Assamese film bags 4 top awards at Port Blair International Fest

GUWAHATI: Assamese movie, Life In A Puppet, bagged top honours at the Port Blair International Film Festival recently, winning the “Best Film” in both national and international categories, “Best Director” and the “Best Producer” awards.

The “Best Film” award in the international section was bagged jointly with the American film, On The Day That I Died.

Produced and directed by Rajen Das, a college teacher by profession and a drama artiste from Bhaluki village under Bajali circle of Barpeta district, the film is based on Assam’s puppet theatre and its fading glory.

“This is my first film and the attempt was to portray the predicament of a thriving art form which was once very much part and parcel of tradition and life in the villages and towns of the state, dating back to the 14th century,” Das, in his forties, told The Shillong Times on Wednesday.

As many as 97 films from 50 countries were nominated in various categories at the festival.

Recalling how he landed into filmmaking, Das said, “It happened during the lockdown when I thought of using time productively by portraying the art form through the medium of cinema.”

“Such a film would also take Assam’s puppetry scene to a global audience while our puppeteers, some of whom are living a hand to mouth existence, would get the much-needed succour once puppetry gets a new lease of life,” he added.

It took just three months for the man to complete the film with a cast comprising amateurs primarily.

“I shot the film myself with a Canon 5D camera on the banks of the Kaldia river in my village in August,” he said.

The cast included actor Asha Bordoloi, Dipandita Das, and Narayan Deka, considered the architect of puppet theatre in Assam, and Prakash Thakuria.

“Apart from the forgotten art form, I have also projected another issue, witchcraft, plaguing the state,” Das said.

Asked about his first reaction, he said, “I was elated when I came to know of it the next day of the festival (December 19) and the recognition at such a prestigious festival is more than satisfying given that the cast (excluding Asha Bordoloi) are amateur artistes with literally no experience in front of the camera.”

Earlier, Life In A Puppet received international acclaim with the ‘outstanding achievement award’ in the narrative features section at the 17th Tagore International Film Festival at Shanti Niketan in West Bengal.

“The film also came close to winning awards at two international film festivals – in Sweden and Slovakia – in November,” Das said.

About his future plans, he said, “I will make more films on some of the relevant issues of Assam, its land and people, in the coming days.”

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