|Jadab Payeng (third from left) with members of the film crew from Calcutta. Picture by UB Photos
Jorhat, Aug. 30: He has several documentaries and a feature film under his belt and now award winning Tollywood filmmaker Tamal Dasgupta has his lens focussed on the “Forest Man of India”, Jadab Payeng, who single-handedly transformed a sapori here into a thriving forest.
The shooting for Dasgupta’s documentary began in Majuli today and included a shoot of Payeng lecturing students of the Pitambar Deva College at Garmur in Majuli. The forest man delivered the lecture from under a tree to students seated in a semi-circle.
Dasgupta told The Telegraph over phone from Majuli that he was drawn by Payeng’s story after he came across it on the Internet and also got to know about it through environmentalists. “Payeng is an inspiring figure. He is doing such good work…giving a home to innumerable fauna and being instrumental in increasing the oxygen level on the planet, in whatever measure,” he said.
The crew of seven, along with producer A. Siddique, then visited the Uttar Kamalabari Xatra to shoot some scenes that would form the backdrop of the documentary. “We chose the river island because of its rich history and heritage value which deserves to be as well preserved as the environment which Payeng espouses,” Dasgupta said.
Xatradhikar of Uttar Kamalabari Xatra Janardan Deva Goswami said the team had shot footage of different aspects of xatra life and traditions and relics inside their museum.
Dasgupta said on completion, the documentary would be sent to different TV channels, including Discovery, and to various environmental organisations as well as the Assam government.
Payeng, nicknamed Mulai, single-handedly planted more than 1,500 saplings since 1980 on Aruna Sapori, an over 1,000-hectare riverine island on the Brahmaputra to the northeast of this town. This forest ecosystem, famously known as the Mulai Kathoni, has several thousand trees now and is home to a variety of birds and animals, including Royal Bengal tigers, rhinos, deer, rabbits and a variety of birds.
Bijit Dutta of Kenduguri here, who accompanied the nine-member team as a guide, said tomorrow’s shoot would be on the daily life of Payeng and his family, showing the interior of his house, his wife cooking and weaving on the loom and also a Bihu dance performance by children on the sapori.
The next would be dedicated to Payeng’s forest, which he fiercely protects from timber smugglers along with the fauna.
On the fourth day, the team will go on a boat ride and film the periphery of the forest.
Dutta said he had been contacted through his travel blog www.bijitdutta.wordpress.com and said this was not the first time he had taken a film crew around. “A few months ago, two persons from Canada filmed Payeng and stayed on the sapori for a month. I believe they will release the film in the next Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in the US,” he said.
Dasgupta, who won an award for his documentary, The Story of Pather Panchali, in 1999, has made several documentaries, including ones on the Coffee House in Calcutta, terracotta temples in Hooghly district, rock art in the Bhimbetka caves of Madhya Pradesh and one feature film, Bhalo Meye Kharap Meye (Good girl bad girl).