjects had this gut feeling. “We did not choose urban spaces as these were the obvious spots with dense carbon accumulation but the remote North-East region of India which is still considered a carbon free space” , says Anoop Khajuria, the winner of Golden Beaver award in 9th National Science Film Awards – 2019 for his documentary film ” The Golden Thread”.
Meandering through the means of livelihood and lifestyle of Muga Silk cultivators of Assam, the documentary is produced by Doordarshan and is directed by Anoop Khajuria. The film reveals the looming threat of vanishing Muga moth in the rising temperature and the emission levels of Assam region. The phenomenon has severely impinged upon the livelihoods of millions of the people in the state. Muga silk is iconic of Assam and is endemic to this region. The insect is cultivated in open spaces on Som trees, three to four times in a year. The cocoon thus harvested churns out Muga silk.
As per Mr Anoop Khajuria, ” I had an opportunity to visit Majuli river island for a vacation and got bewitched by the moths/caterpillar of muga silk being reared upon som trees. We knew about Mulberry and Eri silk in Jammu & Kashmir. There the cocoon is produced indoors under controlled conditions but we didn’t have the slightest idea that Muga insect is reared al fresco and that too in natural conditions”. He and his team is always harping on the whirligig of climate change to roll out a bunch of films. “While winding up the post production of our last documentary Whispers of Warming, we knew, our next venture is upon Muga,” says Ashok Raina, a seasoned film editor and production designer of The Golden Thread.
During the pre-production preparation for the shoot, “Whispers of Warming” was sent as the official entry from Doordarshan at the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union Award to be held in Thailand. Out of 40 entries from 22 countries, “Whispers of Warming” won the top honours of being nominated to be the best documentary on Global Warming. Back home the film made it to the top too. At the 8th National Science Golden Beaver award, 2018 the film bagged the best film award on Global warming. Icing on the cake was an additional award for technical excellence.
Anoop Khajuria tells, “With cinematographer Gopal Rao, Vaibhav Varma the script writer, Rahul Agrawal-Shahzad Ali the video editors, the team went gung-ho to hang a tapestry of muga silk. We travelled through Assam and a part of Meghalaya in a paltry weeklong itinerary. The protagonist Muga growing family was ferreted out in the Boko region of South Assam, while some of the villages we filmed were in the North Assam near North Lakhimpur and Dhakuakhana across Brahamputra river”.
The team largely based its cardinal research on the weather data of Tocklai (Jorhat) Weather Station established during the colonial days. Tocklai is considered to be the first weather station of India. The data available with the station over the last century revealed that the mean temperature in Assam region has risen by 2.5 degree centigrade. The rainfall has decreased. There are long dry spells followed by intense humidity. The weather patterns recorded at the facility indicate that these adverse conditions may have led to the vanishing of habitats of a number of the species of flora and fauna. Muga moth was also caught in the climate change trap.
“The Golden Thread not only indicates towards fast reduction of habitat of Muga species but also showcases the enormous efforts initiated by the community in its revival. The non-availability of the seed to the farmers like Holi Rabba of Batakuchi village of Assam, forced the farmers to search for alternatives. Survival of insect is the basic necessity for their livelihood. “Like Holi Rabba, trying to mitigate perilous effect of climate change and leading the way for the scientific community to research for the solutions, is the call of the day”, says Anoop Khajuria. Awareness and knowledge is the key. We cannot reverse the present conditions. “In the absence of any effective legislation and its enforcement, the levels of the atmospheric carbon dioxide rising each day, films like “The Golden Thread” bring in awareness to impel stake holders to act fast” adds Ashok Raina.
The making of the film was exhilarating. Gopal Rao, the cinematographer feels elated: “Filming close ups of slithering Muga caterpillar, eating voraciously upon Som tree leaves was a cherishing moment”. The script intended to bring in an encompassing picture. “Writing the script was insinuating indeed. In this case, Anoop and Ashok Raina provided me with a raw script. I then embarked on its vivification to evolve the final script. Giving words to visually rich sequences is a ticklish job.” Vaibhav exults. The highest accolade at the recent 9th National Film Festival 2019 held at Chandigarh, is a testimony of the convergence of stakeholders on saving nature in larger context and Muga silk in particular.
Let the golden effulgence sweep across!