Dharmeswari Bora, who played the role of ‘Upina’, a tribal girl, in ‘Indramalati’, the second Assamese film, also the second film of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, produced at Bholaguri Tea Estate in 1939, passed away recently. A village woman who dared to act in a film, she was slammed with a two-year-long social boycott.
At that time, acting in an ‘alien’ medium, and that too alongside men, was unacceptable in the society, and hence, she and her family members were subjected to a social boycott.
As was the norm those days, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala took her to Calcutta for shooting and training. But after a month-long shooting held at Tezpur, Dharmeswari, accompanied by her husband, were greeted with social ostracisation. “People of the village not only stopped coming to our house, they also stopped inviting us to all kinds of social and religious functions,” she said. Luckily for the Boras, the boycott was lifted after a couple of years, but not before her husband, a chowkidar in a government Inspection Bungalow at Gohpur, paid a penalty in the village naam-ghar, before the community.
During her lifetime, Dharmeswari Bora lived a hazardous life due to bad pecuniary condition. At the last moment of her life, however, she was given artist pension by the State Government. In the last part of her life, she lived at Ghahigaon, a village under Gohpur Police Station in Sonitpur district of northern Assam.
During her lifetime, she was felicitated by different persons and organisations. Her death was condoled by various organisations and different individuals, including Ripun Bora, vice-president, APCC, Gohpur MLA and parliamentary secretary Monika Bora, environmentalist Nandeswar Saikia, Suresh Chandra Borthakur senior journalist, Lokeswari Handique, ex-president, Sonitpur Jila Sahitya Sabha, Suravi Sahitya Samaj, Kanaklata Lekhika Samaroh Samiti, etc. She was 92 at the time of her death, and leaves behind three sons and two daughters. Her husband predeceased her.