Sora: A Language Fights to Live

OCTOBER 3, 2022
IND | 20 minutes | 2022

Documentary short film directed by Aditi Kumar
Featuring Opino Gomango

Sora: A Language Fights to Live

The Sora are an indigenous community from the Indian state of Odisha. Here, they describe how they feel about their unique yet endangered language.

Sora linguist Opino Gomango grounds the narrative with the people he interviews, the love for his mother tongue and pride in his culture.


CineAsian Films (CAF): What made you decide to explore this story and how did you connect with the subject of Sora: A Language Fights to Live?
Aditi Kumar: I was working in documentary shorts when a great need to explore the country of my birth arose; probably because the shorts I was involved with dealt in untold stories of Indian culture. I wanted to contribute to this knowledge, too. My friends and I – barely a year out of undergrad in 2016 – decided we’d combine our skills in journalistic research and filmmaking to look up topics on which to make our documentary. It was also a fun thing to do, just for us as people who like being creative

I suppose I personally connected with the subject of Sora because it’s an endangered language, or rather, a language that is rapidly getting lost in the mix of other dominant tongues of the region. I grew up outside India my whole life, and despite being more in touch with the motherland than most (because I lived in the Middle East where there were a lot of Indians), I still didn’t learn how to speak, read or write in my own mother tongue properly. I understood that notion of something inherent slipping away as something different and foreign, yet so familiar – like speaking English fluently outside of England itself – set itself as the dominant custom.

We managed to contact our primary source of information, Opino Gomango, through intensive research and six degrees of separation with various phone numbers. As a Sora speaker who also grew up outside Odisha (the home state of the language) and only learned linguistics to preserve his mother tongue, he was the perfect candidate for the narrator of the film. We were able to make it because of him and the kindness of his family, for which we will always be grateful. I was also helped by my then-boss, the prolific ad-filmmaker Bharatbala, who graciously agreed to lend us his equipment and in-house DP after I pitched the film to him. He had no reason to – I was the youngest and most inexperienced employee he’d hired a year before. He’s another person to whom we are forever indebted for letting us get our feet wet in our fledgling attempts as filmmakers. 

CAF: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while making this film?
Kumar: One of the biggest challenges we faced during production was a lack of food. Not snacks or drinks – we were able to source those – but a place where we could take full meals. For some strange reason, that part of the country is bereft of diners or dhabas, and we had to rely on biscuits, the hospitality of our interviewees and restaurants that were at least a mile off – after a complete day of filmmaking. We also had to take into account the great distances between each interviewee’s house, and our cantankerous driver’s willingness to get there in the first place.

The second was understanding what to document. As fledgling documentarians, we were at sea initially. According to Opino, there were so many dialects that the language changed every 30 kms. On the other hand, an American linguistic scholar who worked with the Sora later told me that the difference was probably not very much. And then again, there were so many other facets: the people themselves, the economic restrictions, their home lives, their personalities, the racism they faced from those they called ‘general’ (i.e. non-tribal members of the state). If you ask me today, we would have just followed Opino’s life, which by itself is very fascinating. Instead at the time, we decided to weave a general but intricate picture of what we saw. It would be, we decided, the best introduction to the Sora community and language that we could make with our skills.

Finally, on the last day, one of our crew members (and our friend) – the interviewer of the team – suffered sexual harassment in form of voyeurism at the hotel we stayed. Though we complained to the police and emotionally supported our friend, there was not much else we could do, especially with the hotel staying firmly on the side of its staff. Moreover, given the racism adivasi (tribal) communities face on a daily basis, we did not want to involve Opino more than necessary. Our friend went on to write an incredibly moving and personal essay on the incident. To this day, I feel horrible that it happened to her, and that I was responsible for her being there in the first place.

CAF: What do you hope people can take away from watching this?
Kumar: I hope people know that the Sora exist, in the first place. They are but one of many communities around the world, who are barely known for their individuality, let alone recognized from the sea of cultures that make up India. India is never scrutinized by the West for its incredible diversity, because in the West, we are expected to conform to a certain white standard of acceptance. Moreover, it’s important now to see that these communities have endangered history, as the threat of fundamentalism looms over the country’s supposed secularity. Thirdly, I hope those who have led a sort of nomadic existence, or feel stretched between cultures around the globe, can connect with this film and Opino’s own credo: that his language is his dignity.

CAF: Are you working on anything new?
Kumar: Right now, I’m editing a new music video I collaborated on with this great indie artist in Los Angeles! I’m also writing a lot, and will pitch my screenplays soon!

Sora: A Language Fights to Live is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your project.


Director, Co-Producer, Editor: Aditi Kumar
Producer: Bharatbala
Co-Producers: Bharat Misra, Vijayta Lalwani, Manek Singh Kohli
Cinematography: Amal Sudhakaran
Editors: Bharat Misra, Karan Salunkhe, Yash Soni
Sound: Timothy McDonald
Research, interviews: Opino Gomango, Vijayta Lalwani

Follow and Support the Filmmaker
@odditykumar | director’s website