November 4, 2019

‘The Man Who Speaks Nature’ Bags Best Short Film in Belgium

Assam filmmaker Dhritiman Kakati’s short documentary film ‘The Man Who Speaks Nature’ has bagged the Best Short Film Award at the Festival International Nature Namur in Belgium recently. The film was awarded as the Best Short Film in the Professional Films category. A total of 42 films had been screened under the Professional Films category at the film festival in Belgium. Moreover, a total of 774 film entries from 82 different countries were received in the Professional Films category. The film festival was held from October 18, 2019 to October 20, 2019 in Belgium. ‘The Man Who Speaks Nature’ was screened at the Acinapolis movie theatre of Namur on October 18.

It may be mentioned that Festival International Nature Namur, which had been held from 1995, has now been recognized as one among the five biggest events of Europe.

The eight minute 32 seconds short documentary film ‘The Man Who Speaks Nature’ provides a glimpse into the life and work of Manoj Gogoi, a Kaziranga-based ecologist who has dedicated his life to the rescue and rehabilitation of snakes and birds in particular. A self-taught naturalist, he explains the reasons that motivated him to develop his interest in the local flora and fauna. This determined man now has a special relationship with nature.

The main persons behind the short documentary film are Dhritiman Kakati, Raktim Hazarika and Prabal Bora. While Dhritiman has directed and written the documentary, the editing was executed by Raktim and the promotional work has been done by Prabal.

Prantik Deka.

November 3, 2019

Assamese Film "Astittwa" to be Release on November 8

Astittwa – an Assamese feature film, produced by Nazim Ahmed under the banner of ‘Skyplex Motion Pictures International’, and written and directed by Mirza Arif Hazarika, is all set to release all over the State on November 8. Inspired by Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s immortal song – Aami Axomiya Nohou Dukhiya, the film revolves around the life of Lachit Hazarika, a commoner, and his fight for his very existence.

The film makes a major statement about our long-cherished values which are fast disappearing. We are losing respect for our customs, culture and tradition, had hardly any meaning in his eyes.

The film features a number of veteran and new artistes like Dinesh Das, Brajen Borah, Bibhuti Bhusan Hazarika, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Lonishri Das, Durgashri Bora, Manuj Gogoi, Rohit Choudhury, Bibhash Sinha, Runumi Devi, Mahibur Rehman, Smriti Das, Jyoti Shankar, Rajib Kro, Kuldeep Bora, among others. 

The only song in the film is composed by Tarali Sharma. Besides Tarali Sharma, the playback singing has been done by Debanjana Baishya, Manoj Baishnab and Ripunjoy Sarma. The background score is done by Dony Hazarika. While Nahid Ahmed has done the film’s cinematography, Jhulan Krishna Mahanta has handled the film’s editing. The film’s associate director is Jim Alam.

Prantik Deka.

October 29, 2019

Mexico Sohorot Ejoni Premika: New Trilingual Film by Arnab Jan Deka

A prolific novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, screenplay writer, documentary filmmaker, columnist, TV actor, river engineer, eco-technocrat all rolled into one, Arnab Jan Deka’s wide-ranging literary interests led him to start writing fiction just at the end of the twentieth century, and two leading Assamese literary journals – Prantik and Goriyoshi, firmly established his reputation as a serious story-writer in Assam. “My first Assamese short story collection in addition to my first novel got published in 1999, and both saw unprecedented success and were runaway hits among readers,” the celebrated author recalls. 

And within the next two decades, his short stories and novels received wider readership both within Assam and outside. “In fact, I received far greater appreciation among the non-Assamese readers outside the state and even India through translation of my writings,” he says. Blessed with an analytical mind and a fertile imagination, Arnab Jan Deka’s first official recognition for his fiction work came in 2003 when one of his short stories – Himalayan Mystic Meeting, won an award at the Katha International Short Story Festival in New Delhi, where it was cited for its “skilful depiction of the essence of Indian heritage and how it blended with the universal philosophy of life”.

His biographical novel on his father, renowned educationist, author, scholar and a pioneer economist of Assam, Principal Bhabananda Deka – Bhaba Ananda Sambad, won him the prestigious Assam Government Publication Board Golden Jubilee Novel Award in 2006. 

Subsequently, in the year 2009, the first collection of his translated short stories in Bengali – Mexico Shohore Ekjon Premika Ebong Koyekta Golpa, was published by a publisher from Kolkata’s College Street - a hallowed hub of Kolkata’s literary crowd. “That book received unprecedented popularity among the Bengali speaking public both in West Bengal as well as Bangladesh and opened up new vistas for my literary expedition,” he said. During the next few years, his short story collections got translated into several other languages and published in different corners of the globe, bringing rare recognition to the author.

