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Cultural Study of “Yarwng” Film: A Review


Cultural Study of “Yarwng” Film: A Review


Sashanka Debbarma

M.A. (English)

Sharda University

Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India


Dr. Prachi Priyanka

Assistant Professor of English

Sharda University

Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India


Yarwng is a short film directed by Joseph Pulinthanath in the Kokborok language a real based story. The film is a powerful exploration of the challenges faced by the Indigenous tribes in the Northeastern Indian state of Tripura where the film is set the title Yarwng means “Roots” in the Kokborok language and the film delves deep into the themes of identity, tradition and culture. The film is beautifully shot and features visuals of the lush forests and rolling hills of Tripura. The use of Kokborok language and the local music adds an authentic touch to the film, immersing viewers in the culture and traditions of the Indigenous communities. The film serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving cultural heritage and traditions in an increasingly globalized world.

Keywords: Tragedy, culture, relationship


“Yarwng” is a significant film in the context of preserving and promoting Indigenous cultures and traditions. The movie serves as an excellent example of how cinema can be used as a tool to promote cultural diversity and create awareness about indigenous communities. The films critical acclaim and success have helped to bring the unique culture and traditions of the Tripuri people to forefront and have played a vital role in preserving and promoting these traditions for future generations. “Yarwng” is a 2008 Kokborok feature film produced by Don Bosco Sampari Pictures Tripura, written and directed by Joseph Pulinthanath. The large scale of displacement happened in Tripura state, when the newly built Dumbur Dam (1970s) had submerged huge areas of arable land in the fertile Raima valley about 40 years ago. The film story is of 95 minutes and the film also won the first National award for Tripura at the 56thNational Film Awards in 2008.

The film beautifully portrays the intricate relationship between the Tripuri people and their natural surroundings, depicting how their lives are deeply intertwined with the forest, hills, rivers and lakes that surround them. The movie showcases the traditional Tripuri customs including the rich colourful attire of the community, their unique music and dance forms and the indigenous cuisine. Through the story of the couple’s journey, the film also touches upon social issues such as caste, gender roles and superstition prevalent in the society. It provides a poignant commentary on the importance of respecting diversity and celebrating differences. The history of cultural suppression and marginalization faced by many Indigenous communities in India and the ongoing struggles to maintain and revitalize endangered languages and culture. “Yarwng” also addresses contemporary issues facing the Tripuri people such as land rights, environmental degradation, and the pressures of modernization. It portrays the tensions between traditional ways of life and the forces of globalization and development swell as the conflicts between generations and social class.


The Tripuri people have very rich cultural heritage which includes the unique customs, traditional clothing, music, dance forms and cuisine as portrayed all of this in the film “Yarwng” beautifully. The language of Tripura is Kokborok, in which the film is made, as it is the official language of Tripura, an important culture identity. The people celebrate variety of festivals and ceremonies throughout the year associated with agricultural rituals and worship of deities by (ochai) priest, and worship of God made of bamboo as shown in the film. The Tripuris inherit a bright tradition of folk culture and folk literature. Kokborok folk literature and folk songs embrace all aspects of life, taking all events and occasions of birth, death, marriage, love dreams, frustrations, achievement and failure. It is all shown in the film, the rich culture owned by Tripuri people performing rituals on festivals, marriages etc., and the priest plays a very important role in all these occasions. The traditional colourful attire worn  by the women, a long skirt (Rignai) which are draped around the waist and (Risa) for covering the upper part of the body, generally weaved in handloom, colourful and embroidered by flowers on it and the traditional jewelry including necklaces, earrings and bracelet made of silver etc.

One of the most prominent aspects of Tripura culture is its music and dance forms. The Garia, Hojagiri dances are popular among the tribal communities and are performed during the festivals. The state is known for its unique musical instrument, the sumui or flute which is made from the Bamboo and has a distinctive sound. The handicraft and handloom products are also integral part of its culture. Intricate bamboo and cane work. Tripura tradition reflects a unique blend of tribal traditions. Its music, dance handicrafts and cuisine offer a unique glimpse into state rich. Religion also plays an important role in Tripuri culture with majority of the people following Hinduism. The main source of income of the Tripuri people is farming in jhum cultivation, Wakhirai in the film mentions, “planting harvesting and again planting.” This is how they keep themselves busy and occupied throughout the year working all season in farm , and the festivals, fair “mela” is the only way to break their monotony of life, the Hojagiri dances are performed in the fair, which is famous dance still in Tripura, the houses are made of bamboo fence  and dried lemon grass as roof. Awang is a traditional delicacy food made in every festival and occasion by grinding the sticky rice into powder or cooking the sticky rice in many different ways, mud pot are used to carry water from the lakes or river for household purpose for cleaning, drinking etc. The rice wine (chuwak) are drunk in bamboo, as shown in the film Agurai sells the wine and fermented fish in his shop, the fermented fish are used basically in every curry of the Tripuri people, the banana plants are also consumed as a food and their leaves are used for eating food on it and also it is used to pack food while traveling or sharing food with the neighbours. Foods are cooked in bamboo curry and rice. Both pork and chicken are also main source of income for Tripuri people, as these meats are enjoyed as traditional meats in every festive season. Everything is portrayed beautifully in this film “yarwng,” the lifestyle and the rich culture of the tribal Tripuri people.


