Local Utpaat: There are a couple of things that the success of the Assamese film 'Local Utpaat' goes to establish, far beyond what many directors and producers in Assam would have us believe, that Assamese people do not support Assamese cinema, that anything that has to be done has to have government support and subsidy, and then made tax-free, and that commercial Assamese cinema is on the verge of collapse and is simply not a good business investment.
Well, 'Local Utpaat' was crowdfunded and if one were to go by the comments of people leaving movie halls, they had got more than their money's worth, asking others to go watch the film. Kenny Basumatary, the director of the film, and his team have made people go back to the movie hall, which by itself is an achievement.
Crowdfunding may just be a good idea for all Assamese films, and definitely for those who are trying to break into the market: take to social media, prove you're good at what you do, and people aren't fools, they will invest. In Kenny's case, his earlier 'Local Kungfu', which reportedly was made with the most basic of equipment--a 550D Canon DSLR it is believed--and a bunch of friends set a standard in Assamese comedy. Not slapstick but realistic and keeping with the times. The film made sense and was a riot; people went for it.
It is with the same dedication that Rima Das made 'Village Rockstars' some years ago, going on to win 'Best Feature Film' at the 65th National Film Awards. She too had some children and village folk she knew as her actors. Just about all the credits went 'Introducing……'. All new faces, probably no background in acting at all, nothing fancy, but hard, straight from the heart storytelling, just what makes a good film a good film.
This is a big shift from what was done some years ago when the government put out what was called 'commissioned programmes'. The level of work churned out was dismal. That happened at the peak of insurgency in Assam. If sources in the establishment are to be believed, 'commissioned programmes' were a way of buying out movie makers who through their craft could sway public sentiment.
Many senior filmmakers fell for it lock, stock and barrel. Not only was there a scramble for the films/serials, they even formed a committee that said if you didn't have a few productions under your belt, you could not apply for a slot. In other words, newcomers, no matter how talented, were not welcome to have a piece of the pie. Many of those productions Doordarshan would air late night, having strategised perhaps that the purpose had been served, and airing the films at an earthly hour was no longer a matter of concern. That though, was then.
People like Kenny have now gone on to prove that people will watch a good film, serious, 'art' or comedy so long as the person making the film knows his or her job. In short, people know what to watch, and more importantly, what not to. The rest is the responsibility of the person making the film.
~~~~By Pranab Bora (Courtesy EOI)