Actress Jerina Baruah: Blessed with Assamese Heritage in her Bones
Jerina made her Assamese film debut in Zubeen Garg’s Kanchanjangha as Antara, the hero’s sister.
She carved her niche as a dance artist in her first acting performance in Sourav Jyoti Baruah's 'Topal' album, which may be called her first cultural debut. She also performed in short films 'Xondhiyar Xur', 'Popiya Tora ''xondhikhkhon' and 'Miracle'. In Jonak Channel, she is regularly performing as a serial artist in 'Monor Nijanot Jonak'. Besides Assamese, she performed in Guwahati Doordarshan's Hindi serial 'Mon ki Uran'. She participated successfully in the Sattriya programmes of Sangeet Natak Academy
"Every day is a fresh start,"says Jerina Baruah, the heart throb of modern Assamese films. Since her mind-blowing debut in Zubeen's Kanchanjangha, which musical maestro Zubeen Garg meant it to be a Musical film based on multi-layered social issues with the tragic story of Jonki Borthakur in focus. Jerina is engaged in newer and newer projects without any signs of slowing down..
The journey of Jerina's life includes culture, literature, fine art and research. She is now a Ph.D researcher at Krishnaguru Adhyatmic Visvavidyalaya. Earlier she studied in Seagull Theatre and completed her Masters in Assamese from Assam University. Today her village North Lakhimpur and her North Lakhimpur College feels proud of her performances in the Assamese Film industry. Besides, she is working as an Anchor at Doordarshan Kendra Guwahati. Besides her passion in modelling and dance training at Nartn Kala Niketan, she is fully committed to acting.
But Jerina Baruah's powerful dance and acting performance as Antara, the sister to Anirban (Zubeen) transcends the personal. After Rima Das's Village Rockstars, Jerina the Assamese village girl from Gharmara rocked the film industry in Assam.
Jerina captured the minds of the film lovers all over India and skyrocketed to fame overnight. She looked talented, devoted and spontaneous in her performance. The theme of a brother's love for his sister forms part of the analysis of the polyphonic themes of 'Kanchanjangha'. That is chiefly because of the brilliant acting feat of Jerina Baruah who played the sister Antara's (Zubeen's sister Jonki Borthakur in real life) role.
Assamese cinema developed a slow-paced sensitive style, especially with the movies of Bhabendranath Saikia and Jahnu Barua. The beginning of the 21st century has seen Bollywood- style Assamese movies hitting the screen. Still it has not been able to compete in the market, being significantly overshadowed by the larger industries like Bollywood. From 1935- 2018, the golden journey of Assamese cinema has taken a new turn with recent releases. After Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika, modern music maestro Zubeen Garg is surely going to be the most important cultural ambassador of Assamese music. Through Assamese mega musical masterblaster 'Kanchanjangha', Zubeen is taking the industry to an incredible height after Bhupen had stirred whole India after his music direction and singing in Rudaali.
Jerina Baruah's debut role is really heart-touching. Born in Gharmara village of Lakhimpur in 1993 she graduated in Assamese and is now engaged in the study of law. She got her expertise in Sattriya dance and at the same time showed her curiosity about Assamese culture and heritage. Her book 'Dr. Bhupen Hazarikar Geetot Sanskritic Chetonar Xandhan' has been published. She carved her niche as a dance artist in her first acting performance in Sourav Jyoti Baruah's 'Topal' album, which may be called her first cultural debut. She also performed in short films 'Xondhiyar Xur', 'Popiya Tora ''xondhikhkhon' and 'Miracle'. In Jonak Channel, she is regularly performing as a serial artist in 'Monor Nijanot Jonak'. Besides Assamese, she performed in Guwahati Doordarshan's Hindi serial 'Mon ki Uran'. She participated successfully in the Sattriya programmes of Sangeet Natak Academy. Recognition came at a young age for Jerina Baruah. In 2016 she got the Best Performer of the Year in Classical Dance and in 2017 she got the Best Actress Award. Her many books of poetry and novels are in pipeline. As to her source of inspiration, she mentions her parents- especially her mother- who used to sing Bongeet, Bihugeet, Lokgeet, Ainam, Biyanam. The drama team of the village also inspired her to participate in many programmes from her childhood days. Her 'maju mama' persuaded her to sing with an orchestra and that probably inspired her to dream big. Jerina's powerful acting in this musical film adds to the film a totally new dimension.
An inborn talent, Jerina mesmerised the audience no less by her dancing prowess.
Songs and dances are integral to Assamese culture and heritage and here lies the challenge for Jerina, the new comer in film and she, with her devoted efforts excelled. At least six super-hit songs are presented with all idyllic graphics representing Assamese rural life and cultural heritage. The second time Assam, nay India, is listening to the music and credit goes to the musical maestro Zubeen Garg and no less to Jerina Baruah who made them graphical and lively by her choreographic expertise. Jerina Baruah in her debutant film Zubeen's Kanchanjangha rocked . Jerina looked talented, devoted and spontaneous in her performance. At least six super-hit songs are presented with all idyllic graphics representing Assamese rural life and cultural heritage.
Now with new directors like Himanshu Prasad Das, Gunjan Bhardwaj, Tarunabha Dutta or Arindam Sharma and Utpal Dutta, the scope of working is getting wider and female actors like Jerina Baruah can do more meaningful works. Reel life is now almost intermingled with the real life. Jerina will come out of her entertainment roles of dancing and singing part and can focus more on art film and also commercial films with serious social messages. If powerful female actresses are able to contribute to such serious films , Assamese industry will be able to give us bold films on society and life. . The journey in the film industry was started by such a powerful actress Aideu Neelambar Handique and it is the responsibility of the female actresses of our time to rejuvenate Assamese film industry. Films are more than glamourous show and money making business. The powerful actresses can only leave their names on the timeless pages of history while the showy and model-based acting will go to oblivion It is a good sign that female actresses like Jerina came to Assamese Film industry through modelling but gradually by serious studies of diverse subjects and study of the ever enriched multiplex cultural heritage of Assam she is trying to contribute some greater roles in the upcoming films by outstanding directors. Arshia Mittal once said, "If tea didn't exist, Assam would have perished." But the same is true of the Rhino and the Films of Assam. People of Assam love to see their projection in the films. Moreover it is thought that Assamese women are a little more introvert and shy than their counterparts in other states of India. But with the passage of time, female directors like Rima Das and actresses like Aimee Baruah are coming up with the desire to do bold roles .Today many women are surpassing the Bollywood heroines in their progressive attitudes. The films based on the novels of female writers obviously require bold women to play the roles It is hoped that actresses like Jerina Baruah will be able to cope up with the challenges to promote Assamese films.
Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee
Senior Trilingual Columnist and Poet may be reached at email@example.com