Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Conversation with Dhiraj Kashyap – Assamese Filmmaker

Robin Bhuyan (Editor)

Leema Buragohain (Sub editor)

Dhiraj Kashyap is an accomplished Assamese filmmaker who has made significant contributions to the regional film industry. With his artistic vision and storytelling prowess, Kashyap has carved a niche for himself in Assamese cinema, captivating audiences with his thought-provoking films. His films are known for their authenticity, as he intricately weaves local narratives, traditions, and values into his storytelling, creating a strong sense of identity and connection with the audience. Some of the feature films by Dhiraj Kashyap include Dhon Kuberor Dhon and Mohomukti.

In 2005, Dhiraj Kashyap’s film Muhomukti received the prestigious Assam State Award. This recognition was a testament to his exceptional filmmaking skills and impactful storytelling. Muhomukti likely resonated with audiences and critics alike, highlighting Kashyap’s ability to connect with viewers on an emotional and intellectual level.

Another notable achievement for Dhiraj Kashyap came with his documentary film, Birubala. The film garnered the Best Director Award at the North East Film Festival. This recognition demonstrates Kashyap’s versatility as a filmmaker, showcasing his ability to excel in different genres and formats. Birubala tackled important social issues, shedding light on the life and struggles of its subject, and leaving a lasting impact on audiences.

EH: How did you get attracted to the film industry?

DK: I was attracted to the film industry when I was still a boy. When I was in the fifth grade, I went with my parents to see an Assamese film called Bhaiti in a place called Vijayanagar. The film Bhaiti had become very popular at that time. I observed the mountains, trees, rivers, people, etc. on the screen. And I felt that visuals of the environment in that film looked very realistic. It was then that I became attracted to cinema. Before that, I had never watched a movie at a cinema hall. Earlier, I only used to watch plays at Bhramyaman Theatre, where the actors were performing on stage. However, the disadvantage was that trees, rivers, hills, cars, etc. can’t be shown in plays, whereas in the movies that I have watched, it can be done magnificently. It fascinated me that such a wide range of images could be shown on the screen. Thus, the first film I had seen had attracted me.

EH: When exactly did you decide to become a filmmaker?

DK: I passed matriculation in the first division from Boko High School; my father enrolled me in the science stream for my higher secondary schooling. Even though I studied in the science stream, I started getting attracted to the world of cinema. After that, I came to Guwahati, and I started observing all these locations by myself where filming was taking place. I began to learn how films are edited. After that, I went to Jyoti Chitraban. Back in those days, the atmosphere in the Jyoti Chitraban was like a desert. I still remember when I went there for the first time, when Director Shiv Prasad Thakur’s film was being edited. I had a chance to see that. And those days went by. Though I was in the science stream in high school, I took admission in the arts stream at B. Baruah College for my graduation. I continued trying my best to fulfill my dream. And I was always wondering how I could enter the film industry. At the time, cinema was very different from what it is today. I was the college magazine editor in my third year, when I had a teacher, Suvarna Konwar, whom I still respect because he brought a drastic change in my life. He had written an article on Jahnu Barua, and I asked him if he knew Jahnu Barua personally. He told me that Jahnu Baruah was his good friend. Then, he asked me if I wanted something. Then I told him that I wanted to work as an assistant director, but finding work was difficult. I did not know much about cinema. Then he said that he would write a letter to Jahnu Barua and inform him about it. This was in the year 1988. Then using his reference, I wrote a letter to Jahnu Barua and another letter to Ranjit Das, who was his chief assistant editor. And I got a reply from Ranjit Das, who wrote that they would soon come to Guwahati from Bombay. They were planning to produce an Assamese film, and they said that I would be allowed on that film. Eventually, I got the opportunity to work as an assistant director in both Firingati, which eventually won the National Award. Then I worked in Tingkhong, which was a telefilm. Soon after, I worked as an assistant director in Jahnu Barua’s films Sagoroloi bohu dur and Kushal. The film Sagoroloi bohu dur also won a national award and brought a lot of fame to our state.

EH: What are the feature films that you have worked on as a director?

DK: As a director, my first film was Muhomukti. My second film, Dhon Kuberor Dhon, was released just a few years later. In 2015, I directed the film Lukobondhu, which was about Bhubaneshwar Barua, a renowned physician and freedom fighter from Assam who had stood against British colonialism. After India attained freedom, he also spent his life providing free service to the poor and needy instead of getting involved in politics. My next film was Chong. My most recent film, Brahmakanya, is soon to be released at a film festival, after which it will be released theatrically.

EH: Today, Assamese films are not gaining as much popularity, and most people prefer watching Bollywood, Hollywood, or South Indian movies instead. What can we do to attract people to Assamese cinema?

DK: See, the Assamese people have always had a fascination for Assamese films. Unfortunately, the number of cinema halls in Assam has decreased, which is one reason we could not deliver too many Assamese films to our audience. Since Assam has many districts, there is a large population, which is why there is a need to have more cinema halls. There is a need to take a film to the audience, and this requires a perfect film policy. The Film Policy of Assam has been prepared considering all the individuals in the film industry and the government of Assam, but due to some difficulties, this policy has not been implemented. And I feel that when this policy is implemented, we may be able to overcome the difficulties of the film industry eventually. The public, as well as film lovers, producers, directors, and the government, needs to have good will because the medium of cinema is very powerful, and through it, we can represent our nation and take our culture to an international level. I think the medium of cinema is not just a medium of entertainment; it also has the potential to become a medium of education because, through films, we can educate the youth. I think people should have a strong appetite for watching movies like the ones I have seen in West Bengal. When we start producing these kinds of movies, we can take Assamese cinema to a whole new level.

EH: Do you think, in order to connect with the new generation, all filmmakers should come together and create an app or website where people can watch all regional films released 4-5 years ago? Filmmakers who do not have the budget to release their movies theatrically can also release their films through this platform.  

DK: Of course, this is a brilliant concept, and I feel it would be great if such a concept could be taken up. If one lacks the budget to produce a film for theatres, then they can release their movie through this app. I think this is a really good move.

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