Rajni Basumatary – The director of Raag, an exclusive interview
Rajni Basumatary is a Boro filmmaker currently based in Delhi. She has been a well known writer and a producer. Her recent directorial debut, Raag, an Assamese film, brought big laurels and acclamation to her name as the film received 12 nominations for the Prag Cine Awards 2014. Spondan talks to this brilliant filmmaker from Assam about her childhood, her passion and the future of Assamese cinema.
Hello Rajni Basumatary, Creativica welcomes you!
Thank you very much.
Tell us about Rajni Basumatary as a little girl who grew up to be a producer/director.
I am the ninth and last child of my parents. My father was a farmer and a church pastor. We were not well-off in our childhood and my parents had difficulty in providing us with enough materials in life. But we always had guests at home for almost every meal to share with. So we had a happy, normal household to grow in and nurture our imaginations. I have always been interested in the art of story-telling- in all forms- be it through writing, or images. I loved reading books and watching films, even at a young age. I started writing short stories for magazines and dailies. First in Assamese, then in English. I happened to know a couple of film makers and theatre artistes. Many of them commented that my writings were suitable for screens and stages. That is what inspired me to write screenplay initially. And my first production, Anurag happened.
After my schooling and +2, I left my home-town Rangapara and moved to Guwahati for my higher studies. I studied Assamese literature in Handique Girls’ College. After my graduation, I did my diploma in International Airlines and Travel Management from Guwahati Institute of Management. In 1995 I moved to Delhi in search of better opportunities.
Tell us about your venture, Manna Films.
I did all kinds of odd jobs including assisting an editor at a publishing house and producing stories for television channel. In between, I wrote the script of Anurag and produced the film along with another co-producer. Forming of Manna Films was a natural extension of my work. It’s a small production house with a tagline, ‘we make films that sever their purpose.’ It’s one-stop-shop for audio-visual solutions for corporate houses and social organizations.
Your film Anurag received 7 Assam State Film Awards! What does it mean to you?
Anurag was written by me and produced by myself and Anjali Daimari. It was directed by the national award winning Director, Bidyut Chakravarty. Anurag was a turning point in my life in more ways than one. The fact that I mustered courage to produce a feature length film without any practical knowhow of filmmaking confirmed that I indeed loved this art form enough to give up a conventionally comfortable life. It also reaffirmed that with a little bit of dedication and practice I could become a good story-teller on celluloid. And most importantly, the appreciations Anurag received gave me confidence to think ahead on the same line. That is why I think, Anurag is the mother of latest film Raag.
Tell us about your works and other achievements.
We at Manna Films produce corporate films and organizational films. A bunch of creative professionals work with me on project basis. These projects have ensured me, I have food in my stomach to be able to think of my primary passion i.e. cinema. I can’t claim to possess talent like those who can turn ashes to gold. But I am sincere and honest at my personal space and professional space. Thankfully, my husband Shirish Jain, who is a police officer resonates with me.
Your recent film, Raag, came into the theatres and was highly acclaimed by the audience. But, it was replaced in a week with the YRF production, Gundaay. We have seen this being done to other Assamese films too. Your take on it.
Raagwas received very well by the audience; especially in urban Rajnian areas and by mature audience who have taste for art and music. Unfortunately, it was unceremoniously elbowed out from the cinema halls of Assam as they had to make way for the Bollywood film ‘Gundaay’. I feel that exhibitors and distributors must exhibit some patience towards Assamese cinema, or any regional cinema for that matter. Second week is a must. The logic is simple: big Bollywood films have ample budget hence they promote their films aggressively for months even before the film hits the screen. So, the opening at the box office is usually good and the pickup is faster. But a regional film is dependent on ‘word-of-mouth’ publicity and it takes time to spread. The producers of regional cinema have to have greater sense of ownership, fighting spirit and dedication towards their films. It’s not enough to just produce a film. They need to fight the forces that come between your film and your audience.
Any upcoming projects?
I have a complete script for a film on witch-hunting in Boro society. It’s a malaise that has disturbed Rajnied me very deeply for a long time. What is worse is that even some of the so called educated people and religious leaders participate in ‘getting rid of evil spirits’ such as daini. I would like to make a small film on the subject and go from village to village to show that film to convey the message of condemnation towards the evil practice in the society in rural areas, especially in Boro dominated places. I would also like to collaborate with social activists to address this issue through visual medium.
What is your future vision of Assamese cinema?
Regional cinema is cyclical. It travels through good times and bad. Last one decade has not been a good period for us. Fortunately though, there have been a few films that have brought back the hope, films that have attained commercial success, such as Munin Baruah’s Ramdhenu and films that have brought home accolades, such as Jahnu Baruah’s Bandhon and Manju Bora’s Ko:yad. I believe, we are on the way to a revival. But we need a strong film policy – a policy that will make a regional film exhibition compulsory upto second week.
Message to the readers.
Human values are deteriorating. There is disrespect for life and nature. Our redemption lies in our love for anything artistic and creative.
Thank you for giving us your valuable time. Creativica wishes you the best and plenty of success in years to come!
It was entirely my pleasure!