‘Aei Maatite’ : Assamese Film on Witch-Hunting by Dr Sitanath Lahkar

Assamese film ‘Aei Maatite’ based on the burning issue of witch-hunting is likely to release by the middle of this year. The eminent theatre personality and former Principal of Cotton College, Dr Sitanath Lahkar makes his eagerly anticipated debut as director with this film, which is based on his stage play ‘Tamasaa’.

Dr Sitanath Lahkar during the shooting of his first full-length feature film 'Aei Maatite'

Witch-hunting or witchcraft, born out of superstition and all-round backwardness of people and aggravated by a small powerful section of society with the help of sorcerers, stands out to be an enemy of humanity, stigma of civilisation, and hence a big challenge for the human kind.

“Hundreds of people in Assam have lost their lives in the name of witch hunting. So, this is the reason for choosing this issue as the subject of my first feature film”, Lahkar, a retired professor of mathematics, said of his film.

Director Dr. Sitanath Lahkar during the shooting of Assamese movie 'Aei Maatite'

This vicious social menace is prevalent in many states like Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, among others. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost as a result of this evil practice, where a large group of people, comprising mostly of illiterate villagers, participate under the influence of superstition. The issue has even forced the state government to bring in a special legislation “The Assam Witch-Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015” to deal with the menace, but unfortunately, it is still growing day by day!

Realising the importance and gravity of the problem that has reached epidemic proportions, Dr Lahkar decided to make ‘Aei Maatite’ as he strongly believes that its the medium of cinema that has the ability to create awareness among the public, mainly the rural folk affected by witchcraft. He has channeled his time, talent and energy in creating something that people will reflect on and experience it in their own way. The film, made under the banner of Angeekar Films, will carry a very strong message on witchcraft, upholding the value of scientific temperament and human life.

Besides directing, the film’s story, screenplay, dialogues and lyrics are written by Dr Sitanath Lahkar himself. A number of roles in ‘Aei Maatite’ are enacted by some very prominent personalities of the state, including Tezpur University Pro-VC and well-known lyricist-poet Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury, former Inspector General of Police, SP Kar and Thengal-Kachari Autonomous Council CEM Kumud Kachari. ABSU leader Pramod Boro, SFI leader Nirankush Nath, AASU leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi and Chatra Mukti leader Bittu Sonowal will also be seen in the film, playing themselves. Altogether, this film has over a 100 characters, and most of them are being played by newcomers. The leading roles are enacted by Rupam Chetia and Monisha Goswami with Khwrwmdao Narzary playing a negative character. Dr Lahkar also plays a very prominent role in the film. Others in the casts of artistes include Anil Das, Chetana Das, Bimal Jyoti Choudhury, Rajeev Doley and Lalit Sarma. Dr Lahkar is assisted in direction by Anupam Baishya, Trideep Lahkar, Rajkumar Roy and Dipjyoti Deka. The film’s music direction is by Bibhuranjan Choudhury, while the art direction is done by Golok Saha. The cinematography is by Pradip Daimary and make-up is done by Aku Bothra. The songs are choreographed by Smita Lahkar.

‘Aei Maatite’ is infused in part with scenes of graphic violence, depicting the brutal killings in the name of witch-hunting. This much awaited film is currently at its post-production stage.

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