Deka was also approached by the popular Assamese film actor-director Brojen Borah to adapt one of his popular novels – Soisobote Dhemalite, based on children’s rights to freedom and education, into a television serial in 2010. This serial was the swan song production of eminent producer-actor late Pramod Baruah.

Meanwhile, academics and universities outside Assam started paying special attention to Deka’s short stories as they were regularly published in different leading publications in other languages in translated forms.

A leading university of South India – Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, incorporated three of his widely read short stories – Himalayan Mystic Meeting, Three Village Girls and Mother America, into the syllabus of their Masters Degree Program in English language, a rare achievement that Deka himself was, interestingly, unaware of in the beginning. “I only came to know about this rare honour when university and college teachers under that university contacted me online enquiring about publication of my storybook in English containing those three particular stories as they desperately needed my books to teach in classes and prepare research papers on my short stories,” he recollects.

These series of interesting events ultimately led to two significant cinematic collaborations outside of Assam involving his stories and novels. There is something enormously satisfying about seeing such efforts getting a favourable response. “About three years back, I met a Mexican actor Betzabel Falfan who read my popular short story – Mexico Sohorot Ejoni Premika, which was published in Assamese in Prantik in 2002, and was later translated into English, Spanish and other languages and was even published from Mexico,” he says.

After a thorough discussion with the actor, they arrived at an understanding to enlarge the ambit of the storyline into a complete novel and adapt it into a full-length feature film. The story depicts the common anthropological and geographical threads that binds together two extremely opposite cultures from two different corners of the globe into a cohesive force blended in humanism and romance.

Betzabel also proposed that a Spanish version of the film should be made, apart from English and Assamese, so that her fellow countrymen could enjoy the first cinematic collaboration between India and Mexico. “She told me that the Mexicans always look up to India for its rich cultural ethos and traditions, since their own ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations were destroyed by the Spanish invaders and the present generation of Mexicans have no link with their own past,” he says.

It is interesting to note that Betzabel herself learned Sattriya dance and opened a Sattriya dance school back in her hometown Leon. “Due to her enthusiasm and support, we decided to make the film a trilingual one, titled in Assamese as Mexico Nogorat Mor Premika, in English as My Sweetheart in Mexico and in Spanish as Mi Amor en Mexico,” Deka says. 

Betzabel Falfan also actively collaborated with Arnab Jan Deka in developing the storyline and screenplay for the film, which is being directed by Deka himself. Music for the film will be scored by the talented duo Ankur-Ankan, both of whom have considerable exposure in multinational collaborative music. While Ankur has been more into classical genre and brought out several albums in different languages, Ankan specialises in lighter fusion music and has won several major international awards for his iconic song Awaaz, which was created as a tribute to the Delhi gang-rape victim. Both were lucky to have received tutelage from none other than the legendary artist Dr Bhupen Hazarika.

We decided to incorporate an international cast of artistes from different countries, apart from Mexico and Assam, and accordingly proceeded in a clearly chalked out plan,” says Deka.

Accordingly, the film’s first phase of shooting has been wrapped up recently. During this schedule, the unit, lead by Deka, extensively shot in and around Brahmaputra, both over the river and on the north bank. A number of major scenes, involving artistes from Italy and Britain, have been shot. Almost 40 per cent of the scheduled shooting has been completed and the unit plans to shoot the next schedule in the southern states of the USA and Mexico.

Meanwhile, two film and television production houses based in Mumbai and Haryana approached Arnab Jan Deka for the Hindi film and television rights of four of his novels and five short stories. Popular Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra’s uncle and Parineeti Chopra’s father, Pawan Chopra, is one of the partners of the production companies. “They invited me to their ancestral home at Ambala Cantonment in Haryana and graciously offered their warm hospitality, during which we finalised our deal for the Hindi adaptation of my novels – Natun Kurukshetra, Prem Asambhav, Xhoixobote Dhemalite and Xuxamoy Duxamoy as well as short stories Chitraxalar Xapon, Khalnayikar Hahi, Himalayan Mystic Meeting, Restless with Tess and Return of the Nightmare,” Deka recalls.

