May 20, 2019

Roopa Barua’s ‘Daughters of the Polo God’ Won Best Documentary at NYIFF

Roopa Barua’s ‘Daughters of the Polo God’ won the Best Documentary Award in the recently held 19th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). The 33-minute short is a beautifully shot and heart-warming narration of young Manipuri women in the state’s polo sport, who overcame adversities to gallop ahead, along with the plight of the ponies due to ecological disruptions.

The shimmering emerald state of Manipur, India, is considered the birthplace of modern polo - often thought of as a game of the rich, generally dominated by men, who have played this game here for centuries. However, a quiet revolution is taking place at the very place where it all started.

A young polo sisterhood is developing in Manipur that ploughs on despite adversity and political turmoil. These fiercely determined women are intensely connected to their sacred Manipuri pony and play an international tournament every year, competing with the world's best. These Manipuri women from humble backgrounds are not only shattering stereotypes that polo is a game for men, but also that it is the privilege of the rich. Today, the State has about two dozen women professional polo players representing two-thirds of all women polo players in India.

But with shrinking grazing land, the encroachment of wetlands and smuggling across the border where they being used as beasts of burden, the ponies are under severe threat, with their numbers estimated to be fewer than 500 today.

Lately though, there has been a remarkable re-awakening of interest in modern polo in Manipur, which also houses the oldest living polo ground in the world, and ever-increasing awareness for saving a rare breed, which has reaped benefits.

Roopa Barua’s film is not only a tribute to the polo players and the modern Manipuri women but also a campaign to save the iconic Manipuri pony.

An unwavering fan of the cinematic medium, Roopa Barua seeks to create nuanced cinema that goes beyond geography and human boundaries. She has also won multiple awards in 2015 for her documentary ‘Riders of the Mist’ which dealt with the hundred-year-old bareback racing tradition in Assam, with semi-feral ponies. She is also a frequent contributor to the movie blog - ‘A Potpourri of Vestiges’. She covered the Cannes Film Festival 2015 for films in both the Palme D’Or and the Un Certain Regard categories for this blog. The filmmaker has a Certificate in Film Production from New York Film Academy and has also taken film criticism courses at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her career as a filmmaker, Roopa Barua was a banker with Morgan Stanley in Boston and San Francisco. She has a degree in Economics and Finance from Boston University.

The New York Indian Film Festival also saw ‘Sir’, directed by Rohena Gera, winning the top honour, Ritesh Batra winning the Best Director prize for his film ‘Photograph’, Adinath Kothare winning the Best Actor Award for ‘Paani’ and Tillotama Shome receiving the Best Actress Award for ‘Sir’.

It may be mentioned that four films by Assamese filmmakers - ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ by Rima Das, ‘Bhoga Khidikee’ by Jahnu Barua, ‘Aamis’ by Bhaskar Hazarika and ‘Daughters of the Polo God’, were screened at the NYIFF.

Prantik Deka

May 18, 2019

Assamese Dancers Shine at Bangkok, Thailand

The Hindustan Art and Music Society, in association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Association, Thailand, and ICCR, organised a dance competition titled Bharat Sanskriti Yatra 2019 at Srinakharinwirot University, Bangkok, Thailand, recently. The programme was held to commemorate the 126th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s famous Chicago lecture. A group of young dancers from Assam bagged many awards in the competition.

Krishtina Pujari
, a disciple of Sattriya exponent Pratibha Sharma, received the first position in the senior category of the classical event. Under the junior category, Meghna Das won the first prize in Sattriya, the second prize in modern dance, and the third prize in folk dance, respectively. 

While Jotishmita bagged the first prize in modern dance and the second prize in folk dance in the sub-junior category, Varnni Baruah, Ujjaini Saikia and the entire Sattriya troupe also won prizes in different categories.    

Prantik Deka

May 17, 2019

‘The Man Who 'Speaks' Nature’ Selected to Film Fest in Hungary

‘The Man Who 'Speaks' Nature’ - a film by Dhritiman Kakati and Raktim Hazarika, along with Prabal Bora as the production head, has been invited to be a part of the International Nature Film Festival Gödöllő, Hungary.

The Man Who ‘Speaks’ Nature is a short documentary film providing a glimpse into the life and work of Manoj Gogoi, a conservationist based in Kaziranga, who has dedicated his life towards the rescue and rehabilitation of snakes and birds in particular. The documentary attempts to seek the reasons behind his plunge into conservation work and exhibits a peek into the daily work schedule of Gogoi that comes with being a self-styled naturalist known to have rescued and rehabilitated over 4000 species of flora and fauna.

As Gogoi dwells on the reasons that motivated his work and how it has affected his personal life in the documentary, the film is an effort, therefore, towards showcasing, delicately, the elaborate view of the intersection of the personal and the professional space of the determined naturalist.

