Immortal visions on celluloid

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 25.10.03

Pramathesh Chandra Barua was a multifaceted personality brimming with talent. He was born at Gauripur in the undivided Goalpara district. His father was Raja Prabhat Chandra Barua and his mother Rani Sarojbala Baruani hailed from Dolgoma Satra of erstwhile Goalpara district. Pramathesh Chandra Barua was perhaps the first Indian actor with true blue blood.

Raja Prabhat Chandra Barua took great interest in the education and all-round development of his children. So after an early education at Gauripur, Pramathesh was sent to Calcutta to pursue his studies at Hare School. After finishing school, he got himself admitted to Presidency College with BSc (Physics honours).

Since his schooldays, he had a keen interest in drama and took active part in cultural activities. He was a good sportsman also. Besides football, he played tennis and billiards. Hunting was his favourite sport. A great lover of music, he was himself a great musician — an expert tabla player and pianist.

Many of us are not aware that before he stepped into filmmaking, Pramathesh Chandra Barua was involved in politics. He was a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly though he did not contest any election and was also offered a ministerial portfolio. But he refused to accept it.

Meanwhile, he extended his support to the freedom movement and joined the Swarajya Party led by Motilal Nehru and Chitttaranjan Das. He also became the chief whip of the party. But politics could not sustain his interest and he finally decided to concentrate on filmmaking as a career. He went to England and France and learnt all the basics of movie-making. After he returned from Europe, he made his acting debut under the banner of the legendary New Theatres.

Thus began a new chapter in Indian cinema. Barua was an all-rounder with the qualities of a composer, script-writer, actor, director and a good cameraman.

Indian cinema owes him a lot as he enriched it with pioneering work. As a filmmaker of immense calibre, who provided that flicker of creativity in the beginning, he has done remarkable work in introducing the artificial light system in a scientific manner. With the introduction of artificial lights, shooting of films became easier. Prior to this shooting was done only in daylight and with the help of a reflector. He was also the first person to have successfully introduced the flashback mode in Indian films. In fact, he is the exponent of modern cinema.

It was P.C. Barua who first introduced realistic acting and dialogue-delivery and made a turning point in acting style. He played some unforgettable roles in Bengali and Hindi cinema, including Shapmukh, Mukh, Adhikar, Grihadaha, Sheshuttar and Jawal Zindagi are well known. His ability for comic roles found expression in Rajat Jayanti. But Devdas is regarded his best. In fact, Devdas will be remembered by cineastes and historians alike for Pramathesh Barua’s outstanding acting and direction.

Immortal novelist Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Devdas is undoubtedly one of Barua’s greatest works in Bengali cinema. It established him overnight as a great actor of all times.

Commenting on Devdas, famous critic Chidananda Dasgupta had said — “No personality in cinema had established more identity between his private life and the films he created, the role he played. His films were not objective records or interpretation of work of others. They were intensely personal. He did not merely make Devdas. He was Devdas”. It is relevant to include the comments made by world famous film personalities like Pudovkin and Cerkasove about the film Devdas. According to them, Barua’s Devdas had revolutionised the entire outlook of Indian cinema.

Barua was an ardent lover of music and had great liking for Rabindrasangeet. He also tried to popularise Rabindrasangeet through his films. Here I would like to cite an example which reveals his courage and personality. P.C. Barua had selected a Tagore poem for his film and wanted to use the poem as a song. He told eminent music director Pankaj Mallick of his wish. Mallick at first expressed his inability to handle such an arduous task. But ultimately, under pressure, he was compelled to give music to the poem. The poet was approached for his approval. To his utter surprise, Tagore approved of the song and gave permission to use it in the still unnamed film.

Pankaj Mallick also took with him the script of the proposed film. The poet, after going through the script, commented that the hero of the proposed film was seeking mukti, that is salvation. The comment struck P.C. Barua so much that he instantly resolved to name his film Mukti. Thus the poem, Diner sheshe ghoomer deshe, was turned into a song and became famous.

Barua gave film music a lot of attention and patronised prominent musicians. In his time, famous singers like K.L. Saigal, Pankaj Mallick, Kanan Devi, K.C. Dey and Rabin Majumder, whose songs haunt us to this day, flourished. The films he made many years ago are still loved by the new generation.. It seems that the messages of Baruah’s films are timeless. His unforgettable contribution to filmdom will be remembered for generations to come.