Acute cinema illiteracy in Assam: Director Bhaskar Hazarika

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New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) The film scene in Assam is depressing and there is acute illiteracy about the medium, according to director Bhaskar Hazarika whose movie “Kothanodi” (River of Stories) won the National Award for best feature film in Assamese.

“One does not have to be an “intellectual” to appreciate a film, but the situation in Assam, from what I have lately observed, is depressing. There is acute cinema illiteracy and I wish there was some way to address it, Hazarika told IANS.

“Regional cinema has found an exciting new outlet in the digital media, but it could do better with some more support from the state,” he said.

Based on infanticide, witchcraft and possession, “Kothanodi” was recently presented during a film festival at the India Habitat Centre here.

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“Film festivals are a good platform to up the fame of parallel cinema and regional cinema. The kind of exposure and audiences the film has received in major festivals around the world has been a stunning to experience,” the director said.

“We hope to funnel all that goodwill for our theatrical release in the coming months.”

He appreciated regional films for having voiced outrage against exploitation by referring to the Assamese film “Halodhiya Sorai Bao Dhan Khai” filmed by the multiple national and international award-winning director Jahnu Barua.

“I have not seen the full range and diversity of the northeastern cinema, but Jahnuda’s “Halodhiya Sorai Bau Dhan Khai” moved me. It is such a powerful scream against the exploitation of the poor and still loudly resonates in the India of today,” he said.

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“Kothanodi” is based on folk stories compiled by Assamese literary giant Lakshminath Bezbaroa.

“The author went around the state collecting oral stories from the different tribes and communities living in Assam. He published these in 1911 as “Buri Ai’r Xadhu” (Grandma’s Tales),” Hazarika said.

“The compilation has since been an evergreen best seller, to this day, and many of the stories are now an integral part of the Assamese culture. ‘Kothanodi’ is based on some events and characters that appear in the stories in this book,” he explained.

The film won the Asian Cinema Fund’s Post Production Fund Award and was first screened at the 20th Busan International Film Festival in April 2015.

“One really cannot presume to guess what the jury thought about the film, except what is publicly stated in the citation given with the award. With this film, we set out to create an out of the box experience for audiences, and the jury is still out on that,” said the filmmaker.

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