(Last Updated on : 07/08/2014)
Phani Sarma was a prominent figure of Assamese theatre. He was also a bright cinema actor, director, and playwright. Endowed with great physical presence, he was credited with the ability to virtually mesmerize audiences. Phani Sarma was one of the first professional actors in 1930 and also one of the first to act in cinema. He did a prominent role as the villain in Jyoti Prasad Agarwalzs Jay mati in 1935.
Phani Sarma was also a key figure in the Assam unit of the Indian People's Theatre Association
in 1946. He was first among the actors to record discs. He wrote four successful full-length plays. Bhogjara i.e. 'Ceremonial Jug' in 1957 was one of the last and best Assamese historical plays. He did not deal with the usual patriotism but revolved around palace intrigue, adultery, and revenge. Sarma was unforgettable as the ugly king Lakshmi Singha.
The other plays of Phani Sarma did not usher in any new trends, but all are gripping and dramatic. The names can be mentioned as Siraj, Kiya or Why in 1963, and Nagpash or 'Noose' in 1963. For the Assamese, Phani Sarma is synonymous with Siraj, which depicted emotional bonds between Hindus and Muslims. His electrifying performance in the title role as the kind Muslim in both the film and stage versions made him immortal. He also memorably acted the lead in the films Piyali Phukan, as a legendary prince-turned-patriot, and Brojen Barua's comic Ito sito bohuto i.e. 'This, That, and Everything' in 1963. He did all these as a retired army officer. When the Bhramyaman Mancha
or mobile theatre movement arrived, it lost no time in throwing open its doors to Sarma, who acted for it almost till the day he died. This legendary actor died in the year 1970.
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