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Screen salute to mobile theatre pioneer - Veteran Ratna Ojha?s documentary chronicles life and times of Achyut Lahkar

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Staff Reporter Guwahati Published 20.01.06, 12:00 AM

Guwahati, Jan. 20: Four decades after the curtain went up on Assamese mobile theatre, a veteran filmmaker has come up with a documentary that chronicles the life and times of the man who laid the foundation of the state?s biggest entertainment industry.

Achyut Lahkar, the brain behind the idea of taking meaningful drama to every nook and cranny of Assam, saw the fruition of his dream on a wintry evening in 1963.

Mobile theatre has since gone from strength to strength, reinventing itself several times along the way.

Ratna Ojha?s 84-minute documentary, Achyut Lahkar ? Bhryamyaman Theatraror Jonok (father of mobile theatre), is an appropriate salute to the man who started this revolution.

?Lahkar gave wheels to theatre and set the pace for others to follow. The industry is still travelling with great speed across the state,? the director said.

Ojha, himself an award-winning theatre and film personality, was a close associate of Lahkar.

Lahkar?s group, the Pathsala-based Nataraj Cine Theatre, exists no longer but was hugely popular in the initial years of mobile theatre.

His successful productions during a career spanning four decades included Bhogjora, Tikendrajit, Black Money and Beula.

?He changed the face of theatre in Assam. Lahkar?s technical and artistic innovations lent muscle to theatre and made it equally popular among the masses and critics,? Ojha said. ?While documenting the life and works of the artiste, I have tried to focus on the mobile theatre industry as a whole.?

Veteran theatre personality Kulada Kumar Bhattacharyya described the film as an authentic documentation of the birth, growth and reach of mobile theatre.

?Lahkar?s body of work represents the entire mobile theatre industry. In paying tribute to the multi-faceted director and technician, Ojha has highlighted all aspects about the present and past of the industry. Ojha is the right person to handle the subject,? he said.

The documentary opens with a brief introduction to bhaona, the indigenous folk drama genre that was conceived by the 15th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardev, and describes how Lahkar adapted it to the mobile theatre stage.

Not content with making it popular within Assam, Lahkar took mobile theatre to Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and collaborated with artistes of several states. ?For the master, mobile theatre was not a profit-making avenue. He used to donate a chunk of his earnings for various causes. In fact, all his plays were woven around social themes close to his heart,? recalled Ojha, a winner of the prestigious Natyasurya Award.

Ojha?s documentary ends with a capsule on the present status of the industry and some of the best contemporary plays.

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