Culture of song more powerful than of gun: Official

Panaji, Nov 25 ( The answer to the gun is a song. Celebrating 75 years of Assamese cinema at the 40th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here, an Assam official Wednesday said the cinema had evolved as an apt answer to violence promoted by the extremist forces.

Replying to a question on whether the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had hindered the development of the film industry in Assam, state secretary for art and culture Sapanil Barua said: “The culture of the ‘gaan’ (song) is more powerful than the culture of the gun.”

Barua is in Panaji to attend the film festival with a delegation of film makers and other Assamese officials.

“Cinema is the strongest weapon against extremists. We are becoming cultural extremists now,” Barua said.

The delegation Wednesday inaugurated a special segment on Assamese cinema to celebrate its completion of 75 years.

The segment opens with “Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Aru Joymoti” a documentary made by Bhupen Hazarika on the father of Assamese cinema Jyotiprasad Agarwalla, whose “Joymoti” in 1935 film was the first Assamese film and India’s third talkie.

With 320 films under its belt, Assamese cinema now turns out an average of 20 films every year, generating annual revenue of Rs.3 crore to the state government.

“This is particularly lean phase. We made only 10 to 12 films now. Our target is to up the entertainment tax to Rs.30 crore over the next decade,” Barua said.

Bobeeta Sharma, chairman of the Assamese State Film Finance Development Corporation (ASFFDC), said that the Assamese cinema was plagued by the typical problems faced by a market with a relatively small consumer base.

“We have a viewership base of just one crore, which is not much compared to the neighbouring Bengali and Bhojpuri cinema, which have a vibrant cinema culture,” she said.

The state government was looking at ways to attract more investment in Assamese cinema, including tax rebates for producers and tax holidays for setting up and upgradation of cinema halls in rural and urban Assam, she added.

“Bombay has been taken over by Assamese film technicians. They are our best ‘exports’ after tea. Most of our technicians are exported to the film industry in Mumbai and Chennai,” Barua said.

The Assamese cinema segment will showcase films like “Ganga Chilonir Pakhi” by Padam Barua, “Agnisnan” by Bhabendra Nath Saikia, “Halodhiya Choraye Baodhan Khai” by Jahnu Barua and “Aai Kot Nai” by Manju Borah.