“If not for you, I have no other true love
When we work together the sun sets early
Without you I am nothing”
Close to the India – Myanmar border is the village of Phek in Nagaland. Around 5000 people live here, almost all of who cultivate rice for their own consumption. As they work in cooperative groups — preparing the terraced fields, planting saplings, or harvesting the grain and carrying it up impossibly steep slopes — the rice cultivators of Phek sing. The seasons change, and so does the music, transforming the mundane into the hypnotic. The love that they sing of is also a metaphor for the need for the other – the friend, the family, the community, to build a polyphony of voices. Stories of love, stories of the field, stories of song, stories in song. Up, Down and Sideways is a musical portrait of a community of rice cultivators and their memories of love and loss, created from working together on the fields. It is the first feature film from the u-ra-mi-li project, a larger body of work that looks at the connections between music and labour.
Anushka Meenakshi has worked as a filmmaker, a community video trainer and designs and performs music for theatre productions. Iswar Srikumar is an actor and a lighting/sound designer for theatre. 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 labour. The u-ra-mi-li project has received support for its work from the India Foundation for the Arts, pad.ma, the Archive and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology and has been selected for the NFDC Film Bazaar WIP Lab (2014) and Docedge Kolkata (2015). It has also been commissioned by National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai), Puthu Yugam, National Museum of Denmark, and the Pune Biennale 2017 and exhibited work at the National Gallery of Modern Art (Mumbai) and the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art, among others.