This year, three feature films from Assam have been selected to the Indian Panorama at the 52nd International Film Festival of India, to be held from November 20- 28, 2021. But surprisingly, none of the films is in the Assamese language but in various dialects and languages that are spoken in the state. The three feature films are Semkhor directed by Aimee Baruah, Sijou by Vishal P Chaliha and Boomba Ride by Biswajeet Bora in Bodo, Dimasa and Mising respectively. Semkhor is also honoured with the jury’s choice for the Opening feature film of Indian Panorama.
The history of making films in different dialects from Assam has been an old practice. However, in the last decade, several filmmakers have been making films in different dialects and languages whose attempts have been instrumental in preserving the cultural heritage of such a community in the form of visual documentation. Despite such financial hurdles, the advent of such filmmaking practices is important in the cultural domain of the region. The production of these films in recent times in diverse languages represents a growing awareness of diversity in spoken languages and ethnicity of the region among film viewers, both nationally and internationally.
In 1986 a young alumnus from the Film and Television Institute of India, Jwngdao Bodosa, won the first National Award for Best Film in Bodo for Alayaron (The Dawn, 1986). Whereas in 1989, Gautam Bora won a National Film Award for the first feature film in Karbi, Wosobipo (The Cuckoo’s Call, 1989). Bora’s film was screened at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. The critical acclaim of these films had encouraged many filmmakers from Assam to go ahead and make films in different dialects and languages other than Assamese.
A noted filmmaker from Assam, Manju Borah, has been a pioneer in making films in various dialects and languages of the northeastern region. She made the first Mising film Ko: Yad (A Silent Way, 2012) which won two National Awards and a prize at the MAMI Film Festival, Mumbai. She then went on to make films in Bodo Dau Huduni Methai (Song of the Horned Owl, 2015) and Pangchenpa Bishkanyar Deshot (In the Land of Poison Women, 2019). Bobby Sarma Baruah from Assam has also made films in various dialects such as Rajbangshi Sonar Boran Pakhi, Sherdukpen Mishing (The Apparition, 2018) and Tiwa Sikaisal (If only trees could talk). Few other significant films made in different languages of the state are Suraj Kumar Duwarah’s Orong (Strangers In The Mist, 2014) in Rabha, Jaicheng Jai Dohutia’s Haanduk (The Hidden Corner, 2016) in Moran, and Summer Dewri’s Cholôma (Birth, 2018) in Tiwa.
It is a welcoming sign that filmmakers from Assam are making films in various languages other than Assamese which helps in showcasing the cultural diversity of the homogeneity of the region. The films also tend to display how people from various communities and cultures have assimilated with one another to keep the indigenous identity of various groups of the region in harmony.