It has been a mission of the International Nature Film Festival to raise the awareness of the public regarding the protection and conservation of biological diversity, natural resources, values and beauties of the world with a special emphasis on Europe and the Carpathian Basin through the display of films connected to the topic. The festival brings a good opportunity for filmmakers, professionals and the public to meet and initiate conversation on these important issues through different meetings and conferences within the framework of the event and to enjoy nature films at the same time. The festival will host its 5th edition this year from May 24 to 26, and the awards will be announced on May 25.

Last year, nearly 1,500 films and thousands of guests visited the festival from 104 countries.

Prantik Deka

May 16, 2019

kababur Pratyabartan’ Screened at Guwahati Press Club

Paying tributes to Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore on his 158th birth anniversary, ‘Khokababur Pratyabartan’, the feature film based on his fabulous story with the same title, was screened at the Guwahati Press Club recently. Produced under the banner of Agradoot Chitra in 1960, the Bengali movie has music by Hemanta Kumar Mukherjee and its casts include Uttam Kumar, Tulsi Chakraborty, Sumita Sanyal, Asit Baran, Jahar Ganguly, Sobha Sen, Sisir Batabyal, Dipti Ray, etc. 

As part of a wider initiative to help member-journalists add value to their professional experience, Guwahati Press Club will screen Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror-thriller ‘The Birds’ next week.

The 1963 American movie focuses on a series of sudden, unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California, over the course of a few days. The movie has cinematography by Robert Burks and the casts include  Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright, etc.

Prantik Deka

Short Film ‘Protyush' Wins Award at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2019

Assamese short film ‘Protyush’ (Ushering a Crack of Dawn) was awarded with the ‘Special Festival Mention’ at the 9th edition of Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2019, held in Delhi, on April 30. 

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 poverty 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 succumb to her miseries or 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, Manash Protim Chetia, Anisha Dutta, Anupam Dutta, Nayan Jyoti Deka, Jyoti Dutta and Karabi Dutta.

The cinematography for the film has been done by Rishika Baruah, Bhaskar Jyoti Dutta and Prabhat Das and the background score has been provided by Kukil Pratim Saikia and Gaurav Rabha.

Earlier, the short film had bagged several awards such as ‘Best Short Film,’ ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Editor’ at the Borluit Short Film Festival 2019 in Jorhat. In addition to this, the film was screened at Filmgatha 2019 in Guwahati and it has recently earned an invitation for screening at Cinema Utsav 2019 in Dhemaji.

Prantik Deka

May 15, 2019

‘Amrapali Repertory’ Wins Accolades in Doha

A 14-member artiste troupe ‘Amrapali Repertory’ of Assam, under the leadership of the charismatic dance duo and choreographers Rudro Jayanta Bhagawati and Pranaame Bhagawati, performed at the Festival of India at Doha (Qatar) recently. 

Starting from the month of February, 2019, the valedictory function of the festival, sponsored and organised by the Ministry of Culture, Govt of India, in association with the High Commission of India, Doha, Qatar, was held in the last week of April. The troupe, which was also the largest performing troupe from India and the first ever from North-East India, presented an exquisite rendition of folklores and dances of North-East India on April 25, in the auditorium of DPS-Modern Indian School, Al Wakra, Doha, and on April 26 at Al Khor Community, Al Khor, Doha. 

Shankh Naad  is a musical welcome to the performance rendition with the Khol (drum) and Taal (cymbals) traditionally known as Gayan Bayan of Assam, followed by the Bhortaal Nritya (dance performed with the cymbals) of Assam.

Nritya Darpan is an effort to put together some of the Indian classical dances onto a common platform. The varied classical forms presented are Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Sattriya and Manipuri dances.  Geet Bahaar songs bring peace and happiness and with different phases of time, a varied flavour generated with the mood of songs. 

Geet Bahaar is a perfect blend of traditional songs (Tokari Geet) of Assam.

Jhumur is the folk dance tradition of the tea garden community in Assam. The performers hold hands and tap their feet together in a beautiful melodious performance. Albela Sajan is an abhinaya-(expression) based composition, exhibiting welcoming  gestures together with expressions of joy and ecstasy through dance. 

Purvayu is a presentation consisting of folk songs and colorful folk dances of Assam. The music flows like a river whilst changing its course from one folk tradition to another, like Goalporia dance.

The ‘Amrapali Repertory’, lead and choreographed by Pranaame Bhagawati, and coordinated and directed by Rudro Jayanta Bhagawati, comprises of Wamiel P. Kashyap, Minakshi Baruah Kashyap, Sukanya Deka, Elizi Ojah, Bandana Barman, Shradhanjali Sharma, Samragyee Kashyap, Mandeep Mahanta, Nabajit Saikia, Dilip Hira, Taranga Kashyap and Kaman Gogoi. 

