The initial reaction to “Rodor Sithi”, Baharul Islam’s second movie, screened recently, holds much promise for the director.

Well-known theatre director and actor Baharul Islam sounded optimistic and happy when asked about the response from the preview show of his second movie “Rodor Sithi” (Sunshine in a Letter) in Mumbai. It must have been heart-warming for the director since films from different parts of the country want to make mark in that city.

The first public exhibition of the film attended by several well known personalities from the industry — producers, directors, actors, cameramen among others — led to praise and pats for Baharul. Yet, there is a significant aspect of this show. “There were only eight to ten Assamese for the preview while the remaining, in the 112-seater auditorium, were non-Assamese,” said the director in a conversation over the phone from Guwahati. The reason, he explained, was, “I wanted to gauge the reaction to be able to get an idea of the all-India market. My target is both the national and international audience and that is reason the English title ‘Scarecrow’ was chosen — to catch the attention of non-Assamese film-goers.”

He added, “At the end of the screening there was a long and continuous applause. When I asked them if the sub-titles in English helped them to feel and enjoy the nuances, I was surprised to learn that a majority said that they did not even read them.” The details of a pan-India release are being worked out with PVR Cinemas, and the film will be screened in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore among other cities.

Baharul has some sound reasons for not confining the film to his State. “The market for Assamese films is very small and secondly there is a shift in audience focus to regional films. Further, the movie is based on nature, exploring self and the dreams, desires and dilemmas of human beings — a strong storyline — so it is bound to have a universal appeal.” He was also impressed by the turnout of theatre-goers for his Assamese plays when they went on the boards in different parts of India. “I was convinced that human emotions and concerns are universal and these are bound to appeal to all, irrespective of the medium of communication.”

“Rodor Sithi” is based on a play “Ximar Xipare” (Beyond the Obvious), written by Baharul though he clarified it is not a “ditto copy”. The cast includes singers Papon and Zubeen along with Adil Husain, Bhagirathi and others. “Both singers acted naturally, substantiating my belief in realism,” he said.

Baharul’s first movie “Aasene Kunuba Hiyat” was made 13 years ago. Why this long hiatus? “After my maiden venture I thought I was not fit for films so I concentrated on theatre. Crossing 50, I decided to give filmmaking a second shot and felt that my experience, knowledge and wisdom acquired through my theatre journey will assist me.” Pointing out the essential difference in the two mediums, the director said, “Movie making is more challenging and technical; there is a vast canvas and backdrop; there is depth and advantage of takes and retakes unlike plays,” but clarified that plays provided him the comfort zone to make films.

He categorically declared that he will continue his association with theatre. The last one was Girish Karnad’s “Agni and Barkha” in Assamese which was staged repeatedly in Guwahati. “I have my auditorium, my team and repertory company,” he stated, adding “I have already started exploring the subject for my next film.”