Baharul Islam, veteran theatreperson from Assam, talks to Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty about “Rodor Sithi”, his latest foray into filmmaking

Theatre being his “first choice”, the wellspring of inspiration for filmmaking has to be in the medium itself for Baharul Islam at some point in time. The Guwahati-based National School of Drama alumnus is making his second stab at filmmaking these days with Rodor Sithi (Sunshine in a Letter), likely to be released during the annual festival of Assam — Bihu — this April. Predictably then, the story has been drawn from a play — “Ximar Xipare (Beyond the Obvious”), written by Baharul.

In a telephonic chat from Guwahati where he runs Seagull Theatre with wife and fellow NSD graduate Bhagirathi Bai Kadam, an affable Baharul sounds upbeat, happy to soak in the buzz the film has created even before its release in his home State. “We are in the post-production stage now and you know how mad it can get,” he says, laughing.

The film has faces which are not just popular in Assam but outside of it too, a reason why he would add subtitles in English for a wider audience and “may have an all-India release with help from PVR Cinemas.” Singers Papon and Zubeen would feature along with Adil Husain, Bhagirathi and others. For Papon of “Jiye Kyun” (Dum Maro Dum) and “Kyun Na Hum Tum” (Barfi) fame, it is the maiden stab at acting.

“Adil is a master in the art of acting. Zubeen has acted in Assamese films before. For a first-timer, Papon has done a great job,” says Baharul.

In the thick of insurgency, the Assamese film industry — once known for producing National Awardees — took a beating. Cinema halls began to shut down, forcing directors to release their films only on CDs. It also pushed many to lower the bar of filmmaking, pick only popular boy-meets-girl themes with ample amount of ‘dance numbers’ thrown in to cater to ‘popular taste’.

“The market is good now,” states Baharul, whose first film Aasene Kunuba Hiyat, based on Ranju Hazarika’s novel Uttar Falguni, did average business some years ago. Theatres are functioning and the last three or four films have been released in halls, he says. “Also, these new films have themes which are slightly different from the usual. Films like Siyor, Hiya Diba Kak and Raag have been accepted by audiences even though they don’t have the usual storylines. This makes me hopeful about my film too.”

His theme this time, “moves around a story, tries to go beyond it. It would bring under the scanner human relationships, would drive home the point that nature is the ultimate religion. Because, unlike religion, it doesn’t demand anything from us and yet gives us everything.”

There would be an extra thrust on the aesthetics of the film. “I have hired well-known Assamese artist Noni Borpujari for its set design. He has used installations too.” In lyrics also, Baharul says he has “tried using better words” than what we get to hear today. He signs off with an instance. “For example, I have used a poem by Hiren Bhattacharya for a song.”