By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes
An Indian feature film believed to have been inspired by the story of social activist Sanjoy Ghosh’s abduction and subsequent killing 12 years ago by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in world’s largest river island Majuli is vying for the world’s attention at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival here.
Directed by debutant Bidyut Kotoky, the double-version film in Assamese and Hindi is among the five new films being heavily promoted by producers, the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) at the Cannes Marche de Film (market section).
The film, titled “As The River Flows” / “Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xipaare” (literally meaning “across the unseen river”), is currently under post-production and expected to be ready for release by around September-October.
Kotoky, who hails from Assam and says the film was inspired by the Sanjoy Ghosh incident but directly has nothing to do with it. “It is more a story about all the people who have gone missing in conflict zones all over the world,” he says.
The director, who had won a special mention at the 53rd National Film Awards for his documentary on travelling commercial theatre groups in Assam titled “Bhraimoman Theatre – Where Othello Sails with Titanic”, has highlighted a provision of the Indian Penal Code, according to which a person gone missing cannot be declared dead before seven years go by, to develop his story.
The film has been extensively shot in Assam, including in Majuli, and will be a vehicle to also project the Vaishnavaite and tribal culture and lifestyle of the region, says Kotoky.
“We are very excited about the film as it has a very sensitive story done very sensitively,” says NFDC chairperson Nina Lath Gupta, who has been promoting this and four other films by new directors in the film market.
The film has in its cast a mix of fine talent from Mumbai and Assam, including internationally-acclaimed actor Victor Banerjee. Sanjoy Suri plays the role of a journalist who goes to Assam in search of his missing social activist friend, while other important roles are being played by debutant Bidita Bag, Nakul Vaid, Raj Zutshi, Naved Aslam, Bishnu Kharghoria and Arun Hazarika.
Says Gupta, “This is the first time we are fully producing an Assamese-language film, though we have financed Assamese film in the past. NFDC is looking at promoting new talent and new languages, and along with this film, we are also promoting here Rajasthani language ‘Haat’ by Seema Kapoor and Konkani ‘The Man Beyond The Bridge’by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar. For the first-time ever we are making films in these languages.”
The other films being promoted at the film market by NFDC include Aijaz Khan’s “The White Elephant” and Joydeep Ghosh’s “Maya Bazaar”, both in Hindi. “We hope these films will attract international buyers as all of them tell very good and sensitive stories,” Gupta says.