Interview         BOBBY SARMA BARUAH

 

Bobby Sarma Baruah: The Golden Wing of Assam

sonar baran pakhi

 After forming her own production company in 2006, ten years many shorts, music videos, TV serials, some 30 documentaries and now two feature films into her career, director, producer and scriptwriter, Bobby Sarma Baruah is set to take her personal brand of socio-cultural cinema into the wider world and represent Assam, a little-known cinema from a global perspective, at the same time. The inclusion of her films, blending various indigenous folk cultures into one, at many film festivals, should hopefully propel that and introduce many to Assamese filmmaking and culture.

Bobby's debut feature film Adomya was awarded best film in spiritual category at the 13th Dhaka International Film festival, not least for exploring the sensitivity and emotional side of women. It tells the story of a recently widowed woman called Juri who has contracted HIV from her engineer husband who died of AIDS just six months into their marriage. She is also expecting a child who may or may not have the virus.

Thrown out by her in-laws and cast aside by a socially backward village society, she has to cope with the stigma, her new-born daughter being ostracized, and ultimately of her own loneliness in the aftermath of the traumatic events. In her two years researching for the film, Bobby spent time with AIDS patients and voluntary workers dedicated to help fighting the disease and speaks of the film in this way: "The script is tilted towards the central character, a woman, who is a victim and whose struggle only shows a need to live life against the odds including multi-faceted ostracism which may echo true life stories." Poignantly foretold in seamless flashback and flash-forward, it introspectively recounts a the strength of an AIDS survivor and mother-daughter relationship against a hostile world

Apart from Dhaka, Adomya was screened as the official selection for more than fifteen international film festivals all over the world.

Bobby's second feature film, The Golden Wing (Sonar Baran Pakhi, a.k.a. The Rajbongshi Film), a biopic based on life and time of the legendary folk singer from Assam, Pratima Baruah Pandey (1935-2002), has recently been completed. The subject, popularly nicknamed Hastir Kanya (Daughter of Elephants), Pratima Baruah was born into the royal family of Gauripur in the present day Dhubri district of Assam, which adjoins West Bengal in India and neighboring Bangladesh. In childhood, as she accompanied her father in many an elephant hunting expeditions, Pratima stayed close to the mahout people and learnt their unique ways of singing. Her innocent nature and down-to-earth personality ensured she continually remained in the hearts of the common folk throughout her life.

It was therefore also no surprise that Pratima remained unaffected by all the fame and acclaim that justifiably came her way. Laurels were subsequently and rightfully bestowed upon her – the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Padmashree honour given by the Government, and many more titles were fondly awarded to her by the cultural bodies from across the state of Assam.

The director of the film explains the biopic of in this way: "As a film lover I intended to capture the uncommon threads of life of this gifted artist who, despite being a girl child and being born and brought up in a royal family braved all odds, mingled with mahouts (elephant drivers), moishals (buffalo boys) and naworias (river boatmen) in a rural ambiance. From the folklorists' point of view, her renditions of those fascinating folk songs at national and international platforms with unbridled passion, keeping intact the indigenous flavor that made all the difference and this does indeed call for a feature-length portrayal of her life and works."

Bobby Sarma Baruah is also an accomplished poet and short story writer in the Assamese language. Furthermore, she has also served as juror at the prestigious 14th Dhaka International Film Festival and the Lucknow Children's International Film Festival, both in 2016. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral research for a PhD, appropriately on the influence of the folk culture of Assam in Assamese cinema.

After meeting at the 14th Dhaka International Film Festival this year, where Bobby served on the Interfaith Jury for Spiritual Films there, it was a delight to subsequently garner her thoughts on her career so far, her thoughts on World Cinema, and of a too often oppressive society that has formed the subjects of her films.

SONAR BARAN PAKHI 4 


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