Up Down & Sideways

Kho Ki Pa Lü

- INDIA / 2017 / Chokri / Color / Blu-ray / 83 min

Directors, Script, Editing: Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar
Photography: Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar, Tarun Saldanha
Sound: Allwin Rego, Sanjay Maurya
Music: The Village of Phek
Producer: Manas Malhotra
Source: Anushka Meenakshi, Iswar Srikumar

Terraced rice paddies spread across steep mountainsides in a farming village of around 5,000 in the Phek district of Nagaland, India, near the border of Myanmar. Deep within the peaceful faces of the people living there lingers the bitter memory of many deaths, and the houses and farms destroyed during battles, pillaging, and torture carried out during the struggle for independence from India. Their cooperative farming community has also given birth to call-and-response-like work songs. The fields, love, friendship, and loss—all of these exist together with these songs. This music envelops the village, and will continue to be passed down by its people.

- [Director’s Statement] When we first went to Phek in 2011, it was harvest season, and almost all of the residents of the village were working on their fields. What struck us was how they used the exhaustion, the monotony, and the incredibly hard nature of the work, and turned it into a shared experience of rhythm and music.

Why do people sing when they work? Why do communities around the world rely on music to transform their experience of the everyday? What draws people to work together in cooperative groups—a question that also connected to our own experience in a collective back home in Madras. The answers to such questions are not as satisfying as one would expect. Over the seasons of filming in Phek we began to feel that the answers to these questions needed to be experienced rather than understood, and that is what we have tried to do.

- (From the right)
Anushka Meenakshi
Iswar Srikumar

Anushka Meenakshi has worked as a filmmaker and community video trainer, in addition to designing music for theater productions. Iswar Srikumar is an actor and a lighting/sound designer for theater. Both are part of Perch, a performance collective. In 2011, they began a journey that turned into the U-ra-mi-li Project, which looks at the rhythms and music of the everyday through sound, film, and performance; with a special interest in the connections between music and labor. A focus of their project has been in sharing the processes of creation, during their travels to schools, community spaces, and people’s homes, as well as to more formal spaces. The project has received a fellowship from Pad.ma (Public Access Digital Media Archive) and has created work in collaboration with the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, The Other Media, the National Museum of Denmark, and the National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai).