Utpal Datta | Sep 30
Walking down the roads of Calcutta very many years ago, a college youth remarked to his friend, “If I can make an Assamese cinema I would attain salvation.” Thus began the history of Assamese cinema. The incident happened at the beginning of the second decade of the last century. The author of these words, and the architect of the Assam film industry, was Jyotiprasad Agarwala. It was the age before the birth of the sound movie, and world cinema was still in its infancy…
… Quite a number of notable awards, a few commercially successful films, and a certain amount of government aid, on one hand; and on the other, innumerous commercial flops, and failure to win prizes for artistic excellence—with these two extremes, Assamese cinema is well on its way to touch eighty years. The present hot discussion in the Assamese media with respect to Assamese films is that a market for it is near nonexistent and that, therefore, to set out to make an Assamese film is to set out to make a loss. Ironically, even though there is a lack of audience for Assamese films, and many Assamese films may not even have the opportunity of a week of screening in the cinema halls, a decent number of Assamese films are still being produced in Assam. Perhaps, this is the inexplicable magic of cinema—the unavoidable, endless passion of the film world—maya.
Amborish Roychoudhury | Sep 27
John Abraham and Ritwik Ghatak. That combination sounds blasphemous already. But it shouldn’t. Because the John I am talking about blazed a trail through Indian cinema that nobody since has had the gall to follow. This is how Jacob Levich distinguished Ghatak from Ray: “Satyajit Ray is the suitable boy of Indian film, presentable, career-oriented, and reliably tasteful. Ghatak, by contrast, is an undesirable guest: he lacks respect, has “views”, makes a mess, disdains decorum” Pick up those colourful words used for Ghatak, and use them on John Abraham. Every word fits with equal resonance.
John Abraham was the Enfant terrible of Malayalam cinema. His work, like his mentor’s, was marked with a blatant disregard for established mores, while displaying a longing for days gone by. The rebellious streak was a constant in him, till the day he breathed his last. Even during his FTII days, John had been suspended from the hallowed halls of the institute. Not once, not twice, but four times. And yet he graduated with a gold medal in direction and screenwriting. This contrast permeated through his as well as his mentor Ritwik Ghatak’s life…
… Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani built their own oeuvre, with a distinct world view. But it was John Abraham from Kerala who ultimately carried the mantle of Ritwik Ghatak. If Ghatak had a cinematic heir, it would without a doubt be John.