The most common factor in the films of Jahnu Barua is perhaps the demography of his protagonists,who are the proverbial common man a retired professor,a boatman or a school teacher. Barua often places these characters,and their families,in situations beyond their control,examining what happens when their self-contained,small world is struck by bigger external forces.
When the government decides to build a bridge,it threatens the livelihood of the boatman in Xagoroloi Bohu Door (Its a Long Way to the Sea),and a sudden attack of Alzheimers sends the retired professor into a manic lamenting over the decadence of virtues in modern society in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara. In his latest film Bandhon (Waves of Silence),Baruas protagonists are an old couple,whose life is turned upside down when they lose their grandson,their only family member,in 26/11 in Mumbai.
I am interested in telling the stories of people who lose everything because of something they have nothing to do with, says Barua. The film that won the National Award for Best Regional Film in 2012 and Best Film at the Bangalore International Film Festival,is this weeks release at the PVR Directors Rare.
Barua,a nine-time National Award winner,has long been the face of Assamese modern cinema,but this is the first time that any Assamese film will get a pan-Indian release. Assamese films never got a release like other regional films such as Bengali or Punjabi because the Assamese population in other cities was very small. Now the numbers have grown substantially and this has given our cinema an audience outside the state, he says. Barua also attributes the release to the increasing acceptability of regional films among urban audiences who seek meaningful cinema. The audience is exposed to world cinema and accustomed to watching films with subtitles. This has given regional films a boost as well, he says.
Bandhon came up as Baruas reaction to the lack of artistic response to the terror attack,a couple of years after the event. We make 1,000 films a year and not one was made on this issue. That shocked me,and I decided to make one myself, says the 60-year-old filmmaker. (Bandhon released before Ram Gopal Varmas The Attacks of 26/11.)
For Barua,the tragedy became a metaphor for a story that would resonate within the larger theme of humanity,a recurrent feature in all his films. The elements of bloodshed and violence of the attacks thus became irrelevant for him. The film doesnt show any visual of violence,it reflects the impact it had on the common man, he says.
The release of Baruas last Hindi film,Har Pal,is stuck due to the rape charges against its lead Shiney Ahuja.