At a time when the Assamese film industry is passing through a bad phase, it’s heartening to see acclaimed director Manju Bora coming up with films at regular intervals. And what is special about her films, steeped in aesthetics, is that the majority of her works have been lauded in different fora, domestic as well as international, winning several awards.

Manju Bora won an international award with her very first film Baibhav, released in 1999. After her debut success, she has never looked back and has continued to make some meaningful films, which have won awards, as well as rave reviews, enriching Assamese cinema. She has also tried her hands at making entertainment films and her second film – Anya Ek Jatra, released in 2001, was a sincere attempt at that, though the film, replete with song, dance, comedy, et al, could not fare well in the box office.

But a year later, Manju Bora came up with a serious film titled Akashitorar Kathare, that tried to explore different aspects of women’s liberation. The film won national acclaim besides being shown in different film festivals in the country and outside. The film also won the best playback singer’s national award for Tarali Sarma – a first for Assam. In the State Film Festival, too, Manju Bora won the best director’s award for this film.

Then, Manju Bora came up with another aesthetic delight – Laaj, which was selected for the Indian Panorama section. Critics and viewers alike in the country heaped huge praise on the film that also won international acclaim, being shown in the festival circuit abroad. Laaj was followed with a historical biopic Joymati, but it was not a remake of the path-breaking Joymati, made by Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala way back in 1935, heralding the birth of Assamese cinema.

Manju Bora brought to life on the celluloid Joymati, a notable character of Assam’s history as far as patriotism is concerned, with indepth research and hard work, with the sole aim to make the young generation familiar with the deeds of this legendary lady who sacrificed her life for the sake of her husband and the country. It may be mentioned here that the print of Jyotiprasad’s Joymati has been lost in oblivion in the absence of proper preservation and Manju Bora’s Joymati, made in a distinctive style, came as a welcome relief as the cinelovers, especially the young ones, could peep into the life of this noble historic figure. This film, too, earned rave reviews.

Her exploits in the world of filmmaking has earned Manju Bora several coveted cinema-related posts in the national and State level. She is also involved with a number of socio-cultural organisations in Assam, offering her services in the field of culture. All these, however, would not have been possible but for the inspiration of her culture loving husband Dilip Bora, who is a top official of Assam Police. Unlike many a married woman, Manju Bora has had the liberty to indulge in creative activities, thanks to the support, encouragement and inspiration of her husband, who himself is also a fine writer.

Of late, she was busy with her latest cinematic venture Ai Kot Nai – Maa, which is slated for release on June 12. Produced by Rajen Bora, the film is based on a story by noted novelist Arun Goswami, with screenplay by the director herself.

Says Manju Bora about her latest film: “Ever since the creation of state and country, the border was born, and since then there has been disputes over border. In olden times, when kings ruled the states, bloody wars were fought in a bid to grab other’s land. But today, we have a world body of nations, international laws, rules and regulations, constitutions, etc, due to which one country cannot openly occupy another country’s land, yet there have been skirmishes here and there for an odd plot of land or region. In Assam, too, the scene has been no different, with its neighbouring states seeking a slice of its prime land. But such boundary disputes have affected the general people only with loss of property and lives on several occasions, while politics rules the roost.

“Only love and affection can heal such problems permanently, as it follows no rule other than the heart’s. And when two rival factions are at war, there flows the universal love, albeit silently, and this is where the role of the mother comes to the fore. The very word ‘mother’ has no boundaries and has a universal appeal. Mother is the ultimate symbol of love and affection and for her there’s no difference between the rich and the poor, Assamese and Naga, Hindu and Muslim, so on and so forth. And my new film is trying to capture that image of mother.”

To be released at Anuradha Cinema in Guwahati, Ai Kot Nai – Maa has Jibon Dawka as the chief assistant director, while Raju Misra is the cinematographer. Phatik Barua is the art director, while Issac Thomas Phatukapally has scored the music. A number of veterans and regulars form the cast of the film and they include Indra Bania, Bishnu Khargharia, Pratibha Choudhury, Hem Bora, Bidyabati Phukan, Dr Jayanta Das, Girish Talukdar, Dilip Barua, Avatosh Bhuyan, Dilip Bora, Rajen Phukan, among others.

Kamal Kr Bhagawati