Guwahati, Monday, March 15, 2010
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Lost treasure of Assamese cinema retrieved
Staff Reporter

Runumi director Suresh Chandra Goswami
 GUWAHATI, March 14 – The only print of the ninth Assamese feature film, Runumi, directed and produced by noted writer and Sattriya dance exponent, the late Suresh Chandra Goswami, has been returned to his family after nearly four decades.

The print of the film, released in 1952, was returned by Amiya Borthakur of Bhir Gaon of Biswanath Chariali, whose father and the late Goswami’s brother-in-law Lakshminath Borthakur, had taken it for screening in some tea gardens in the area. Since then, it was lying in a tin trunk in Borthakur’s residence.

The 13 reels of the film are still in the original cans and have been brought to the Guwahati residence of Goswami’s daughter Dolly Borpujari.

This is definitely among the best news the State can get at a time when Assam’s film industry is celebrating its platinum jubilee.

Preliminary checking indicates that a significant part of the film could still be intact though the actual condition of the print will be known only after it is checked by experts.

However, because of the high-humidity conditions of the region, all the cans have caught rust and a few of them even have developed cracks, because of which some of the contents might have got damaged.

Goswami’s grandson, film critic Utpal Borpujari, is already in touch with relevant people in Mumbai for the cleaning of the print and transferring it to other formats, and also plans to contact the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) in Pune for its

scientific restoration and preservation.

Runumi was the second Assamese film to have been shot in location and ‘open floor’ after Joymoti (ref: Axomiya Chobir Porichalok: Suresh Goswami; written by Hemanta Kumar Das, published in Bismoy, January 1983 issue). Goswami, who had established the Prachin Kamrupi Nrittya Sangha along with the late Jibeswar Goswami in Shillong in the 1930s to take Sattriya dance to the outside world, had learnt the basics of filmmaking by observing Jyotiprasad Agarwalla at work.

Runumi was the first film in which the late Nalin Duarah had worked as a cinematographer. He had re-shot a major portion of the film after the results of original cinematographer Paresh Sarkar of Kolkata was found not up to the mark.

The music of the film was by Darpa Nath Sarma (father of Jitu of Jitu-Tapan duo). The cast comprised Kanaklata Saikia, Neyimuddin Ahmed, Suresh Goswami, Indreshwar Barthakur, Hironmoyee Devi. Among the singers were Ivy Baruah and Sewali Devi.

Based on Goswami’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play The Warriors at Helgeland, Runumi’s story was set in Assam and Nagaland (then a part of Assam). Even as the film was running to good response in upper Assam, the State Government had suddenly banned it without offering any reason when the late Bishnu Ram Medhi was the Chief Minister. Suresh Goswami, who once described the reason for the ban as ‘agyat karon’ (due to some unknown reason), was left bankrupt because of it. However, he had started writing the screenplay for another film, based on his highly popular novel Bhonga Gorha (adapted by himself into a play titled Urmila) when he passed away in 1984.

The late Goswami’s family has appealed to the State Government to let the people know why the film was banned, and also come forward to help restore and preserve the film, which is part of Assam’s cinematic heritage. Now that the State is soon going to have its own film archive, Runumi’s preservation could be the test case for the State Government.

The family has also appealed that anyone who was directly or indirectly associated with the making of Runumi, or anyone who has any material related to the film (stills, newspaper/magazine articles, publicity materials), or anyone who had seen the film, may send or share those materials and memories.

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