Utpal Borpujari

May 29, 2009

Film inspired by Sanjoy Ghosh incident vies for Cannes attention

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.

Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 24-05-2009)


February 9, 2009

How Sanjoy Ghose exactly died?

By Utpal Borpujari 


The mystery behind exactly how social worker Sanjoy Ghose was killed by the banned ULFA in Assam has been lifted, after nearly 12 years of his ‘disapperance’ in the Majuli river island on the Brahmaputra.


Senior ULFA leader Mrinal Hazarika, now overground with his followers after differences with top ULFA leaders Paresh Barua and Arabinda Rajkhowa, has lifted the veil of mystery behind the incident.


Ghose, he said, had been killed a day after he was abducted by ULFA cadres on July four, 1997, and his body, which was never found, was thrown into the swirling waters of the Brahmaputra. The killing, he claims, was carried out by local cadre even before the top leadership could convey to them the message not to harm him to avoid possible international repercussions.


Hazarika is the leader of the ULFA’s dreaded 28th Battalion, which carried out its operations in Upper Assam –  where Majuli is located – till coming overground last year to campaign for peace talks. He is currently in Delhi with his associates, senior ULFA pro-talk group leaders Prabal Neog and Jiten Dutta, to take forward his campaign among the Assamese community in the capital.


“He was shot and thrown into the Brahmaputra by the cadres of the Subansiri Anchalik Parishad of the ULFA comprising the Lakhimpur and Dhemaji district units. The killing happened without the knowledge of the top leadership. In fact, Rajkhowa, who was at Geneva for a UN convention at that time, had sent message to the local cadres not to harm him, but the killing was carried out before it could reach them,” Hazarika said.


Hazarika claimed that ULFA had abducted Ghose, general secretary of an NGO called the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Rural Development (North-East), as he had been carrying out a campaign against the organisation among the people of Majuli where he had arrived a year before to do social work.


But there had been reports that a combination of local contractors, politicians and ULFA had hatched the plan to bump him off as their interests were being affected due to Ghose’s social awareness campaigns.


Even as the issue of Ghose’s abduction had caused a sensation even at the UN, where his aunt Arundhati Ghose was India’s permanent representative at that point of time, the ULFA had given conflicting statements regarding his status.


It had first said that he had died falling off a cliff in Arunachal Pradesh and then that he had fallen into the waters of the Brahmaputra while being ferried from one place to another.


(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 09-02-2009)


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