As the first venture signaling his foray into Hindi filmdom, the production house submitted a proposal for adapting his novel Natun Kurukshetra into a Hindi television serial Naya Kurukshetra, which was approved by New Delhi-based Prasar Bharti to be telecast by the newly-launched satellite channel Arunprabha. Arnab Jan Deka co-wrote the screenplay and Hindi dialogue for the serial, which is being directed by leading Punjabi actor-director Parmod Pabbi. A number artistes from Mumbai, Punjab, Haryana, Kolkata and Assam have been cast in important roles in the serial. In the first phase, 26 episodes of the serial will be shot, which is expected to be telecast at the beginning of next year.

Prantik Deka.

September 28, 2019

Prakash Deka’s ‘Jonaki Porua’ all set to Conquer the Festival Circuit

Assam-born filmmaker Prakash Deka’s ‘Jonaki Porua’ (Fireflies) has been selected to be screened at the Twin Cities Film Festival, Minneapolis, and the Indian Film Festival of Ireland this year, among other venues. 

Based in a remote Assamese village, ‘Jonaki Porua’ is the story of resilience of Jahnu's journey to being Jahnavi, a transwoman, standing against the tide to be herself in a remote village in Assam.

The film will have its North American Premiere at the Twin Cities Film Fest, which is one of America’s premiere celebrations of independent cinema, to be held from October 16 to 28, 2019. ‘Jonaki Porua’ is also an official selection for the Independent Prisma Film Awards, Rome, for the October edition.

The movie seems an adept fit to the festival’s core belief of cinema challenging the status quo and shifting perceptions.

In November, ‘Jonaki Porua’ will travel halfway across the world to the Indian Film Festival of Ireland, which aims to introduce the Irish audience with the global vision of Indian Cinema.

The film is also scheduled to travel to Dialogues-Calcutta International LGBTQ Film And Video Festival, one of the most prestigious queer film festivals in India in November and then later at Bangalore Queer Film Festival next year in February. 

An upcoming self-taught writer and filmmaker from Assam, Prakash Deka, who hails from a theatre background, makes his cinematic debut with this socially relevant film. Deka has been quite cautious in treading the film’s sensitive subject, while shedding light on the hostile conditions transgenders are subjected to. The film could well change the way society think and feel about one of the most underrepresented and misunderstood community. Deka also has an ongoing feature film project, ‘Broken Arrow’ at the post-production stage. Deka’s wife, Bitopi Dutta, a PhD research scholar based in Dublin, has also been a part of the creative process, apart from acting in the film.

The personal insights of Milin Dutta, the film’s producer and a computer engineer by profession, also inject an intensely personal element to the film. A well-known transgender figure, the Assam-born social activist has tackled his challenging life quite fearlessly. From being born with a female body, to realising that he was different, to spreading awareness about different sexual orientations, his journey has been quite eventful. Dutta has contributed to spreading awareness about the LGBT community to the general public in the USA and India by being an active founder of various social groups such as ‘Out in the Backyard’ (USA) and ‘Xukia’ (Guwahati). 

Currently a resident of the United States, ‘Jonaki Porua’ is Dutta’s first production venture, and its critical acclaim is definitely a step forward in his philanthropic journey.

Made with a tiny budget, ‘Jonaki Porua’, which was filmed in Nalbari, Guwahati and Tezpur, is, perhaps, the first Assamese feature to confront homophobia and the stigma attached to being a transgender, enduring social discrimination and prejudice from the society. Featuring a cast of six actors, the role of the  protagonist has been played by Benjamin Daimary, who is a member of the LGBTQ community. The whole process of getting involved in the film has been an empowering experience for him on a personal level.

Prantik Deka.

September 20, 2019

Much Anticipated Film 'Bulbul Can Sing' Releases

Award-winning filmmaker Rima Das' Assamese film 'Bulbul Can Sing' has hit the theatres in Assam on September 20, ahead of its pan-India release on September 27. 

In fact, it came as a major surprise when Rima Das announced during her interaction with the media that her film, which has received 13 awards, including the National Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese and screened in 40 film festivals from across the globe, has been submitted for selection as an entry for the Academy Awards. 

I’m hopeful that people here would like the film. I have received some really encouraging feedbacks from different quarters of the world. Besides, the film was also screened in different festivals in India where viewers from Assam were also present and they liked it,” Das said during the press conference held soon after the film’s screening at the PVR, City Centre, Guwahati.

Das said she did not get enough time to promote the film but hoped the audience will support and accept the film with the same enthusiasm and goodwill as they did for ‘Village Rockstar’.

The film must be released by September 28 for being considered as an Oscar entry and that is why we have planned to release the film early”, she added.