It’s worth mentioning that the renowned dance duo - Rudro Jayanta Bhagawati and Pranaame Bhagawati, who are empaneled artistes of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India, have used dance as a tool for creating artistic expression, as well as promoting cultural legacy and awareness. They have participated in a number of global events and festivals, held in countries such as Germany, Dubai, UK, USA, Guyana, Tanzania, Maldives, etc, where the duo has enthralled the audiences with their Kathak and creative dance recitals in a number of extravagant productions.

Prantik Deka

May 12, 2019

Another Feather in Anurag Saikia's Cap

Assam’s one of the most talented composers, Anurag Saikia, who’s had an incredible run in 2018 with his scores for films like ‘Karwaan’, ‘Mulk’ and ‘Highjack’, and more lately with ‘Tum Aaoge’, recently collaborated with F.A.M.E’S - Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra, to create a live orchestra recording on Borgeets by saints Srimanta Sankardeva and Madhavdeva through Bohemia Junction Limited

This is the first ever symphonic recording done from Assam in such a big scale. Saikia hopes that his creation will be appreciated world-over.

Born and brought up in Assam, Saikia is one of the youngest composers to be awarded with the National Film Award for ‘Best Non-Feature Film Music Direction’ for the film ‘Yugadrashta’. He has also received other prestigious awards such as Big Music award, Prag Cine award, Radio Gupshup award, etc.

F.A.M.E’S - Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra was founded in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia in 2009 that consists of the best orchestral musicians - the majority of whom have international experience in European and American orchestras. This orchestra has helped in creating scores for Bollywood musicians Vishal and Shekhar and world-famous composer A.R. Rahman. 

Bohemia Junction Limited is the exclusive representative of F.A.M.E’S, and their Macedonian Symphonic Orchestra for India.

Prantik Deka

Dances Strengthen Universal Brotherhood: Jatin Goswami

The language of dance is a great medium to unite the world, and that is the reason why World Dance Day is being celebrated every year, said eminent Sattriya dance exponent, Padma Shri awardee Jatin Goswami, attending a programme organised on the occasion by the Regional Outreach Bureau, Guwahati, as the chief guest recently.

The Sangeet Natak Academy award winner said that dance is the mother of all arts and everyone should feel the value of it. He expressed his firm belief that all will be successful in strengthening brotherhood through dance and that would be possible only with the cooperation of dance lovers. He also appreciated the efforts of Regional Outreach Bureau for organising the World Dance Day programme and urged it to make it a continuous process every year.

Taking part in the programme as the guest of honour, KS Dhatwaliya, Director General, North East Zone, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, highlighted some facts about the background behind the celebration of World Dance Day every year.

Dr AM Farooqui, Deputy Director, Regional Outreach Bureau, Guwahati, said that dance is an important part of every culture and its celebration helps in keeping the world united.

The artistes of Regional Outreach Bureau showcased the rich culture of Assam and also dance forms of other parts of India through a performance of various folk dances, including Sattriya, Dashavatar and Malhari, etc, on the occasion. 

Prantik Deka

May 11, 2019

Second Edition of ‘Exo Asomiya Chalachitrar Kahini Aru Geet’ Released

Exo Asomiya Chalachitrar Kahini Aru Geet’ (from the year 1947 to 2018) – the second edition of noted cine-journalist Arun Lochan Das’s collection of stories and songs from hundred Assamese movies, accompanied by numerous and rare photographs, has hit the stands. Das, who was conferred with the Special Jury Award for his book on cinema – ‘Eri Aaha Dinborot Asomiya Cinema’ for the year 2016-17 at the 7th State Film Awards, has authored  a number of books on cinema in the vernacular language, besides regularly writing about cinema and contributing to several anthologies.

A lot of painstaking effort has gone into this compilation, and like the previous edition, is more than likely to become a proud possession of filmmakers, researchers, enthusiasts and common audience. 

The eclectic collection takes the readers back in time, starting with the black-and-white classics and continuing through the golden period of the 70s and 80s to blockbusters and parallel films and everything in between. The films that have been included in the book include ‘Badan Borphukan’ (1947), ‘Parghat’ (1949), ‘Biplabi’ (1950), ‘Puwati Nixar Sapoon’ (1959), ‘Chameli Memsahab’ (1975), 'Shrimati Mahimamayee' (1979), ‘Aparoopa’ (1982), ‘Sapoon’ (1997), ‘Hiya Diya Niya’ (2000), ‘Poley Poley Urey Mon’ (2011), ‘Sonar Baran Pakhi’ (2017), ‘Ishu’ (2017), etc. ‘Exo Asomiya Chalachitrar Kahini Aru Geet’ is published by Jonali Das through Sisu-Sashi Prakashan. The senior cine-journalist is also compiling a voluminous book on Assamese cinema titled ‘Asomiya Challachitrar Itihaas’, which will be ready in two years time.

Prantik Deka