A long 85 years since Joymoti – the first Assamese feature film by Jyotiprasad Agarwala – and now we’ve almost infiltrated the world cinema with the likes of Jahnu Barua, Bhabendranath Saikia, and Bhaskar Hazarika to name a few. The grand trumpet blew off when Rima Das paved her red carpet entry–a journey that started with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to the Academy, representing India.
In the last two years or so, we’ve witnessed a variety in content and a silent dedicated approach to making regional films more approachable to a wider audience, nationally and globally. Here, presenting you five films made by Assam directors which we think are a must-watch.
Chor – The Bicycle (Khanjan Kishore Nath)
Set amidst desire, fascination and longing in the lives of two friends Nipu and Raju, with Raju owning a bicycle and Nipu’s desire for it. The plot takes its pace when Nipu, driven by his longingness and thrill to ride a bicycle, sneaks a ride without Raju’s permission, and in the process loses it. Twists and turns of emotions between the two friends, false accusations and doubt misleading and involving their families, the plot manages to keep its dramatic high and complete its coarse.
The director, Khanjan Kishore Nath, armed with certification in film studies from Mumbai, believes in living a simple life. With a journey into major international and domestic film festivals since 2018, the film is yet to see a formal release in the Indian circuit. Chor – The Bicycle has maintained to stay in focus all over again, since it won the Silver Statue at the 50th Roshd International Film Festival in Iran, this February 2021.
A few major mentions include Special Citation at 5th Salamindanaw Asian Film Festival, official selection at 10th International Children Film Festival of Bangladesh (2018), Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2018 (Australia), and 1st Nepal Cultural International Film Festival 2018, to name a few.
Bridge (Kripal Kalita)
Straight out of the heart, the film throws light on the important issue of floods, in Assam, bringing in dramatic turns of hardships and unusual struggles faced by a girl and the empowerment that comes along with it. It’s the absence of a bridge over the tributary of one of the most flood affected regions, that adds in to the hardships of the poor villagers. Yet, they love their river and their world of greenery and rustic nature, and every year gets on with a zeal to restart life with a refresh button.
Kalita’s Bridge has been doing rounds across the International Film Festival circuit with screenings at the 18th Oakland International Film Festival (OIFF), best social film at Golden Jury International FilmFestival held in Mumbai, and recently the prestigious ‘Special Mention’ award, at the Goa International Film Festival of India (IFFFI). A much of a buzz, the film is slated for a theatrical release on the 1st of October.
God on the Balcony (Biswajeet Borah)
Set in a remote village in Assam, Bora’s God on the Balcony delves into the sorrowful struggle of a farmer, Khagen, who carries the dead body of his wife from the hospital, on a bicycle, because of the non-availability of an ambulance. On the way back home, his encounter with two journalists makes it a far difficult struggle for him.
Biswajeet Bora’s God on the Balcony has been well received amongst the film lovers, with screenings at Kolkata International Film Festival – National Competition Section: Competition on Indian Language Cinema, winning the Best Director award. It also got its entry into the Indian Cinema Now section of the 25th International Film Festival of Kerala, Dhaka International Film Festival in January 2021, and Imagine India International Film Festival, in Madrid, Spain in May, later this year.
Fireflies – Jonaki Porua (Prakash Deka)
Based in a remote village in Assam, Fireflies gives us an insight into the story of a trans woman coming to terms with her identity. It delves into the societal norms and how it looks at the transgender community.
Opening the festival journey with The Twin Cities Film Festival, Minneapolis and The Indian Film Festival of Ireland, it was also an official selection for the Independent Prisma Film Awards, Rome for the October edition. Bangalore Queer Film Festival, Dialogues-Calcutta International LGBTQ Film And Video Festival, FIPRESCI-India Grand Prix 2019, are a few festivals that Deka’s Fireflies shed light on. The biggest accolade came with when Benjamin Daimary, who plays the protagonist in the film, won the best actor award at the 11th edition of Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival – one of the biggest LGBTQIA+ film festivals in South Asia.
Sijou (Vishal P. Chaliha)
A historical Bodo drama, Sijou is about a boy living in Saikhonguri, a village in Baksa, near the Indo-Bhutan border. A jolly boy victimised into the feudal land tenure system, a practice in Bhutan till 1958. It shows the journey of his struggles and a transformation into a monk, eventually.
Debutant director Vishal P. Chaliha’s Sijou has been making the right buzz in the film lover’s circuit. It managed to bag four awards at the Golden Sparrow International Film Festival 2021, in Tamil Nadu. Another official selection at the Montreal Independent Film Festival, 2021, Sijou will also be promoted in America by Cinemoi, one of the largest television networks and OTT platforms in the USA.