TIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Set in the backdrop of witch-hunting from the point-of-view of a child, Utpal Borpujari’s national award-winning Assamese feature film Ishu turned out to be a favourite at the first-ever International Children’s Film Festival of Kerala that began here on Monday. The story is set in a remote village in Assam. It narrates the battle of a 10-year-old kid for his aunt who has wrongly been branded a witch and expelled from the village.
Produced by the Children’s Film Society of India, Ishu won the National Award for Best Assamese Film during the recently-concluded national film awards. “It’s really great to get a national recognition but what made me happier was that our film got an award along with Rima Das’ Village Rockstars. This really gives a morale boost to the Assamese film industry,” says Utpal Borpujari.The film takes inspiration from the gruesome practice of witch hunting followed in remote parts of Assam, Meghalaya, West Bengal and some parts of Odisha. Women and sometimes even men are tagged as witches, tortured and killed. These practices are followed by many communities in Assam.
“It’s a serious problem and there has been major newspaper coverage; in addition to documentaries and films being made on the same. In the film, the story has narrated the perspective of a child. Hence we got a fresh angle,” adds Borpujari.The movie, based on Assamese author Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s book with the same name, had its World Premiere in the Indian Languages Competition Section at the 23rd Kolkata International Film Festival 2017. Before becoming a full-time filmmaker, Borpujari, an alumnus of IIT-Roorkee, was a film critic and journalist.
As a professional journalist, he had covered leading political parties, Parliament proceedings, union ministries, Northeast India and international film festivals.“Since my college days I loved writing, even when I was in IIT, I used to write for newspapers. That’s when I decided to be a journalist and started working as a full-time journalist in Assam. Later, I worked with PTI for five years in Delhi and later with Deccan Herald as a political correspondent. In the meantime, as part of my journalistic career, I started focusing on writing film reviews and became a film critic.
The National Film Awards for Best Film Critic in 2003 motivated me to focus my attention on serious filmmaking,” says Borpujari.Ishu, which will be screened at the Tagore Theatre, has already made rounds in the film festival circuit of India and abroad. Borpujari hopes that the recent national awards for Assamese film would motivate more filmmakers to come up with movies on serious issues in Assam.