The relationship in the film is about the love between two lovers who are about to get married but get separated on the night before the wedding. The relationship between Wakhirai and Karmati love story was very romantic. They meet and spent their time in the jhum cultivation discussing their life after they both get married, and also in the starting of the film it can be seen how Karmati’s father and mother were expecting a beautiful marriage of  her daughter and they will be blessed with grandchildren, all their dreams turn out to be in vain. The two lovers always have dreamt of getting married and live together a happy life but on the night before the wedding when the preparations were taking place, the administrative police had attacked their home and told them to leave the place immediately, by leaving behind the marriage ceremony preparations as the water from the dam was rising above and about to submerge the whole village. They all got scattered traveling to hilly areas, new places looking for settling down tears in their eyes, some of the family members died on the way while traveling, some left their pregnant wife, as seen Debra left her pregnant wife in the middle of the night leaving her behind, Karmati’s brother left his parents on the way to avoid poverty  and Wakhirai’s ailing father died on the way, many left their family members on the way as they all have left their properties and land behind which are swallowed by water and looking for places to settle by migrating, which will lead to poverty and die out of hunger snapping the relationship between the family members .

Karmati settles in another village, she was forced and preached by her mother and aunt to forget the past and move forward her life with Sukurai and she gets married. Sukurai learnt later that his wife Karmati had once been the fiance of his jhum companion Wakhirai, as Wakhirai also happens to settle in the same village  after a lot of struggle and traveling and when his wife Karmati explains the whole story of the catastrophe that made their life apart and miserable, Sukurai feels pity and suggests his wife Karmati to reunite with Wakhirai personally so that they can share their emotional feelings after so much loss, and when Karmati finally goes to Wakhirai’s house, finds him missing, the poor woman was traumatized with her past life and she blames her destiny by crying. The relationship one has with their own home and place, connection to community, it can be place where we feel safe, secure and comfortable, homes can be repository of cherished memories and source of comfort during difficult times, homes and places have physical impact on health and wellbeing, relationship with their home and place was deeply personal and unique to each individual because the houses that they had been living for ages and from childhood is all under water.


Tragedies that involve leaving one’s own home place or land can have a profound impact on individual, families and entire communities. Forced displacement due to political decision, that caused natural disaster in the film Yarwng have submerged the whole village, which was traumatic and cause significant disruptions to people’s lives . “Yarwng is based on true events of displacement and resettlement of Indigenous Tripuri people caused by the Dumbor Hydel power project commissioned in 1976 by Indian Government. About 80,000 tribals were ousted in 1976 when the Dumbur Hydel Project was commissioned and 30 meter high gravity dam was constructed across the river. The displaced tribe was not rehabilitated by the government and most of them were compelled to settle in the hill ranges and continue their struggle for survival through jhum cultivation. The trauma and the displacement and its aftermath provide the human drama that unfolds in the lives of characters. The film is based on the real narratives of the people.

The village people do not understand the meaning of current as shown in the film, only a lamp of fire is used by the villagers at night when they were told to move by the administrative people they ask, “where will we go, this is our home” and the reply of the police was that it was not their duty, they are only instructed to remove them from the place. The villagers repeatedly ask in the film that what if don’t get place to settle down? What about their homeland, paddy field that was their ancestral place, they question so much to the police when they are forced to move by breaking their houses with the help of elephants to chase them away. When people are forced to leave their homes, they often lose their cultural traditions and a sense of shared history and identity. The loss of connection to one’s root can be particularly devastating for indigenous people and other groups of communities who have strong cultural attachment to their land. For the people in the Yarwng film the land is not just a place to live but is also a source of spiritual and cultural significance. The loss of cultural and social connections, forced displacement can also have significant economic impact, and when people are forced to leave their homes , they often lose their livelihoods and may struggle to find work and support themselves and their families, which is why we see a lot of characters in the film leave their family behind and make their own way to avoid poverty and hunger. The villagers were not ready to adapt the change of development. They were not educated enough to understand the notice of development as shown in the film. The government didn’t even think to make them understand the need of removing them from their inhabited place by communicating and helping their needs properly. It was a shock for the villagers to be destroyed all of sudden, not knowing where they will end up their life, once they left behind their homeland and property, they were only instructed forcefully to move in some other hilly part and settle their lives.

Overall tragedies involving leaving one’s place or land can have far-reaching and long lasting effect on individuals and communities. The government organization and individuals should have recognize and support, those who have been affected by forced displacement and to work towards finding solutions and respect people’s rights and dignity. But the people who had suffered were not supported nor given any rehabilitation act.


Yarwng is a critically acclaimed film in the Kokborok language directed by Joseph Pulinthanath. The film explores the themes of identity, displacements and cultural preservation. Through the story of this film Yarwng portraying the characters of Wakhirai and Karmati love story and showing the governmental actions of development without any help to tribal people had lead to destruction of their mental health and loss, struggle finding place to settle, lost their loved ones and other characters of leaving family behind and choosing way of their own, scattered all over, show the painful chapter that had occurred, as no one was ready to hear them, or help them but to chase them away from their own ancestral village by breaking their huts with elephants. Tragedies that involve leaving one’s own home land forcefully was a devastating and traumatic experience, the continuation of the song in the movie repeatedly means “Roots have snapped leaving the traces behind” tears filled in eyes unable to express pain makes a reminder to the audience of the film after each minute, still today the Dumboor lake story is spoken and watched by people as a tourist place. The film’s ambiguous ending is intentional, as it reflects the ongoing struggles and uncertainties faced by many Indigenous communities in India. It also invites the audience to reflect on their own perspective and assumptions about identity, culture and choice we make in life.

Works Cited

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