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Friday, July 20, 2018

Notes from the Northeast

On day one of the Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival in Guwahati, local boy Shiladitya Bora talks of Assamese cinema and entering the big league

Written by Ektaa Malik | Updated: September 16, 2017 10:29:36 am
Shiladitya Bora, Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival , International Film Festival Ahmedabad, Indian Express News Shiladitya Bora (center) with Atul Sabharwal (left) and Abir Sengupta

At 25, Shiladitya Bora was buried under a debt of Rs 35 lakh. “Creditors lined up outside my house. I dipped into my mother’s provident fund to pay them off,” says the director, producer and distributor while addressing the audience at the fifth edition of Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival currently being held in Guwahati. Bora had accrued this debt courtesy three editions of the International Film Festival Ahmedabad, which he founded and directed for three years.

Bora is a known name in the independent film circuit because of his venture PVR’s Director’s Cut and partnership with Drishyam Films. At the opening session of the film festival, Bora, who was raised in Jorhat, Assam and spoke of his journey — from being a chemical engineer to headlining an independent film banner. “When I began working, Bollywood seemed like some far away place which was mystical and unreachable. I never thought a career can be made in cinema. But luckily, I took certain risks,” says Bora, who went to film school in California but returned in 23 days. He then entered a masters program at Mudra Institute of Commuication, Ahmedabad (MICA). “The journey began with a film club and then the film festival. Eventually it led to the curation of Director’s Cut,” says 35-year-old Bora.

Post his stint at PVR, Bora joined Drishyam films. He hit gold with Masaan (2015), the first film he produced under the banner. It’s been a couple of years since and Bora has learnt the ropes of production and the key to green-lighting new projects. He stresses that it’s all about narrowing it down and fixing a budget. “If a new filmmaker from Assam comes to me and says that he wants 80 lakhs for a film, I will be unable to help him. But if they come to me with a strong script and story, I can manage 15-20 lakhs for the project and give it a go,” says Bora.

He adds that the Northeast has always had a strong presence in terms of indigenous cinema and that the region is witnessing bursts of sporadic creativity. “The Northeast is sneaking into the mainstream, one song, one character and one location at a time. In case of Assam, look at Bhasker Hazarika’s Kothanadi. It won the National Award and is now available on Netflix. Then there is Rima Das’s Village Rockstars, which was screened at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. Not to forget Mission China, which was made on a budget of two crores and is already a box office hit. This is encouraging,” informs Bora.

But the need of the hour, feels Bora, is a private-public partnership, that will enhance the infrastructure and encourage young filmmakers in the process. “While I was growing up, there were no cinema halls. There are some now but we need more. If people don’t watch films, how will they make them,” adds Bora. Currently, he is now busy with two projects under his new production house, Platoon One films.

The films coming out so far include Ophir being directed by Atul Sabharwal and Chumbak, which is being made by Abir Sengupta, whose earlier outing was the Bengali film, Jomer Raja Dilo Bor.

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