Portrait of an idealist personality

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By Personality- Sailadhar Barua Maitreyee Boruah profiles a man for whom films are a means to represent his state to the world
  • Published 3.12.04
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Film producer Sailadhar Barua is back to what he likes doing best ? writing a script for his forthcoming film. With a string of successful and critically-acclaimed films to his credit, Barua?s new venture is what the Assamese film industry has been waiting for. Back from a two-year break, which he was forced to take because of ill health, the producer himself is looking forward to directing his new film under the captaincy of Jahnu Barua.

?The script is almost ready and I am brushing up few minor flaws and when everything will be settled, I would love to direct the film under the captainship of Jahnu Barua,? says Sailadhar.

The team of Sailadhar Barua and Jahnu Barua is much-revered one in the Assamese film circle. Their joint ventures have also created ripples in world cinema.

Born in one of Assam?s oldest business houses, Barua?s affair with films began quite early. ?None of my siblings were given any special treatment, as our father, Padmadhar Barua, taught us to walk on a tight rope. Nothing comes easy in this world,? he says.

Barua got into the family business when he was still an adolescent. With a strong inclination for sport, especially cricket and football, he was member of the Guwahati Sports Association.

?My health restricted my growth as a sportsman and I used to find great solace watching classic films from the world over, with a strong and healthy messages,? he says.

?I stress the term ?healthy?, as film as a medium is not only vast but also has a strong instant impact on the human mind and tampering of facts might prove hazardous.?

Though a man of few words, Sailadhar talks with great passion about his films and current Assamese film scenario. He has vivid memories of Kristhi Vikas Sangha, a socio-cultural club, which he had founded along with a few friends in 1958. A club, which was closed down a long time back, had the credit of organising Sadou Assam inter-college magazine competition in Assam for the first time.

With whatever money the club had, the members donated books and materials to the needy students of the city.

He had always nurtured the dream to represent his land, people and the cultural ethos of Assam to the rest of the universe. After watching Aparoopa, he immediately found a soulmate in Jahnu through his film, as he was yet to meet the famed director.

The first meeting of Sailadhar with Jahnu took place under unusual circumstances when Jahnu was undergoing treatment in the Gauhati Medical College and Sailadhar went to see him in the hospital. ?We shared the same dreams and philosophy. Though difficult, our strong desire to build something unconventional took our journey forward,? reminiscences Sailadhar.

In an industry filled with uncertainties, Barua took up the cudgel to invest in films which he believed in. Thus in Jahnu?s film Papori, made in the backdrop of most trouble-torn period of Assamese history, when the flames of Assam agitation engulfed the whole land, Sailadhar assisted the maker with some financial token. ?Ours is a relationship of trust and mutual understanding and until and unless that develops, no one can work and share their dreams together,? he says. Halodhia Choraiye Baw Dhan Khaye, produced by Sailadhar and directed by Jahnu broke all the records of Assamese film industry. The film brought national and international recognition to the struggling industry of Assam.

The film won the national award for the best film (Golden Lotus), the Grand Prix Leopard and World Ecumenical award at the Locarno International Film Festival, and Best of Asia at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Indra Bania, the protagonist in the role of a struggling villager, went on to win the best actor award at the Locarno Film Festival.

The second instance when they teamed up, the result was Firingoti, depicting the lonesome of a lady teacher in a village to propagate the importance of education in a rural belt. The film not only received the national award for the best film, but the protagonist, Moloya Goswami, also received the best actress award.

The third film, Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door, which deals with the story of a poor boatman whose only means of survival comes under threat as the banks of rivers are gearing up for the construction of a bridge, was screened in almost 33 international film festivals. The film fetched Jahnu the national award for best director. Bishnu Khargoria, in the role of a poor struggling man, received the best actor jury award.

Then came Kanikar Ramdhenu, which also shone bright in many a film festivals and won the best regional film award in the national award. In films like Kukhal Konwar, Pokhi and Tora directed by Jahnu Barua, Sailadhar was the executive producer. In the words of national award winner filmmaker Manju Borah, ?The team of Jahnu Barua and Sailadhar Barua is unique as they share same passion for good and classic films. And in a finance-ravaged industry of Assam, hardly anyone can find a shoulder like Sailadhar to lean on for trust and support.?

Apart from his unprecedented success in film industry, Sailadhar is the silent strong force behind most of Jahnu?s film. He is loved and respected by friends and well-wishers of all age group.

?I know Sailadhar since he was a school-going boy, he is a friend who will come forward with a helping hand for all and I am really proud of him,? describes his childhood friend Hemen Bhuyan of Panbazar.

?I hold the philosophy that to a good man no evil can happen and for that all precious lives on this earth is to be lived for doing good to others. And no matter how difficult it is to make healthy films in a state where people hardly bother for serious thoughts, my faith is strong and one day people will understand what I tried to say,? says Sailadhar.