Guwahati: The news of the official selection of the Biswajeet Bora-directed Assamese movie, Boomba Ride, for screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival on May 22 had brought great cheer to Assam earlier this month. But the joy did not last long.
A tweet from the producer Luit Kumar Barman on Sunday morning, while reacting to another tweet on the apparent lack of government support to sponsor the to-and-fro journey of the four-member leading crew members to France, not to mention any congratulatory message so far, has dampened the cheer somewhat.
The Assam government has reportedly selected a list of four (trimmed from eight selected earlier, according to sources) for the prestigious film festival to “promote the Assamese film industry”. The revised list now comprises singer-composer Papon (Angaraag Mahanta); singer-composer, and music producer Simanta Shekhar, who was recently appointed as chairman of Assam State Finance and Development Corporation, along with two bureaucrats from the state cultural affairs department.
A senior official from the Assam cultural affairs department, without elaborating much and on condition of anonymity, informed EastMojo that the state governments of the past and present have always been supportive and eager to promote regional culture, especially at the international level.
He, however, refused to comment on the allegations of the Boomba Ride team that they were not congratulated or supported financially by the Assam government.
Pained by the “blind eye” to the film’s Cannes-bound members, producer, Barman, questioned Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in his tweet, bluntly expressing his dejection by posting: “@himantabiswa sir, what is this? We made the movie, Boomba Ride, we are invited by Cannes and GoI (Government of India), we are going at our own expense, and what is this news sir, You didn’t congratulate us….forgot about sponsorship and now you are sending those! It hurts.
Bora, a young, independent filmmaker who hails from Golaghat in Upper Assam and is currently based in Mumbai, is not cribbing or complaining though.
“The selection of Boomba Ride, among many films, including Assamese, to this prestigious film festival is nothing short of a great opportunity to showcase not just regional or Assamese cinema, but a low-budget creation depicting real life in the reel, at an expense between Rs 12 and Rs 13 lakh. It feels great to be among the five regional Indian films to be screened in the category,” the 42-year-old award-winning and globally-acclaimed filmmaker told EastMojo over the phone from Mumbai on Sunday.
Asked about his reaction to the lack of sponsorship from the state government, Bora said, “There was no congratulatory message for my other film, God on the Balcony (2020), which was acclaimed by critics, and now, the story remains the same for Boomba Ride, despite making the Cannes cut. So I am not very surprised.”
“Boomba Ride is not on the main selection list of the Cannes Film Festival. Else, everything would have been sponsored. But the Government of India has taken care of a major part of our expenses – visa processing, holding seminars to promote regional cinema, booking the auditorium, lodging, etc. However, owing to high expenses going, the central government told us they would not be able to bear the to-and-fro journey of four members of our team, including two producers,” Bora said.
“So, the Assam government could have borne this part (travel fare) of the expense had it shown intent and goodwill, which however is not going to be the case, as it has already announced its list of representatives to promote Assamese cinema. As it is, the four in the state government’s list, will not be officially participating as Assam’s representatives,” he said.
However, Bora has taken things in the right and positive spirit, as the stakes of representing Assam and showcasing the state and its cinema, are very high.
“Among the five films selected, the four others were produced at a cost of over Rs 1 crore. However, Boomba Ride, cost us just Rs 12 crore to Rs 13 crore…and to have made the global cut (being the first Assamese movie to be showcased at Cannes) is something big. So, I am, that way, very happy….No point in cribbing as I have always wanted to be a filmmaker not caring much about recognition. To add to this, I never had Cannes on my mind when I went to make the film. So it feels great that such a global platform is being provided to an Assamese film,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Bora had, in a YouTube clip, thanked the central government, National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) and Cannes Film Festival, for the opportunity.
“I am grateful to the government of India, NFDC, and Cannes for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase our film at the Cannes Film Festival. I am very hopeful that the film will be received well by the distributors, exhibitors, sales agents, and of course, the audience,” he expressed.
“As independent filmmakers, we want to show our films to the audience, but we don’t have the platform …Government of India has taken a very good initiative by giving us a very good opportunity to us,” Bora, who plans to attend a series of seminars in Cannes, France (from May 21 to 23) to promote Assamese cinema, said.
Asked about his reaction to the indifferent role of the state government, Bollywood director Mehul Atha told EastMojo: “I am not surprised … international festivals and foreign exposure to our films and talents was always kept on the back burner, especially when it came to regional content.”
“To be honest, I’ve not heard of government going out full-on in support of any of such cases especially when it comes to giving grants and money. Mostly all producers and senior technicians enter, register and travel on their expenses, unfortunately,” Atha, whose film, Desi Magic, had hit the theatres earlier this year, said.
Boomba Ride was shot on the banks of the Brahmaputra River where Bora, the filmmaker had spent his formative years.
The poor state of schools in rural Assam has been highlighted in the movie.
The character, Boomba, portrayed by child artiste, Indrajit Pegu, is the only student in a government school, who has to be dragged to school every morning and his teachers have to woo him to stay there. The desperation of some teachers/staff to keep the schools running for getting their salaries, and even “stealing money from the allocation for the mid-day meal scheme” is portrayed in the movie.
The filmmaker found an entirely non-professional cast by spending time with the residents of areas inhabited by people from the Mising community. The Mising language in which they communicate is also the linking language of the 76-minute-long film.
“The movie, which was shot in little over two weeks, is a satire, having a lot of comic moments stemming mainly from the efforts of the teachers to keep their scam going at any cost. But the film’s theme points to a serious problem. Education is taken far too lightly,” the film’s producer, Barman had told EastMojo earlier, regarding the plot of the movie.
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