“We have got less screening space than 'Village Rockstar', but I am sure that if people accept ‘Bulbul Can Sing’, arrangements can be made to screen the film in every part of the state
”, she explained. Das further said that she considers it to be “her responsibility to release the film first in Assam and then across the country”.

The universally acclaimed ‘Village Rockstars’, which bagged the Best Feature Film Award at the 65th National Film Awards, was the country’s official entry to the Oscars last year.

‘Bulbul Can Sing’ premiered at the Toronto Film Festival where it received the Jury's Special Mention Award, as well as the Golden Gateway award in the India Gold section of the 20th Mumbai Film Festival.

The film narrates the story of Bulbul, a teenage girl, who grows up in a rural Assam set up. While she is on the verge of discovering her adolescent life, a tragedy strikes her best friend. A spirited Bulbul, then, fights her way through love and loss as she figures out who she really is. The film features Arnali Das, Bonita Thakuriya, Manoranjan Das, Manabendra Das and Pakija Begam, among others. Like her previous ventures, here too, Das is a one-woman film production team, doing the camerawork, editing and production design herself, as well as writing, directing and producing. 

“The film has been very special for me as a filmmaker and I am sure the teenagers will identify themselves in it. It is not a simple narrative as ‘Village Rockstars’, but the characters are very real, who experience the pangs of growing up before they understand the values of life,” she told during the press meet. Both ‘Village Rockstars’ and ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ portray strong women characters at its heart.

The filmmaker said that she is making a sequel to the ‘Village Rockstar’, which may not have the same name and plans to begin its shooting from early next year.

Prantik Deka.

September 17, 2019

Renowned Filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi to Grace GIFF 2019

The famous Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi is expected to attend the Guwahati International Film Festival (GIFF) 2019, which will commence from October 31 this year. 

The third edition of GIFF will conclude on November 6, 2019.

A total of over 100 films from more than 65 countries will be screened at the film festival this year.

The staff of Jyoti Chitraban which organizes the film festival are delighted that Zanussi will be one of the important guests of the week-long event.

A one-time physics scholar, Krzysztof Zanussi, renowned for films such as ‘Camouflage’ and ‘Family Life’, is probably one of the most intellectual, intelligent, purest and most detached (but also deeply passionate) directors of our time. His heroes, mostly during times of historical and political unrest in Central Europe, seek for purity, morale and meaning in their lives and in their relationships that are irrespective of the era and the society. 

Zanussi's films cannot be considered along any clearly defined track or trend in Polish or international film making. As a director, he is not subject to others' tastes or styles. “My films are derived primarily from literature, and are a kind of human speech. The idea of visual cinema has always raised my doubts,” he once said.

The 80-year-old filmmaker has been involved in teaching film making in many prestigious institutes across the world. A professor at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, he also teaches at Warsaw Film School and serves as director of TOR Film Production.

The filmmaker also served as the Chairman of the Polish Federation of Film Discussion Clubs from 1975 to 1977. He has also authored several books.

Prantik Deka.

September 16, 2019

Assamese Short Film ‘Protyush’ Making Waves

Assamese short film ‘Protyush(Ushering a Crack of Dawn) has been officially selected for screening at the prestigious SiGNS Film Festival 2019 to be held in Thrissur, Kerala, from September 26 to 30, 2019. SiGNS is a pioneering festival in India featuring national level competition for documentaries and short fiction for the prestigious John Abraham National Awards. 

The film, directed by Arindam Barooah, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Rita Bhuyan Barooah, is an emotive tale, revolving around a woman struggling against poverty and her fight to raise her two school-going children.

Problems of the proverty stricken family aggravates when the sole bread earner of the family - her husband, meets an untimely death leaving the woman behind with two young children at her care. She has been left with only two options – either to employ her children as child labourers to get over their poor economic conditions, or take the challenging course that outrightly rejects the societal norms of rural India.

The film stars Jahnobi Gogoi, Kironmoyee Borah, Rishav Ritam Gogoi, Anisha Dutta, Anupam Dutta, Manash Protim Chetia,  Nayan Jyoti Deka, Jyoti Dutta and Karabi Kalita. The cinematography for the film has been done by Rishika Baruah, Bhaskar Jyoti Dutta and Prabhat Das, background score has been provided by Kukil Pratim Saikia and Gaurav Rabha, editing has been done by Arshad Ahmed and Arindam Barooah. The dialogues are penned by Rita Bhuyan Barooah and Nibir Akash Baruah, while Jyoti Chetia has done the sound of the film. 

