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“Nawmai: The Wancho Warrior,” a film that chronicles the heroic journey of a Wancho Naga warrior fighting for love and land in Arunachal Pradesh, has garnered significant attention since its first teaser released in 2019. The most recent release of its trailer has further ignited fervor of excitement among audiences.

In an exclusive interview with Mokokchung Times, the director of the film, Dr Jovi Wangjin Wangsa, peels back the curtain on his directorial debut, offering a glimpse into the heartwarming stories, formidable challenges, and profound motivation behind the film.

Dr Jovi Wangjin Wangsa, a Dubai-based doctor, pursued his Bachelor’s in Homoeopathy Medicine and Surgery from Delhi University before returning to his home to pursue his passion for art and creativity and the desire to make his film, specifically action films, in 2017.

According to the 40-year-old director, “Nawmai” was a concept conceived during his high school days in 1998-99. “I vividly recall a conversation in 2003 where I expressed to my friend, my brother my intention to cast him as an actor in Nawmai. Creating a traditional indigenous film has been a lifelong aspiration,” Dr Jovi recalled.

However, Dr Jovi never attended a filmmaking institute. He said he learned everything online and during his two years in Dubai where he would visit film festivals and screenings to experience how films were shot.

But the journey to bringing his aspiration to life was not easy.

Nawmai

“There were a lot of hurdles due to finance, logistics; especially in our North East, we have 9 months of rainy season so we shot only in the winter season because the movie is shot outdoors.

During summer, it is difficult because of the makeup and tattoo which will get destroyed by the rain and also the chances of the camera lens being destroyed by rain. These were the reasons why it took so long. We also had the pandemic and the election but this time, by hook or crook, I’ll finish it,” he said.

Stating that the film is now in post-production and yet to go through the censor board, Jovi said, “We are thinking for a release by the end of March, say 20-30 March, or by 1st week of April at the latest.”

Directing non-professional actors
Financial constraints loomed large during the production phase, with Dr Jovi highlighting the absence of support from the government or cultural departments. Instead, he relied on the generosity of the community as years went by.

“The actors were my biggest moral support,” Dr Jovi explained. “None of them are professional actors; they all have their professions and businesses. This contributed to the prolonged duration of the project, as everyone had other commitments and couldn’t be available for shooting whenever needed.”

Dr Jovi also openly discussed the difficulties he encountered in directing a cast unaccustomed to the details of acting. “Getting them to act convincingly was a major challenge, especially with the villains,” he remarked.

“At times, their delivery of dialogue would be excellent, but their performance would fall short. Other times, they nailed the acting but faltered in dialogue delivery. To address this, I encouraged them to memorize their lines, practice in front of a mirror, and seek feedback from their families. I also suggested they watch videos featuring actors like Amrish Puri, Gulshan Grover, Shakti Kapoor, and others.”

While Dr Jovi refrained from proclaiming his actors as the finest, he recounted the praise they received from the production team in Guwahati. “Everyone is shocked at how naturally they embodied their roles,” he remarked. He also mentioned that working with the community was an added advantage, as color grading could be achieved with ease to match their skin tone.

Director Dr Jovi Wangsa
Dr Jovi Wangsa

Exploring Wancho Naga tribe through film
Regarding the reason why he was so inspired to make a film on the Wancho Naga tribe, he said, “We have so much to show to the outside world such as our culture, tradition, the way people used to live, the war between two villages due to land disputes or whatever.” He also added that the film serves as a gateway to tourism because its setting is real.

“We still have similar villages in Myanmar and Nagaland as well. We share the same tribal lifestyle. In Nagaland, they are called Konyaks, while in Arunachal Pradesh, we refer to them as Wanchos,” he said.

Navigating technical challenges
Apart from the actors, Dr Jovi said that the challenge extended to technical aspects as well. “Besides me and the actors, 99% of the team is from Assam,” he said, adding, “Sound, camera, and DOP were all sourced from Assam.”

However, the real challenge arose from the fact that most of them were relatively young, aged between 23 to 25 years old, and had limited experience with professional camera work. Previously, they were involved in wedding photography. “I extended an invitation to work with me and offered to teach them some technicality,” he said.

On theatrical release
Speaking about the release, he stated that they would strive for a theatrical release followed by a digital release. The team plans to distribute the film across the entire Northeastern states and other commercial states in the country if they find suitable distributors and buyers.

In Nagaland, the movie is expected to be released in Dimapur. “Unfortunately, I was informed that there are only two theaters in Dimapur, and none in Kohima or Mokokchung. This is a disappointing situation for filmmakers,” he noted.

Lessons and future outlook
Reflecting on his experiences, Dr Jovi shared, “Never again will I embark on a film project with non-professional actors,” he quipped, expressing regret that “some actors have even passed away while awaiting the completion of the movie.”

“Art and creativity are my passions. Given that someone wish to finance it, I would eagerly dive into the filmmaking journey once more. However, this time, I aim to venture into the realm of commercial filmmaking—perhaps even exploring the vibrant world of Bollywood,” he added, envisioning his future endeavors.

Mokokchung Times

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