Assamese cinema (Assamese: অসমীয়া কথাছবি) is cinema in the Assamese language, watched primarily in Assam, India. The industry was born in 1935 when Jyoti Prasad Agarwala released his movie Joymoti. Since then Assamese cinema has developed a slow-paced, sensitive style, especially with the movies of Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Jahnu Barua.
However, despite its long history, and its artistic successes, for a state that has always taken its cinema seriously, Assamese cinema has never really managed to break through on the national scene despite its film industry making a mark in the National Awards over the years. Although the beginning of the 21st century has seen Bollywood-style Assamese movies hitting the screen, the industry has not been able to compete in the market, significantly overshadowed by the larger industries such as Bollywood.
The origins of Assamese cinema can be traced back to the dreams and imagination of a revolutionary visionary Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala, who was also a distinguished poet, playwright, composer and freedom fighter. He was instrumental in the production of the first Assamese Film Joymati in 1935, under the banner of Chitralekha Movietone. Due to the lack of trained technicians, Jyotiprasad, while making his maiden film, had to shoulder the added responsibilities as the script writer, producer, director, choreographer, editor, set and costume designer, lyricist and music director. The film, completed with a budget of 60,000 rupees was released on 10 March 1935. The picture failed miserably. Like so many early Indian films, the negatives and complete prints of Joymati are missing. Some effort has been made privately by Altaf Mazid to restore and subtitle whatever is left of the prints. Despite the significant financial loss from Joymati, the second picture Indramalati was filmed between 1937 and 1938 finally released in 1939. Pramathesh Barua released his Assamese version of Devdas (1937 film) in 1937. It was the last of the 3 language version following Bengali and Hindi.
Remaining strong in the face of adversity, Agarwala made another film after a lapse of two years titled Indramalati. It was his second and last film. The eminent composer and singer of Assam Bhupen Hazarika, played a stellar role in the play. With the passing away of Jyotiprasad, the Assamese film scene witnessed a temporary lull for about a couple of years. But things changed with the onset of World War II, Taking advantage of this, Rohini Kr. Baruah made a film on a relevant historical topic called Manomati in 1941. It was followed by films like Parvati Prasad Baruwa's Rupahi (1946), Kamal Narayan Choudhury's Badan Barphukan (1947), Phani Sharma's Siraj, Asit Sen's Biplabi, Prabin Phukan's Parghat and Suresh Goswami's Runumi.
The most remarkable film of the fifties was Piyali Phukan which went on to win a National award.The movie was produced by eminent film producer Gama Prasad Agarwalla under the aegis of Rup Jyoti Productions. The film was directed by Phani Sharma and music was composed by a young Bhupen Hazarika. The film was about the life of the freedom fighter Piyali Phukan, who stood against the British Rule. He was executed by the British on charges of Treason. This film technically was very advanced for that time. In 1955, a new talent Nip Barua made his directorial debut with Smrit Paras. His subsequent films Mak Aaru Moram and Ranga Police won many state awards and the silver medal at the national level. Bhupen Hazarika also produced and directed his first film Era Bator Sur. Prabhat Mukherjee made a film on the universality of mother-hood, Puberun (1959),which was shown in The Berlin Film Festival.
The next notable film production was Lachit Borphukan by Sarbeswar Chakraborty. Bhupen Hazarika made his unforgettable musical Shakuntala in 1961, which proved equally successful with critics and the press, winning the president's silver medal. Following this, a chain of films went into regular production and got released, including Nip Barua's Narakasur, Anil Choudhury's Matri Swarga, Brojen Barua's Itu Situ Bahuto and Mukta and Anwar Hussain's Tejimala.
By the middle of the sixties, film began to be produced in Assam on a regular basis. However, between 1935 and 1970 a total of 62 films were produced. Besides the film makers already referred to, many others engaged in film making during the period included Pravin Sharma, Saila Barua, Abdul Mazid, Amar Pathak, Indukalpa Hazarika, Brajen Barua, Dibon Barua, Debkumar Basu, Amulya Manna, Gauri Barman, Atul Bardoloi, Sujit Singha, Nalin Duara and Prafulla Barua.
During the period of 1970-82 a total of 57 Assamese films were made. New directors started emerging on the horizon. Samarendra Narayan Deb's Aranya (1970), Kamal Choudhury's Bhaity (1972, the first colour film of Assam), Manoranjan Sur's Uttaran (1973), Prabin Bora's Parinam (1974), Deuti Barua's Bristi (1974), Pulok Gogoi's Khoj (1974), Padum Barua's Gonga Silonir Pakhi (1976), Bhabendranath Saikia's Sandhya Raag (1977) and Atul Bordoloi's Kollol (1978) are films worth mentioning.
Notable directors of contemporary Assamese cinema are Jahnu Barua (who directed Aparoopa, Papori, Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai, Bonani, Firingoti and Xagoroloi Bohu Door); Sanjeev Hazarika (Haladhar, Meemanxa) and Bhabendra Nath Saikia who directed Sandhya Raag, Anirbaan, Agnisnaan, Sarothi, Kolahol, Abartan, Itihaas and Kaal Sandhya). Other directors include Santwana Bordoloi who directed Adajya, Bidyut Chakraborty who made Rag Birag, both of which have won national and international awards, and Manju Borah with her multiple award winning films such as, Baibhab, Akashitarar Kathare, and Laaz.
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Actors and actresses
- List of awards and winners for films from Assam
- National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese
- Assam State Film Award
- Prag Cine Award
- Joymoti (1935) , IMDB.com
- Assam General Knowledge. Bright Publications. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-81-7199-451-9. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Lakshmi B. Ghosh, "A rare peep into world of Assamese cinema", The Hindu, 2006
- Mazid, Altaf (2006) Joymoti : The first radical film of India, Himal Magazine, March 2006. Archived 8 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- "Manju Borah – Assamese Filmmaker". Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- Rishkawala (1993)
- "Indian Feature Films certified during the year". Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- "Nominations of Prag Cine Award 2014". Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Assamese film at the Internet Movie Database
- Tracing the history of Assamese Cinema at Indian Auteur[dead link]
- History of Assamese Cinema from rupaliparda.com