October 7, 2017

Abdul Majid : Life and Work

The State’s renowned actor and director, Abdul Majid, who enriched the stage and screen with his unique creations for over half a century, passed away at the age of 85.

Majid had his initiation into the cultural world at an early age and was particularly attracted to stage acting. After making his debut on stage with the play ‘Bingsha Satabdi’, theatre became the primary affiliation of his life. He, along with a few like-minded individuals, founded the Kristi Sangha at Jorhat in 1950, and three years later formed the Milita Silpi Samaj. He first wrote the full-fledged play ‘Banchita’ for the group. It was followed by plays like ‘Dhuli Makoti’, the seventies popular and famous play ‘Chor’, ‘Sampurna Mahabharat’, one-act plays like ‘Shihot Ahise’, ‘Spartacus’, ‘Chameli Memsahab’, etc. It was Milita Silpi Samaj that played a key role in the making of the first President’s Silver Medal-winning Assamese feature film ‘Ranga Police’ (1958) directed by Nip Baruah. The film also marked Majid’s entry into films as an actor where he earned critical acclaim for his negative role as a young man.

Majid, who had no prior training in filmmaking, made his directorial debut with 'Maram Trishna' in 1965. He went on to craft some of the most entertaining and thoughtful movies like 'Chameli Memsaab' (1975), 'Banahansha' (1977), 'Bonjui' (1978), 'Punakon' (1981) and 'Uttarkal' (1990). 'Chameli Memsaab' remains his most critically acclaimed and commercially successful venture. The film earned Dr Bhupen Hazarika the National Award for Best Music direction and the Rajal Kamal Award for Best Assamese Film in the regional category in the 23rd National Film Festival, 1976. Majid’s acting prowess also came to the fore in the movie where he played the role of an eccentric tea-tribe man, Monglu.

Abdul Majid had proved that movies with family themes can succeed both critically and commercially. He showed filmmakers a way that can lead to good cinema in the future. As a filmmaker, he was continuously travelling through the restlessness for self-expression.

Majid made his last film 'Saat Numberor Sandhanat' in 2016 at the age of 83 years, and after a twentyfour-year hiatus from filmmaking. The octogenarian filmmaker’s energy and creativity kept everyone inspired and invigorated.

Born at Balibat in Jorhat district on November 16, 1931, Majid passed the Matriculation examination from Jorhat Government High School in 1950 and had to leave his college education halfway following his father’s death and assumed responsibility of his family. He secured a job in the Power Department in 1955 and retired in 1990.

While trying to balance his devotion to art and a secured job, Abdul Majid had cultivated a magnetic stage presence, acting in over 200 plays, including many in mobile theatres like Kohinoor, Aradhana, Awahan, Purvajyoti, Asom Star, Ma Lakshmi, Puberun, Indradhanu, Mancha Konwar, Mukunda and Meghdoot for several decades.

He made his directorial debut on mobile theatre stage with the play ‘Ferrari Fauj’, based on a Bengali play by noted artiste Utpal Dutta, during his stint as a director with the Hajo based Purvajyoti Theatre in 1971. It was Abdul Majid who directed renowned dramatist Mahendra Borthakur’s first play for mobile theatre - ‘Shimolu Chandan’ (Awahan Theatre). The social and imaginative activities of theatre process became central forces in the formation of his identity, the primary source of direction and meaning in a chaotic world. He also served in the capacity of a vice-president of the Indian People’s Theatre Association.

He had outstanding pedagogical skills, shaping up the careers of a number of leading artistes and technicians, many of whom he had introduced to stage and screen, including George Baker, Binita Borgohain, Bitopi Mahanta, Zeiba Mumtaz, Bishwajit, Robin Neog, Jatin Bora among others.

Besides films, Abdul Majid had also directed a number of documentaries and short films, including ‘Asomor Putola Nach’, ‘Ajan Faquir’, ‘Bahadur Gaonburha’, ‘Rabhasokolor Janajivan’, ‘Sati Radhika’, ‘Goalpara Anchalar Loka Sangeet Aru Loka Nritya’, etc. His serials and short films as a producer and director for Doordarshan include the popular ‘Namghoria’, ‘Ajir Manuh’, ‘Aparajita’, ‘Dapoon’, ‘Jur Puri Haat’, ‘Sagoon Puli Rubo Kune’, ‘Agnigarbha’, etc.

Though he has played everything from comedy to drama in a prolific acting career on screen, but Majid become almost synonymous with villainous characters. After acting in ‘Ranga Police’, he went on to act in films like ‘Tejimola’, ‘Upapath’, ‘Buwari’, ‘Aparupa’, ‘Apeksha’ (Hindi), ‘Papori’, ‘Sendur’, ‘Suruj’, ‘Puja’, ‘Sankalpa’, ‘Antony Mur Naam’, ‘Aai Desh Mur Desh’, ‘Pratidaan’, ‘Pita-Putra’, ‘Bhai-Bhai’, ‘Tothapiu Nadi’, ‘Devata’, ‘Richshawala’, ‘Agnigarh’, ‘Juman-Suman’, ‘Juye Poora Xoon’, ‘Tumiye Mur Kalpanar’, ‘Junda Eman Gunda’, ‘Mumtaz’, etc.

In 1996, the government of Assam honoured him with ‘Bishnu Prasad Rabha’ award. The Sadin-Pratidin group had conferred the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award to the actor in 2015. Other awards include Natasurya Phani Sarma Award, Jyotirupa Media Award, Prag Cine Award, etc. He was also awarded the best director in a multilingual drama contest held in New Delhi in 1971.

Abdul Majid’s demise left the cultural scene in Assam momentarily numb. The veteran artiste leaves behind his wife Akuma Majid, and sons Nesimul, Kaju (well known film editor) and Omar, besides a host of relatives.

Prantik Deka