History of Assamese Cinema
The glorious history of Assamese cinema dates back to the dreams and imagination of doyen film maker, poet, play writer, composer and freedom fighter, Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala by setting a benchmark in the film arena through his masterpiece 'Joymoti', released in 1935. Jyoti Prasad drew on historical and literary sources to depict the tragic patriotism of a princess through his first film. Along with this, he also portrayed the parallels with the situation of disorder and disharmony unleashed by the British rule on the people of Assam for aligning themselves with the National Movement. The film starred Phanu Barua, Asaideo Handige, Mohini Rajkumari, Phani Sarma, Sneha Chandra Barua, and Shamshul Haque.
With the movies of Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Jahnu Barua Assamese films got recognition from the entire nation. Biplabi was a film Ddirected by Asit Sen in 1948. This film starred Anupama Bhattachrya, Chandra Phukan, Rani Nath and Jagat Bezbaruah. The film dealt with the theme of nationalism and sacrifice. The technical quality of the film set it apart from other films of the genre.
However, the Assamese audience did not appreciate Agarwala's film. Although not a commercial success, it is notable that at a time when the Bombay cinema was producing mythological films, Joymoti was about an historical event.
Revolution of Assamese Cinema
It is the land of Assam that has given birth to eminent persons making a mark in the field of literature and culture. A rich culture of performing art presides in the state and prominent film makers have come up with masterpieces which have fetched national level accolades.
The Assamese film industry has seen many fold changes since 1935. With the advent of new directors and the release of movies like Jyotiprasad Agarwala's 'Indramalati', Rohini Kumar Baruah's ‘Monumoti', Parvati Prasad Baruva's 'Rupahi', Kamal Narayan Choudhury's 'Badan Borphukan', Suresh Chandra Goswami's 'Runumi', Phani Sarma's 'Siraaj', Assamese cinema left footprints for many others to reminisce its beautiful essence.
During '50s: 1950's marked the beginning of a new wave in the history of Assamese cinema. 'Piyoli Phukan', directed by Phani Sarma fetched the National Award for best regional language film. Nip Baruah, famous director of Assamese film industry was a luminary of the 1950's. The first movie he directed was 'Smritir Parash'. It was in the 1950's that music legend Dr. Bhupen Hazarika got down to the world of movie direction. 'Era Bator Sur', directed by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika created a modern wave, giving a new foundation to Assamese cinema. In 1959, Prabhat Mukherjee's 'Puberun' succeeded in fetching international recognition for the first time. The screening of 'Puberun' in the Berlin Film Festival opened doors to an international platform for Assamese cinema.
During '60s and '70s: The 60's and 70's saw another transition in Assamese film making. Different genres of movies including biopics were released in this period. Sarbeswar Chakrabarty's 'Maniram Dewan', Nip Barua's 'Narakasur', Dr BhupenHazarika's musical hit 'Shakuntala', 'Pratidhwani', 'Lotighoti', 'SikmikBijuli' also peeped in that period. The first Assamese comedy film, 'Itu Situ Bohutu' by Brajen Barua was released. Brajen Barua's 'Dr. Bezbaruah' was the first Assamese thriller which became a commercial blockbuster.
During '70s and 80's: In the 70's and 80's, Assamese cinema collected many National Awards. Samarendra Narayan Deb's 'Aranya', Brajen Barua's 'Opoja Sonor Mati', AbjulMajjid's 'Chameli Memsaab', Atul Bordoloi's 'Kallol', Dr. Bhadendra Nath Saikia's 'Sandhya Raag', are few of the prominent films of the era, which won Best Regional Film National Awards. In 1976, Padum Baruah's 'Gonga Silonir Pakhi' paved the way for the scope for realistic art films in the field of Assamese cinema. For the first time in history, Assamese cinema took a turn into the genre of art, setting a milestone. It is in the 80's, Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia's 'Sandhya Raag' could leave strong footsteps in the world of cinema. Most of the films of the 80's were musical hits. Under the musical direction of Dr Bhupen Hazarika, Ramen Barua, Jayanta Hazarika, Khagen Mahanta, etc., many Assamese movies could gather popularity. In 1982, Jahnu Baruah stepped in the arena of Assamese films for the first time with his creation 'Aparoopa'.
Assamese Cinema of Modern Age
Surya Tejor Anya Naam (1991), directed by Dinesh Gogoi, starred Mihir Jyoti Baruah, Alok Nath, Violet Nazir, and Mridul Sutiya. The political turmoil of the state is the subject of this film, the first to clearly deal with the topic. Konikar Ramdhenu (2003) revolves round the story of an imaginative and intelligent 11 years boy Kukoi. This film executes the horrors that happen in a juvenile home. It is said that the director Jahnu Barua visited 12 juvenile homes before making the film. Another important Assamese film Jeevan Baator Logori (2009) was directed by Timothy Das Hanche. This film depicts the journey of a young boy from his student life to the professional life. This film starred Nipon Goswami, Bishnu Kharghoria, Arun Nath, Moloya Goswami, Beauty Baruah and many others. Recently the film Janmoni (2011) has gained huge popularity. It is a love story directed by Rajesh Bhuyan. From 1935- 2018, the golden journey of Assamese cinema has taken a new turn with recent releases. The young director Reema Das’s ‘Village Rockstars’ gives soul to the flow of Assamese cinema. Besides winning the ‘Swarna Kamal’ in National Film Awards, the movie ‘Village Rockstars’ has been highly appreciated in various National and International film festivals and given a new dimension to Assamese cinema.
Awards of Assamese Cinema
Assam state arranges some award ceremonies to encourage the film industry. Assam State Film Award is an award ceremony for Assamese Films in Guwahati. Also Prag Cine Awards, that are presented annually by Prag News, aims to give support, recognition and inspiration to the Assamese film industry and honour some of the eminent film personalities who have contributed to the cause of Assamese cinema. The award was first instituted in the year 2003. Starting from 2015, films produced in other Northeastern states were also honoured in this ceremony.
Tattva Creations arranges Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival that is a homage to the rich culture of Northeast India. The festival is dedicated to the film fraternity of the Northeast region of India, especially Assam. It is an initiative for new filmmakers to come together and rediscover various aspects of film making. The film festival is held in Guwahati, Assam, annually since 2013.
Assam State Film Corporation Ltd and Assamese Cinema
For boosting Assamese film industry and to financially support Assamese movie making, Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation Ltd., has been helping in various ways since 2012. Of late, it has taken various constructive plans for development of Assamese cinema and Assam Government has already prepared a blue print for a strong Film Policy. This policy will definitely help Assamese movie makers. For the development of Assamese cinema, Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation Ltd. organizes a two-day-long programme in 2018.