Reema Borah, Jaicheng Jai Dhutiya, Bhaskar Hazarika, Monjul Baruah, Rima Das, Jhulan Krish Mahanta, Himjoyti Talukdar, Dhruva J Bordoloi, Himanghsu Prasad Das, Khaanjan Kishore th... the list is endless. Do all these mes strike a chord? These are the mes of budding directors who are taking Assamese film industry to a new level. At a time when digital cinema is making giant strides to capture audiences, these new age directors are making their mark in the industry through flawless storytelling, blending it with local flavour and technological expertise — which for long was lacking in Assamese cinema. Small budget films like Haanduk (The Hidden Corner) directed by Jaicheng Jai Dhutiya has won the tiol Award, while Kothanodi, Antareen, Man with Binoculars, Bokul, Nodi Mathi Boi are making audiences the world over take notice. Slowly but steadily, the youth brigade of Assamese directors are propelling the local film industry to scale new heights despite being constrained by the bombardment of Hindi movies, lack of fincial resources, and producers fixated only on profit. By doing so, this breed of young talented directors are also venturing into unchartered territories and telling stories of Assam to the world audience, which were hitherto never touched. For instance, in Nodi Mathu Boi : Song of the River directed by Jhulan Krish Mahanta, another new age director, the movie depicts a cultural journey by a group of friends from the world’s smallest river island (Umanda) to the world’s largest river island (Majuli), to fulfill their dreams. The director very aptly describes the true essence of the rich cultural heritage of Assam. Another area all these directors have shown promise is in merging commercial and critical success — a prerequisite for any local film industry to flourish, which is often overshadowed by the large Hindi film industry. By exploring a gamut of emotions, driven in subtle and precise pace, all these directors have brought in a sea change in the film industry which for sometime was reeling under severe fincial strain, technical shortcomings and lack of adequate cinema halls. It now appears that rough edges of the local film industry are being smoothened to a great extent, but problems still persist on many fronts like lack of adequate support and infrastructure for producing a world class movie. The first Guwahati Film Festival whose curtains came down recently in Guwahati, promises to go a long away in helping budding directors from the region in understanding the nuances of world cinema and expand their vision. The State government which successfully organised the event, should make it a calendar event to give a much needed fillip to a sector which is otherwise neglected. One cardil rule of success for a local film industry in the country — like Malayalam and Bengali film industries have been doing — is that, they have merged local flavour with commercial success to make inroads into multiplexes and other avenues for screening.
Newfound energy of Assamese Cinema
Cut to the local film industry, which for decades have been reeling under fincial strain, are at last showing signs of revival. In last one year, nearly every week a movie has been released in Assam, and succeeding in pulling in the crowds. Movies like action drama Mission Chi, directed by Zubeen Garg, have created ripples among the masses through publicity and marketing. This newfound energy needs to get converted into actioble inputs from all the stakeholders, while the State government has to play a major role in making industry-friendly policy and helping to build necessary infrastructure like small movie halls facilitating uninterrupted screening of local movies. After decades of neglect, the Assamese film industry has again gotten a start and needs to capitalise on it, while the people should support the cause by occupying every seat in the theatre. It’s not that Assamese film industry has not seen sunny days. During the silent era of Indian cinema, Joymoti (1935), directed by the pioneer of Assamese cinema Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, was the third motion picture in India. Abdul Majid, the eminent actor and director who passed away on September 25 this year, directed Chameli Memsaab which has been remade in Bengali and Hindi. The film, besides setting records at the box office and offering a fare of immortal songs, brought the tea community into the mainstream of Assamese socio-cultural life. The period 1960-1970 is regarded by many experts as the golden era of Assamese cinema. During that time, as many as 9 Assamese films won tiol awards. In the late Eighties, another lumiry of Indian Cinema Jahnu Barua made his me globally with films like Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khay, Boni, Firingoti and Aparoopa. In all, with a glorious past and crisis ridden present, the Assamese film industry is again stirring to life. The emergence of bold young directors with creative vision and cinematic skills is a welcome harbinger of this revival.