The place where you have a tune as your name…

As Guns & Guitars recently made its debut in the OTT platform MUBI India, it seems like a good time to revisit our sojourn in Shillong, the rock capital of India, during the shoot of the film.

Shillong is the place where I’d spent most of my college vacations, thanks to my father’s job posting. And this is also the hometown of rock legend Lou Majaw, whom I feel honoured to call a friend for more than last two decades. Whenever am in Assam, I just look for an excuse to visit this beautiful hill station… the only thing I can say in my defence is that am not the only non-resident Assamese to have this addiction… I could claim with a reasonable amount of credibility that after Assam, Meghalaya in general and Shillong in particular is the place I am most familiar with, when we undertook our journey across northeast with Guns & Guitars.

Or so I thought.

We were all at Café Shillong, talking about the shooting plans for the grand finale of the film – Dylan’s birthday concert. And that day my pride on knowing about Meghalaya considerably well came crashing down when I met this filmmaker from Turkey over a cup of coffee and a casual conversation… He must be there for the birthday concert, I assumed. Well, yes and no. He was there to make a film on the tiny hamlet Khongtong – the place where the inhabitants give an individual tune as a name to each of the new-borns!  No two names – i.e., the tune – are alike… and when an individual dies, the tune of that individual is also put to rest…

Not possible! I mean, is it even possible for a place like that to exit and for me not to know about it? Even after being to this place tucked in the midst of nowhere, with no motorable roads around, and filming this unbelievable tradition for our film (without that how would a film on insurgency & music of northeast could be completed?), I was still pinching myself to ensure that I’m not dreaming…

Lou Majaw. What am I supposed to say about this legend, who is celebrating the birthday of Bob Dylan with a concert for five decades and who himself is turning 75 years young next year (and celebrating it with a concert of course!)  that has not been said before? I could think of only one line – without Lou, there wouldn’t have been a Guns & Guitars…

On the 24th of May, as I was enjoying the grand finale of our journey of Guns & Guitars by the picturesque Umiam lake, enjoying yet another Dylan birthday concert where youngsters from eight north eastern states were performing, my subconscious entity was experiencing a tsunami of emotions … of surreal realism… and looking for a parallel at the musical journey of these youngsters in the trouble-torn northeast India with Dylan’s own journey during American Civil Right Movement …

And I remembered a few lines that I’d jotted down…many moons ago…

just a spark but!
so you thought?
not worthy of another glance…

busy you were, of course!
ignorant, even to know
of your ignorance…

doesn’t matter really-
in your macro subsistence
the micro realities of existence!

but a gossamer wrap
around the flicker –
(perhaps) to hide the glimmer!

wise heads!
too wise to remember
the eternal truth of
prelude to a Fire…

Bidyut

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