Prominent woman filmmaker Bobby Sarma Baruah, who made a cracking directorial debut with the incredibly thought-provoking ‘Adomya’ in 2014, was invited to represent the country as a Jury member at the 14th Dhaka International Film Festival (DIFF), held in Dhaka from 14 to 22 January 2016. The Festival has been organized on a regular basis by Rainbow Film Society, which has been dedicated to the promotion of a healthy cine culture in Bangladesh and in celebrating the global mainstream in film and its social relevance since 1977. It was a great responsibility and honor for her to see and judge works of art in the festival’s Spiritual Film Section. Interestingly, Sarma Baruah’s ‘Adomya’ was adjudged the Best Film in the same section in 2014. ‘Adomya’s story, dialogues, lyrics, costumes and concept are also by Bobby Sarma Baruah. The film about the plight of people living with HIV in the Northeast, was also part of the elite segment called ‘Womenclature of Cinema’ at the 46th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2015, joining movies made by several other leading female auteurs of the country such as Aparna Sen, Bhavna Talwar, Chitra Palekar, Revathy, Sai Paranjpye among others. The movie has really opened up doors for her to new ideas and valuable connections.
More recently, Sarma Baruah was listed amongst the top ten renowned contemporary female directors from South Asia, who has exerted quite an influence in the sub-continent in 2015 in a Facebook page called ‘Asian Cinema’. The page is dedicated to promote the Asian film fraternity, and especially the work that receives critical acclaim and does not necessarily cut into the mainstream film industry. “Being recognized at such a level feels pretty incredible,” Sarma Baruah said.
The director’s persistence of vision paid off with ‘Adomya’, which had whipped up quite a storm on the festival circuit. Besides carrying the message of awareness and change, the film was a breath of fresh air for many moviegoers and critics. The Assamese movie industry, famished by a serious dearth of quality filmmakers, has finally discovered a very creative and imaginative director. Everyone has acknowledged Sarma Baruah’s special gift for directing, and most praise her without reserve. The audience and critics now expect a lot more from her.
Something that is true of her highly anticipated new project ‘Sonar Boron Pakhi’. The film is now being shaped up at the editing table. Its an enormous responsibility to bring into celluloid the life of celebrated Goalparia folk singer Pratima Barua Pandey, hailed as one of the greatest folk exponents that Assam has ever produced. Sarma Baruah and her crew have put up a lot of hard work and dedication in order to project an accurate and believable account of the legendary singer as well as the period. The director’s assiduous attention to detail when setting up a shot kept everyone, the film’s appealing and talented ensemble cast, on their toes. Bobby Sarma Baruah was very careful to see to it that the portrayals by the main leads were natural and genuine. All the artistes strived to perfect their diction of the Goalparia dialect. It didn’t took much long to find a perfect actor to play the legendary artist. Pranami Bora, who hails from Goalpara, and with whom the director had formed a good rapport since the days of ‘Adomya’, plays Pratima Barua Pandey from the age of fourteen to forty-five years, which, no doubt, is a real test of her mettle. While Arati Barua inhabits the artist’s later years, child artiste Susmita portrays Pratima Barua Pande till the age of seven years.
The artist forged profound connections with the mahouts and other campers during the long-drawn-out expeditions manned by her father Lalji to catch elephants in the jungles. She grew up listening intently to the carefree songs and stories of the campers all night long from which she drew inspiration for her earthy ballads that continue to touch hearts years after her death. The music reflected the joys, sorrows, love and despair of the people of the region. The catching and taming of elephants was also an imperative component of her music. Pratima Barua’s renditions not only revitalized a folk form but also the language of the erstwhile Goalpara district of Assam, presently comprising the four districts of west Assam, namely Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar and Dhubri. The experienced Pranjal Saikia enacts Pratima Barua Pande’s father Prakritish Chandra Barua (Lalji), who was a legendary elephant catcher and jumbo expert.
The film also prominently features Dr Bhupen Hazarika. It was Dr Hazarika, who made the most significant contribution in bringing Pratima Barua Pandey to the fore as an artist of repute in Assam. He heard the artist sing for the first time during his maiden visit to Gauripur in 1955. He found the songs truly unique in her exceptionally mellifluous voice. The tunes matched perfectly with the unhurried pace of life in the artist’s backyard in Goalpara. The prized role of a young Dr Hazarika is played by Nilim Chetia.
The director has elicited fantastic performances from the casts of artistes, including several local ones from Gauripur and Kolkata.
‘Sonar Boron Pakhi’ is produced by Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation Ltd in association with Basanta-Bobby’s BB Entertainment Private Ltd. The film is being cinematographed with the advanced Jyoti Chitraban owned Ari Alexa Digital camera by Abhijit Nandy, an alumnus of Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute. The film’s locations include Gauripur, Manas National Park, Guwahati, Kolkata among other places. Not many knows this, but the legendary artist was born in Kolkata where she began her school and college life.
‘Sonar Boron Pakhi’s production designing is done by the much experienced Phatik Barua. Make-up is by Shanku Barua. Costumes are by Geetarani Goswami.
Bobby Sarma Baruah has also been looking after the cultural and creative aspects of BB Entertainment and BB Creation, an organisation shaped by her in association with her husband, cultural activist Basanta Kumar Barua, that has been successfully organizing the Bhaona and ‘Sampurna Raas Leela’ since the last seven years in Guwahati and other parts of the State. Bobby Sarma Barua has made a number of documentaries, telefilms for Guwahati Doordarshan. She has also directed several episodes, quickies and documentaries for various departments of the state Govt.