The coveted Biswaratna Dr Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award 2017 was conferred on acclaimed filmmaker from Sri Lanka, Prasanna Vithanage, at the Rabindra Bhawan recently. The award, instituted in the name of Assam’s cultural icon Dr Bhupen Hazarika, was given by the Asam Sahitya Sabha in association with the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL).
A celebrated filmmaker, Vithanage is known both for his cinematic excellence as well as commercial success. He has won more than 15 international awards and his films have been screened in 13 film festivals.
His films include ‘Akasa Kusum’, ‘Ira Madiyama’, ‘Anantha Rathriya’, ‘Sisila Gini Gani’. Also deeply associated with the theatre, he translated and directed George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Arms and the Man’ and Italian Dario Fo’s ‘Trumpets and Raspberries’.
The Dr Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award, conferred biannually, consists of a trophy, a citation and a cheque of Rs 5 lakh.
In his acceptance speech, Vithanage said the award in the name of a legendary figure like Dr Hazarika was not just a big encouragement, but also a huge responsibility. “To receive an award in the name of the baritone-voiced singer, an extraordinary personality and exceptional lyricist, never crossed my mind in my wildest dreams,” he said. Lauding Assamese cinema, referring to the ‘Halodhiya Choraye Baodhan Khai’ by Jahnu Barua, he said the film inspired and influenced him to a great extent for its closeness to life.
“The Asam Sahitya Sabha, which promotes literature and works for preserving culture, is a commendable example, which is valuable for my country as well,” he said.
Deliberating as the chief guest, eminent filmmaker Jahnu Barua explained the relation between cinema and literature and the necessity to deal both the subjects with utmost sensitivity. “I have made two films – ‘Halodhiya Choraye Baodhan Khai’ and ‘Ajeyo’ based on popular novels and understand the sensitive yet deep relationship, like that of a couple at the loggerheads,” he said, adding that though literature can survive without cinema, but cinema cannot survive without literature. On the demand for Bharat Ratna to Dr Bhupen Hazarika posthumously, Barua, referring to the less than desirable attendance in the programme, said a more spontaneous response of the people in the events and functions related to Dr Hazarika would be a bigger honour compared to the Bharat Ratna.
Earlier, the Numaligarh Refinery branch of the Sahitya Sabha gave a written appeal to accord the country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, on Dr Hazarika, respecting the sentiments of the people of Assam.
Sabha president in-charge Prahlad Tasa, while speaking on the occasion, said the Sabha was keen on promoting and expanding the cultural reach of Assam to other parts of the country and internationally as well. “We will keep on working towards taking the literature and culture of Assam to the newer heights in the global arena,” he said.
Senior General Manager (HR) of the NRL Apurba Bhattacharyya reiterated his organisation’s initiative to continue welfare activities in social and literary spheres in Assam. Award committee convener Paramananda Rajbongshi delivered the welcome speech.