Director Arindam Barooah has made a number of short films that have been recognised in a number of film festivals. This film is no exception. ‘Protyush’ has picked up quite a few awards in the festivals, including the awards for Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Editor at the Borluit Short Film Festival 2019 in Jorhat and Special Festival Mention at the prestigious 9th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2019, held in Delhi.  In addition to this, the film was screened at the Second Nagaon International Short and Documentary Film Festival 2019, Bengaluru International Short Film Festival – 19, 9th Gujarat International Film Festival – 19, etc.

Prantik Deka.

September 15, 2019

Adil Hussain Starrer ‘Raahgir-The Wayfarers’ to Have its World Premiere at Busan

Goutam Ghose will be presenting his film titled ‘Raahgir-The Wayfarers’ at the Busan Film Festival. His film, starring Adil Hussain, Tillotama Shome, Neeraj Kabi and Omkar Das Manikpuri, will have a world premiere on October 21.

‘Raahgir-The Wayfarers’ is a story about three strangers — Nathuni, Lakhua and Chopatlal. They meet accidentally on a journey and eventually, establish a bond. The film, which is based on a short story by Prafulla Roy, has been shot extensively in and around Jharkand last year. 

Talking about the world premiere, Goutam said, “I haven’t visit festivals in recent times. There was a time when I was a regular. But I will be there at the Busan Film Festival to present my film. There will be a question-answer round too. It feels nice for the cast and crew when a film makes it to prestigious film festivals. I am happy with the news.

According to Goutam, his film is a “tale of human empathy during a time of crisis”. “Three strangers, who meet on a journey to the nearest town in search of their livelihood, form the crux of the plot. It is a humane story of common people and their humanity and how they sacrifice their own interests to save the life of a poor elderly couple. I thought it is pertinent to make a film on this subject in today’s world where humanity faces a crisis, where everyone is so intolerant and cruel,” said the director.

Incidentally, the cast has already been praised for their performance. “A friend, who is a European film distributor, watched my film and asked if I had got villagers to act. I guess that’s the biggest compliment. I believe that good acting is all about making it believable. I am so happy that all my actors in this film were so dedicated and gave their best,” said the director.

Prantik Deka.

September 14, 2019

Assamese Film ‘Aamis’ Bags Major Awards in Singapore

Assamese film ‘Aamis’, directed by the National Award-winning filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika, has recently garnered two major awards at the 3rd Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) 2019. 

Hazarika bagged the Best Director award and the film’s leading actress Lima Das bagged the Best Actor (Female) award at the festival.

The film festival, which took place from August 30 to September 7, 2019, displayed some of the finest films of South Asia.

Aamis’ depicts the lonely life of Nirmali, a married pediatrician in her late 30s, who leads a peaceful but joyless domestic existence in Guwahati. Her husband, a senior doctor, spends most of his time doing relief work in surrounding areas, leaving her alone at home to take care of their son. One day, Nirmali comes across Sumon, a young PhD student researching food habits in northeastern India, who warms up to her in a manner she is quite unaccustomed to. 

Sumon's work exposes him to the belief that there's no kind of food that can be considered abnormal, and Nirmali is drawn to this idea. The two quickly discover that they have a shared love for food – specifically, meat. Together, they bond over meals comprising unusual meats on platonic dates, although Sumon longs for some sort of physical contact. As Nirmali's tastebuds grow more adventurous, their relationship takes a dark and bizarre turn.

Hazarika has been a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Stephen King – greatest exponents of weird fiction, which are as much about horror as they are about the sickness of the human mind. ‘Aamis’ has that distorted, ghastly way of looking at the world. His debut film ‘Kothanodi’ that interprets Lakshminath Bezbaroa’s folk tales for children into a base, bizarre and gripping world, was crowd funded and filmed in Majuli, the pristine river island. It premiered at Busan to positive reviews and won accolades at IFFI, among other film festivals.

Scripted by Bhaskar Hazarika himself, ‘Aamis’ stars Lima Das, Arghadeep Baruah, Neetali Das, Sagar Saurabh, Manash K. Das, Momee Borah, Chandan Bhuyan, Samarjyoti Sarkar, Utkal Hazowari. The film is produced by Poonam Deol, Shyam Bora, Anshulika Dubey and Priyanka Agarwal. The film is cinematographed by Riju Das, edited by Shweta Rai Chamling and musically composed by Quan Bay. 

‘Aamis’, which has been screened at many reputed film festivals across the world, “will be available to everyone at some point in the next six months,” as informed by Bhaskar Hazarika. The film will also be competing in this year's India Gold section of the 21st Mumbai Film Festival.

Prantik Deka.