Chameli's Saab returns to inaugurate film festival - Show organised at George Baker's request

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 5.09.07
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Sept. 4: Berkeley Saab is returning to Assam, not to find another Chameli but to see how much Assamese cinema has evolved since the time his love story hit the screen.

Berkeley was the character played by Anglo-Indian actor George Baker in Chameli Memsaab, Abdul Majid’s 1975 film about a British planter who falls in love and marries a tea garden worker, only to be accused of her murder. The film was a trailblazer, raking in the moolah and turning Baker into a matinee idol. The handsome actor did two more Assamese films, Devi and Priyojon.

Now based in Calcutta, Baker agreed to a request by the department of cultural affairs to inaugurate the State Film Awards Festival on Friday on one condition — that he be given the opportunity to watch some of the finest Assamese films ever made. Thanks to Baker, cineastes will get to see a bouquet of 29 Assamese films — from award-winning ones to box-office hits — at Anuradha and Apsara halls from September 7.

“Baker expressed his desire to watch some great Assamese films made over the years. We immediately decided to screen the best of Assamese cinema, selected by a panel of experts,” an official from the department of culture said.

Appropriately, the seven-day film festival will begin at Anuradha with a show of Chameli Memsaab. Some of the other films that will be screened are Arup Man-na’s Aideu, Jahnu Baruah’s Kushal, Bidyut Chakra-borty’s Anuraag, Bhabendranath Saikia’s Kolahal, Rajiv Bhattacharya’s Aami Asomiya, Jatin Bora’s Adhinayak, Ashok Kr Bisaya’s Monot Birinar Juye, Siba-nand Baruah’s Hiyar Dapunat Tumare Sobi and Nilakanta by Rajini Barman.

“Going by the kind of films selected for the festival, it looks to be a mega event to showcase the best of Assamese cinema. Such festivals are the need of the hour since Assamese cinema is going through a bad phase. A film festival helps to revive interest in cinema among makers and audiences alike,” veteran film and theatre personality Kulada Kumar Bhattacharya said.

Schoolteacher Meghali Deka sounded just as ecstatic. “It’s been quite a while since I watched a good Assamese film. I will watch films on all seven days.”

The awards for Assamese films made in 2005-2006 will be announced and given away at Pragjyoti ITA Cultural Complex at Machkhowa on September 15. The department of culture will honour 180 veteran artistes at Rabindra Bhawan on September 8. The minister of cultural affairs, Gautam Bora, said at a news conference today the department was considering ideas to bail out the Assamese film industry from its current crisis.