Lumber Dai Memorial Bhavan in Tezpur became a galaxy of artistes, actors, directors and producers of the Assamese cinema world recently as some artistes from this field had a get-together programme to fulfill a long cherished dream of forming a platform to sustain the dying Assamese film industry with the involvement of all who are directly or indirectly connected with the Assamese cinema world.
In the presence of prominent Assamese cine artistes like Bani Das, Arun Nath, Mridul Chutia, Barasha Rani Bisyoya, Purnima Pathok Saikia, Pranjal Saikai, Munin Baruah, among others, the much awaited platform formally christened as ‘Film Fraternity of Assam’ was later formed taking noted artiste Arun Nath as president and Bhawani Bhuyan as secretary.
Addressing the august gathering, director and producer Bani Das gave a detailed history of the Assamese cinema world saying that the Assamese film industry was born in 1935 when Jyoti Prasad Agarwala released his movie ‘Joymati’. Since then Assamese cinema has developed at a slow-paced, sensitive style, especially with the movies of Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Jahnu Barua.
“However, despite its long history and its artistic success, for a State that has always taken its cinema seriously, Assamese cinema has never really managed to break through on the national scene despite its film industry making a mark in the National Awards over the years. Although the beginning of the 21st century has seen Bollywood-style Assamese movies hitting the screen, the industry has not been able to compete in the market, significantly overshadowed by the larger industries such as Bollywood,” Bani Das said, adding that the origins of Assamese cinema could be traced back to the dreams and imagination of a revolutionary visionary Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala, who was also a distinguished poet, playwright, composer and freedom fighter. He was instrumental in the production of the first Assamese film ‘Joymati’ in 1935 under the banner of Chitralekha Movietone. Due to lack of trained technicians, Jyotiprasad Agarwala, while making his maiden film, had to shoulder the added responsibilities as the script writer, producer, director, choreographer, editor, set and costume designer, lyricist and music director. The film, completed with a budget of Rs 60,000, was released on March 10, 1935. The film failed miserably.
“Like so many early Indian films, the negatives and complete prints of ‘Joymati’ are missing. Some effort has been made privately by Altaf Mazid to restore and subtitle whatever is left of the prints. Despite the significant financial loss from ‘Joymati’, the second picture ‘Indramalati’ was filmed between 1937 and 1938 finally released in 1939,” he added.
Das further said that from the angle of population pattern, Assam and Kerala are almost same. However, there are only 35 cinema halls in Assam while in Kerala there are 1,000 cinema halls. “Government of States like Maharastra and Kerala are taking initiative to make films on various issues in local languages taking forward the industry, thereby paving a way for livelihood of the artistes involved in the film industry,” he said and hoped that the new government in Assam would adopt pragmatic steps to rejuvenate the tottering Assamese film industry.
Munin Baruah said that a concrete film policy should be made in Assam to prevent various constraints that the Assamese film industry has been facing over the years. “Due to negligence of the government here, the industry is going downward and owing to the over burden of taxes, the owners of cinema halls are getting profit but the producers have to face severe crisis. To check these problems we have to raise our voice unitedly,” said Baruah.