Thursday, May 30, 2024

A Conversation with Monjul Baruah – Assamese Filmmaker

Robin Bhuyan (Editor)

Monjul Baruah, a young Assamese filmmaker, who has been active in the industry for over two decades, is the director of Anur, an Assamese drama film released on 27th January, 2023. He is also the nephew of renowned Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Baruah, who is also his idol. He has directed films such as Kaneen: A Secret Search, and has served as assistant director for several films like the Bollywood film Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Mara. Enigmatic Horizon had a discussion with Mr. Baruah recently, on the 28th of January, regarding several topics such as his career, the current scenario as well as the future of cinema.

EH: What was it that attracted you towards the field of filmmaking and how did you begin your career?

MB: I was lucky enough to be born in a family which is directly involved with cinema. My uncle is renowned Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Baruah, and I was greatly inspired by the filmmaking process of his film ‘Halodhia Soraye Baodhan Khai’. Over time, I felt myself inclined towards cinema. Although I was just a child at the time, I was heavily influenced by the filmmaking process. Over time, I became inclined even more to the world of cinema. I got involved in filmmaking full-time from 2002.

EH: Was there kind of any turning point in your life, which made you decide that you would go into the world of filmmaking? Have you taken any formal education in filmmaking?

MB: I joined my uncle’s film crew during the shooting of ‘Kushal Konwar’, a film based on the Assamese martyr. However, I would not say that there was any such particular turning point, as my interest in the world of cinema developed gradually. As for formal education, I studied photography at the National Institution of Photography, Mumbai.

EH: What kind of movies were you into as you grew up?

MB:  I used to grow up watching mostly commercial films. Eventually, I attended a film festival for the first time in 2003. This was when I got introduced to international cinema. I loved watching films of Majid Majidi, Iranian filmmaker. His films left a lasting impact on me and I realized what a real cinema is.    

EH: Which element of a movie do you think is the most important? The story, the screenplay, the acting or the direction?

MB: I think all elements of a movie are equally important, if we are to call it quality cinema. I would like to add that when I am making a film, I want to make it unique. I don’t want to make films on concepts on which films have already been made.   

EH: Why do you think Assamese cinema is a bit behind as compared to other industries? Why haven’t we made many films in genres like horror, war, historical, etc?

MB: I think it is because investors are not willing to invest, due to the lack of market. However, with the rise of OTT platforms, things are changing. People are focusing on quality content, and therefore, there is a chance that Assamese cinema is going to come up with better films, even ones that can perform well at the international level.

EH: I am asking you a controversial question. What is your opinion regarding the ‘Boycott Bollywood’ trend that is going on? Do you think that Bollywood has been promoting vulgarity and degrading Indian culture?

MB: I think politics and cinema should never be mixed. But at the same time, it is true that some vulgar content is also being put out mindlessly by some filmmakers. Therefore, it is the duty of the censor board, to avoid passing such content.

EH: Regarding your latest film Anur, is it the first Assamese film to feature an actor from Bollywood?

MB: Well, there have been multiple Assamese films in the past that have featured Bollywood actors, but I think this is definitely the first Assamese film where a Bollywood actor has played the main role. It also took a lot of effort from our side so that the actor Rajat Kapoor could speak flawless Assamese for the film.  

EH: How was your experience working with Rajat Kapoor?

MB: It was one of the best experiences. Not only he gave us a fast response when we approached him for the role, but he was also quite cooperative. Everything ended on good terms, and he also attended the premier of our film.

EH: With Indian films like RRR gaining popularity all over the world and also earning international awards and nominations, do you see hope of Assamese cinema reaching a similar level in the future?

MB: Definitely. As we can see, more and more quality films are coming out. We can see that our young filmmakers are quite dedicated, and therefore, the future is bright for Assamese cinema. In fact, filmmakers from all states are coming out with high quality content, and therefore, the quality of Indian cinema as a whole is definitely going to rise.

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