Struggling Assamese film industry jubilant after awards

June 15th, 2008 - 10:22 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) The struggling Assamese film industry has managed to get just the right impetus at the right time with two coveted honours at the 54th National Film Awards. Along with Arup Manna’s “Aideu” bagging the best film award in the regional section last week, the jury made a special mention of film critic Utpal Datta for his series of articles on Assamese cinema.

Manju Bora, a National Award winning Assamese filmmaker, told IANS on telephone from Guwahati: “We welcome the prestigious awards. They have come at the right time when the film fraternity is trying its level best to save the industry from a complete shutdown.”

Bora, whose film “Aakashitoraar Kothare” had fetched her three coveted awards at the 51st National Film Awards, said when the business of Assamese films was bleak, awards like these encouraged struggling filmmakers and artistes.

Film critic Arun Lochan said the industry was in a celebratory mode after news of the awards last week.

Another film critic, Kanchan Das, said: “It is encouraging that with only eight releases in 2006, we bagged two awards. This year only one film has been released (’Aajan Fakir Sahib’). The business of Assamese cinema is almost nil. Almost half the theatre halls across Assam have closed down.”

A study conducted last year by the Guwahati-based business school, Assam Institute of Management, stated that out of 140 halls across the state, almost half were closed down in the past six years.

Experts believe once a thriving industry, Assamese cinema has been hit hard by the lack of good cinema halls. “Where are the proper theatre halls to screen films?” asks Bora.

“Unless a proper mechanism for film distribution is created soon, it will be very difficult for filmmakers to screen their movies.”

The entire industry is crying hoarse and has also appealed to the government to allocate funds for creation of mini-cinema halls across the state.

However, Bidyut Chakraborty, another National Award winning filmmaker, had a different take on the poor state of the film industry.

“Filmmakers should adopt a new approach of filmmaking to attract cine-buffs to the halls as Hollywood and Bollywood films are quite popular among the audiences,” said Chakraborty.

The first Assamese film, “Joymoti” was released in 1935. Now considered a cult film, “Joymoti” was made under great hardship by the maverick Jyoti Prasad Agarwala.

In the past seven decades, the industry saw several ups and downs. But the Assamese film fraternity remained united. More than 200 Assamese films have been released till date, with several of them winning praise at the national and international arenas. Critically acclaimed Assamese filmmakers like Jahnu Barua have even forayed into Bollywood.

Now, with two much-needed awards under its belt, the industry is rejoicing.

“Soon we’re going to host a party to honour the winners,” said Kanak Kalita, secretary of the Guwahati Cine Club, the oldest film club in the northeast.

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