Guwahati, Aug. 13: One of Assam’s great storytellers in print and on celluloid, Bhabendranath Saikia, lost his battle with cancer here this morning. He was 71.
Saikia, a Padmashree winner, had been admitted to the Guwahati Neurological Research Centre Heart Institute on July 23. Family members, including his wife and his Texas-based cardiologist daughter, were by his side when the end came. His other daughter, also based in the US, is expected to arrive tomorrow with his elder son-in-law, who will perform the last rites.
The chairman-cum-managing director of the heart institute said Saikia, who had undergone extensive medical treatment in the US, died of multiple-organ failure at 10.05 am. His condition worsened on Monday, when he developed an acute septic condition.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who rushed to the hospital, led the state in mourning Saikia’s demise. “In his death, the state has lost a genius. Saikia was the doyen of Assamese cinema, a great literary storyteller, an academician and a fine gentleman,” the chief minister said in his condolence message.
The government declared a half-holiday today as a mark of respect to Saikia. All city cinema halls today cancelled their evening shows.
The funeral procession, scheduled to start at 2 pm tomorrow from his residence, will first wind its way to Sankardev Kalakshetra, of which Saikia was the vice-chairman. The hearse will then proceed to Jyoti Chitraban studio, Rabindra Bhavan, Cotton College and finally to the Nabagraha crematorium.
Born on February 20, 1932 in Nagaon, Saikia had earned a Ph.D in physics from London University in 1961.
He obtained a diploma from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, the same year.
He was a reader in physics in the postgraduate department of Gauhati University and the chief editor of Prantik, a fortnightly Assamese magazine, and Sofura, a monthly magazine for children.
In his last years, Saikia was involved in his dream project Aarohan, a child welfare trust.
Saikia was as adept at making realistic films as he was at writing thought-provoking stories about human experiences. He won several literary awards.
All seven Assamese films made by him — beginning with Sandhyaraag in 1977 — won the Rajat Kamal for best regional film. He also directed a Hindi film, Kalsandhya.
Apart from film and literary awards, Saikia was honoured with the Sankardev Award, the highest honour instituted by the Assam government.
On winning the Assam Valley literary award for 1990, instituted by the Magor Education Trust, the writer-director said he would use the prize money of Rs 1 lakh to develop the children’s trust.