In conversation with young Assamese actor-cum-singer Arghadeep Baruah whose versatility is inspiring the younger generation of the State to pursue their dreams and passions. The young actor took the Assam film industry by storm with his debut film appearance in path-breaking Assamese film ‘Aamis’.
- Please tell us about your childhood.
Ans: I had a very loving and beautiful childhood in a place called Gauripur, Dhubri just next to the flowing Godhadur River. I spent the most of my childhood days with my grandparents. My childhood revolved around two ladies - my grandmother from my father’s side and my grandmother from my mother’s side - both of them being two incredible women.
2. Tell us about your educational journey.
Ans: My initial schooling happned in Gauripur in a school called Little Flowers and then I came to Guwahati and joined a school called, “Divine buds”. From there, I later joined KV, Khanapara in Guwahati from where I completed my matriculation and higher secondary. Later I joined Icon Commerce College, wherein I did my graduation in Commerce (B.com) but somehow felt that commerce is not my cup of tea. Meanwhile, I was simultaneously pursuing vocational training courses on Videography and photography. While I was doing it, my love for films started to grow manifold. Then I moved to Silchar and pursued my Masters in Mass Communication from Assam University. After that I did a fellowship on Wildlife and community based filmmaking from Green hub initiated by Dusty Food Productions, New Delhi and Northeast Network.
3. When and how did your interest in films grow?
Ans: My father is my biggest inspiration. He is the one who introduced me to the world of Satyajit Ray, Mrina sen, Ritwik Ghatak. Also, him being an active film enthusiast, I think he is the one of those few people who started cine clubs in Northeast. When he was studying in Shillong, he started the Northeast region’s first cine club. So, the interest and love for films was always there in the family. The kind of environment where we were raised always had cinema in it and my brother has also been very influential in introducing me to the post 80s directors to me like Christopher Nolan, Krzysztof Zanussi. So, the family was always supportive and equally participative.
4. How did Aamis happen? How was your experience working in Aamis?
Ans: I was working as an assistant for a documentary called, ‘India’s healing forest’ by Nitin Das and was in Gurgaon travelling with my mentor to do shoots in Madhya Pradesh, then Himachal Pradesh. Prior to that, I had done a music video called, ‘Ki Bedonate’ by Shankuraj Konwar directed by Kadmbari Kashyap. Bhaskar da had been searching for ‘Sumon’ since a very long time and incidentally the assistant directors like Sunaina and Ronal Da, all of them happened to watch the same video ‘Ki Bedonate’ at the same time and later decided to case me for Aamis. Some things are ought to happen, I guess.
5. What do you feel about the Assamese film industry?
Ans: That is a broad question. I feel that not just Assamese films, but, as a whole, Assamese language needs more content. We had people like Jyoti Pasad Agarwalla who directed films like Joyomoti, which was the fourth Indian film after Dada Saheb’s film. We also have a rich heritage given to us by saints and luminaries like Srimanta Sankardeva, Jyotiprasad and Kolaguru but somehow and unfortunately we couldn’t carry forward that lineage. I am optimistic that people like Bhaskar (Hazarika) da are making films, thoughtful films which are so necessary at this point of time. Masala films have to be there because that is how an industry prospers or survives but I think, as a whole, Assamese language needs more content, maybe poetry or even music.
6. Your onstage band performances revolve around environment. Would you like to share what inspires you to spread awareness on the environment?
Ans: I am basically a vocalist and the name of our band is ‘Bottle Rockets India’ and we are a multilingual band. Our genre varies from folk to psychedelic, to progressive and post rock. Born and raised in a place like Gauripur where I was surrounded by hillocks and rivers, so the inclination towards nature and forests were always there but when I joined Green hub, it strengthened. Initially greenhub was all about wildlife filmmaking and I was interning for an organisation called 8tree in Manas national Park and I stayed in a forest for almost nine months. That was one of the best times of my life. The experience in itself was so soothing; there is an instant sense of calm when you enter a forest. I feel we all are an extension of Mother Nature, if we try to exploit other nature, we will be exploiting ourselves. So, it is important that at least we try to connect back with Mother Nature which is diminishing with the modern technologies coming in, AI, etc. So, whenever there is an opportunity, I try to share what I have experienced so that If anybody wants to spend a little time in nature or forests, they can heal themselves as well as the forests.
7. Coming from a musical background, do you ever find yourself juggling amidst the two?
Ans: Sometimes, it gets a bit tricky. My first priority will always be music. Lately, I have made this rule that I consult with my bandmates about my film projects on whether or not I should take up a new project because at the end of the day five more souls are associated with my decision. I try my best to maintain a balance between the two but being music remains my first priority. Life will be hectic at times but one has to maintain the balance.
8. Would you like to share your future plans?
Ans: I am very thankful to the universe that it never made me plan anything yet. Everything just happened. It is strange and also a blessing I think. The person with whom I did my documentary happens to be the same person whose work I would look up to while doing my masters back in time and often wishing for an opportunity to work with him. In my fellowship, he happened to be one of the mentors who later invited me to work with him.. Same thing happened with Bhaskar da, after watching Kothanodi, there was a deep sense of admiration of wanting to work with him, not as an actor but maybe as an assistant or an editor, someday. So, I remain grateful to the universe. I always wanted to make films and hence I made nine short documentaries while I was working for an organization but I became an accidental actor. However, making films is a thought, post Aamis I realised the interest for acting is very new and I am trying to explore it more.
9. How are you coping with the success?
Ans: I believe at the end of the day, one has to stay grounded. If one starts thinking about it as success, then it would take a toll on anyone.
10. What do you like to do in your free time?
Ans: I love taking photos, and baking cakes. I love to feel the touch of sunlight on my skin, or the wind, etc. All these are so intimate yet divine things to do. I love reading too, I am new to reading because I was into sports since a young age but lately I have started to read and feel it. I am a big dreamer who dreams away each page after reading it. It takes time but I love it.
11. Who all are there in your family? How do they feel about your success?
Ans: There are primarily four people, Baba, Ma, Dada and Bou. But we are also like a joint family with my Jettha’s family next to ours. In fact, it was my brother who read the script for Aamis first since I was busy with the documentary. I hardly got time to read it as I had to first convince my mentor for this first film offer. My brother and my sister-in--aw have been supportive all throughout. For this short film that I am doing right now, I had to get a blouse stitched and it was my sister in law who helped me with that. My father being my first inspiration, when I was in class 11, I remember him telling that he’d be very happy if I make a movie because I think he too, at some point of time, wanted to be an actor but due to family responsibilities, he had to do a government job.
12. Is there a message that you would like to offer to the youths with dreams and aspirations.
Ans: The fact that one must love nature, it remains integral. Be true and genuine and keep dreaming. Practice, patience and perseverance are the three P’s which must be maintained and respected in order to fulfil one’s dreams. Also, it is a time with divisive politics happening, it is great to see the youth speaking up, protesting etc but it is more important to educate yourself on what you are doing and why you are doing it. Educating yourself is important as people should know why they are doing, be it anything. Protesting is a good sign in a democracy as people are aware about the scenario in the society but while we raise our voices, we should know the facts behind it. We can talk about preserving our identity only when we are aware of everything.