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An Assamese film, Life In A Puppet, stole the show at the Port Blair International Film Festival last Friday, bagging four top titles – “Best Film” in both national and international categories, “Best Director” and the “Best Producer” award.
The “Best Film” award in the international section was bagged jointly with the American film, On The Day That I Died.
Arumuga Sabapathy, the festival director, informed that 97 films from 50 countries were nominated in various categories at the festival.
Based on Assam’s puppet theatre, the film, directed by Rajen Das, attempted to portray the predicament of a once-upon-a-time thriving art form that was part and parcel of tradition and life in the villages and towns of the state, dating back to the 14th century.
Asked how he came up with his maiden venture, Das, a college teacher and a dramatist from Bhaluki village under Bajali circle of Barpeta district, said, “It happened during the lockdown when I sought to make the most use of time by venturing into filmmaking for the first time to portray an art form that once was part and parcel of Assamese society but now on the verge of extinction.”
“This way, puppetry would gain mileage in the global platform while our puppeteers would get the much-needed succour once puppetry gets a new lease of life,” he added.
It took just three months for the man, in his forties, to complete the film which has a cast comprising amateurs primarily.
“I shot the film myself with a Canon 5D camera on the banks of the Kaldia River in my native place, which is rich in nature. The budget was kept at Rs 10 lakh and the cast comprised actor, Asha Bordoloi, Dipandita Das, and Narayan Deka, considered the architect of puppet theatre in Assam, and Prakash Thakuria,” Das said.
“So for the film, with a cast, primarily comprising amateur artistes with little experience in movies, to have bagged four prestigious awards in an international festival, means a lot to me. I was elated when I came to know of it the next day (December 19),” he added.
Earlier, Life In A Puppet received international acclaim with the ‘outstanding achievement award’ in narrative features section at the 17th Tagore International Film Festival at Shanti Niketan in West Bengal.
“The film also came close to winning awards at two international film festivals – in Sweden and Slovakia – in November,” Das said.
Asked about his future plans, he said, “I will definitely make more films addressing the issues of Assam, it's land and people, in the coming days.”