This essay addresses the retelling of the regional folk imaginary as Gothic narrative in two Assamese-language feature films by Bhaskar Hazarika, a filmmaker from Assam in Northeast India. In the first movie, Kothanadi (The River of Fables, 2015), Hazarika chooses four folktales popular in Assam compiled in Burhi Aair Sadhu (Old Mother’s Wise Tales, 1911) in the early twentieth century by Lakshminath Bezbarua, a doyen of Modern Assamese literature. Hazarika, in his narrative, brings to the fore the macabre psycho-social dimensions of the tales and interrogates the conflicting gender dynamics present in them. His handling of the film narrative explicates dark overtones that give way to a distinct political ecology. Hazarika’s second film, Aamis (Ravening, 2019), takes on the postcolonial fault lines of a differentia that marks the Northeastern folk culture as distinctive from that of the Indian subcontinent since the food culture of some of the Northeastern peoples is often stigmatised in the subcontinental metropolises as bizarre. Hazarika narrativises the nuances of this suppression in terms of a displacement of desire vis-à-vis the dismantling of normativity around food habits. The film narrative exemplifies a horrifyingly morbid turn whereby a unique instance of gastro-ethical transgression is theorised. The aim of the essay is to unravel the political underpinnings of the discourse instituted by these narratives by examining the cultural conditions specific to India’s Northeast through a retelling of the folk as Gothic.
KEYWORDS: India’s Northeast, film narratives, folk horror, transgression, gastronomic horror, postcolonial Gothic