Assamese Cinema: the opportunity for new capital
The Assamese film industry represents all that is wrong with Indian cinemas. Poor cinema infrastructure, the hegemony of Hindi cinema, lack of adequate funding keeps this region pinned down and prevents its rich and unique cultural narrative to blossom. Unfortunately, the cultural elitism and essentialism within Assam creates an internal push-pull dynami, which acts as an internal deterrent to growth. In a film seminar at the International Film Festival of India, 2006 representatives of the film industry repeated the mantra of protectionism.
It is interesting to note how the capitalist sees a huge opportunity in tying itself with local culture to overcome local hostilities and suspicions. The Reliance Telecom Ltd, Guwahati branch has extended help in publicity to Junda Imman Goonda, an Assamese faeture film being produced under the banner of Gargi Entertainment Co. A company press release said, “this step has been taken in accordance with their endeavour to extend help and assistance for the development of the society in the Sate of Asom” (Hindustan Times, Nov 22, 2006). The company displayed hoardings in different parts of the State including capital Guwahati in connection with the film, and several other hoardings were promised.
The government on the other hand is considering a total exemption of Amusement Tax (Assam Tribune, Oct 14, 2006). Besides, it would also consider mini halls in the country side. Now this is a line of thinking that should be left to entrepreneurs — they only need to help provide regulation so that access to funding becomes easier. Just imagine small theatres running off DVD players and digital projectors. It would completely alter the production, distribution, and exhibition landscape of Assamese as well as regional Indian cinema.
An interesting film festival was organised in Guwahati under the aegis of Cinema Samaroh, September 2006. Documentaries and short films from the region that “have captured the life and turmoils of society realistically through light, sound and camera” (Assam Tribune, Sep 15, 2006) .
So, is all well for Assamese and North Eastern cinema? Let’s keep our eyes peeled.