October 4, 2007 11:01:26 pm
The year was 1933. Aideu Handique, an illiterate village girl then, became the first woman to act in the first Assamese film Joymoti. She earned accolades for her performance and her bold step. But back in her village, her family was ostracised. So much so that her parents would not even let her enter the house for fear of the society. The girl spent her life in a cowshed — a thatched hut— for the rest of her life, spanning more than seven decades, in utter penury.
This is the story of Handique, the first woman to come on the silver screen in Assam; and now this is the storyline of Aideu, an Assamese feature film, which is doing the rounds of various film festivals. Handique was condemned for life for having acted in a talkie alongside male actors. Now, the director of Aideu is looking for funds to take his films places.
Aideu made by Arup Manna, an alumnus of St Xaviers’ in Mumbai, has already created a flutter in the film world. “It is not only a tribute to the pioneering spirit of Handique, but also the story of the misery she faced,” says Manna.
Shot over a period of six years, Manna’s film has several shots of Handique, taken before she breathed her last on December 17, 2000, while Chandana Sharma plays the actor’s role in the film. The 81-minute film, which has found place in the Pune International Film Festival and at MAMI International Film Festival, was screened twice after the official show at the 25th Munich International Film Festival in July this year. In fact, it was after a gap of nine years that an Indian film was screened at the Munich festival.
Manna says he has invitations for as many as four festivals abroad, which includes the 31st Sao Paolo Festival in Brazil, and festivals in Columbia, Canada and Prague. Aideu also bagged three awards in the recently concluded Assam film festival in Guwahati.
Though accolades have poured in from different quarters, Manna has financial worries. “It is like a repeat of what Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the man who made Joymoti, faced. While the pioneer had no theatres to screen his film, Manna is yet to find funds to send his film to the festivals,” said Nayan Prasad, a Guwahati-based critic. “I don’t know where to get the funds. More than half the theatres in the state have been shut for years, and no distributor is willing to take Aideu because it is not a masala film,” says Manna. Joymoti, in which Handique had played the lead role, had also met the same fate in 1935. Handique herself saw the film 50 years later when the state organised the golden jubilee of Assamese cinema.
Manna’s consolation is that Assam Culture Minister Gautam Bora has promised him support for sending his films abroad for festivals.
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