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A tribute to Maithili cinema’s 50th anniversary: Mithila Makhaan is crude but real ​

Mithila Makhaan gets National Award, focuses on the regional traditions and presenting it in a way which wins people's hearts

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Stills from Mithila Makhaan. Image source
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The widespread havoc caused by the changing course of river Kosi across 14 districts of Mithilanchal region in 2008 plays a crucial role in director Nitin Neera Chandra’s National Award winning Maithili film Mithila Makhaan’s plot. The protagonist Kranti played by Kranti Prakash Jha stays in Toronto but returns to his village after more than two decades for a family function, and to meet a prospective bride, of course, at his mother’s behest.

The four days that he spends in his village serves as an eye-opener for him. During his short stay, he unravels his family’s best kept secret and is a witness of all that is wrong with his village. He is appalled to see how some people are hampering development and progress of the village by exploiting the vulnerable and poor hapless villagers.
He tries to look for his childhood friend but is told that there’s no information about his whereabouts. The news of his family being swept away in the floods comes as a rude shock. Standing amid the ruins of the ravaged village, he gets to know that lakhs bore the brunt of river’s fury and were either submerged or left homeless. The village wears a deserted look as its once-fertile land had been rendered barren by the overflowing sand, forcing people to migrate to other cities and states in search of livelihood.
Mithila Makhaan. Image credits Shilpi Singh
Mithila Makhaan. Image credits: Champaran Talkies
Kranti meets the prospective bride and her “crazy family” and also the female protagonist Maithili played by Anuritta K Jha. She lives true to her name by doing her bit for the region. Armed with a fine arts degree, Maithili has chosen to return to her village and runs an NGO for the promotion of Mithila paintings and in the process uplift rural women by giving them an opportunity to earn their livelihood. She shows her strength and attitude when she tells Kranti that “it takes a lot of courage to leave behind a life of luxury in foreign shores and settle in the village”. She makes a beautiful painting depicting the plight of those affected by the Kosi deluge as a parting gift for Kranti that forces the lead actor to take a call and return to his motherland for “if he doesn’t, then who will work to make it a better place for others”.
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The protagonist returns to his village for good to become an entrepreneur and revives his age-old family business of fox nut cultivation under the banner of Mithila Makhaan Private Limited with renewed vigour. He has the state-of-the-art knowledge about processing, storage, and marketing and by efficiently using new social media tools such as Facebook, he manages to publicise its benefits among the people and create a viable market for his produce. It is an endeavour to push the Make in India theme. With this novel initiative, he promises a fresh start, gives livelihood to hundreds of unemployed rural youths and heralds the promise of a better and brighter future with his grit and determination.
But the odds are stacked against him in the form of opposition from local businessman Brahma Singh played by actor Pankaj Jha, who hides his evil intentions behind the gold-rimmed aviator sunglasses, and wears khadi kurtas and “prefers to do things silently and not violently” and moves around with a dozen gun-toting security personnel.
Kranti takes the thought of “being the change that one wants to see around” a notch higher with his entrepreneurial spirit and manages to do so.
Stills from the movie. Image credits Shilpi Singh
Stills from the movie. Image credits: Champaran Talkies

The film successfully brings the best of Mithilanchal to the fore by capturing the small nitty-gritty of the culture, enlightens, educates and informs about the best of Maithili culture in particular and Bihar in general. It doesn’t shy away in highlighting all that is wrong with the state — casteism, dowry system, poverty, unemployment, rampant lawlessness and rising crime rate — that is taking Bihar many steps backwards. The romantic angle between the lead pair is subdued in the background, and expressed subtly and that through a song that serves as a breather from the heavy doses of issues that Mithila Makhaan has dealt with in its 130 minutes presentation.

The film like the truth is sharp-tongued, crude and authentic. The stellar performances by the lead actors and supporting cast are commendable; all of them have played their part with honesty and sincerity. The surprise is a cameo by film’s co-producer Rajiv Nayan as Kranti’s Toronto-based boss. The music and background score by Ashutosh Singh and Aashish Rego, song renditions by Udit Narayan, Vandana Bharadwaj, among many others, add to the film’s regional flavour. Editing by Archit D Rastogi, cinematography by Sanjay Khanzode, story, dialogues and screenplay, direction by Nitin Neera Chandra… all of it make it a perfect package. A medium budget film, it has managed to make the cut with its realistic portrayal, making the most of its limitations and constraints.

The film stands out because it is not dolled up in any which way for the cinematic outing but served as it is, in a de-glam avatar. You may like it or hate it, but you can’t certainly ignore it. Perhaps that will help the film connect with the masses in India as well as abroad. The end is a predictable climax where the good emerges victorious by slaying the evil and the fox nut business flourishes and changes the face of the village.
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The idea that Mithila Makhaan serves as food for thought is the reverse migration of the educated class to their native states and their entrepreneurial contribution for promoting Make in India to make our villages, cities and towns a better place to live. It may be a small step but will surely go a long way in promoting and keeping our identity alive. It will also bring a plethora of job opportunities for the unemployed youths and help reduce migration and poverty in the state. The underlying thought is to invoke that sense of belonging to one’s language, culture, and tradition and stay rooted to them, no matter how high one tends to fly.
Produced by Champaran Talkies, Asthwatha Tree and Illuminant Films, it is slated to hit the theatres after the monsoon.
The film was screened at the National Film Archives of India, Pune, on Sunday, May 29, 2016.

-by Shillpi A Singh

Shillpi is a freelance contributor at NewsGram and can be contacted at shilpi.devsingh@gmail.com 

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.