Anubhav Mahanta is a talented filmmaker from Assam. His latest short film Bathou Dorja Khol bagged the 2nd runner’s up title in the Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival 2017. However this is not the first time that his films have been awarded. In fact, his short docu-film Struggling Gurukul was selected as the 4th best film among 2200 entries across Asia at EduDoc 2016 International Short Film Competition which was held in India Habitat Center, Delhi. He has also written a book titled Mai Anubhav which has been published by Assam Publishing Company.
Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to start making films?
First of all, I would like to thank Brahmaputra Foundation and Tattva Creation for providing such a big platform for young filmmakers. I am 31-year-old differently able boy. Eleven years back, I got hit by a train. I was instantaneously paralyzed because of a spinal cord (C6) injury. I had multiple head injuries and a crushed right elbow. I was in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for almost 2 months in the initial period. My two subsequent visits lasted for fifteen and twenty days respectively. I had to undergo 7 major operations. During the two years when I was completely paralyzed, I became sad and depressed. One day Moromty, one of my cousins, suggested that I should watch movies, and we watched many movies together. The Doors was one of them. It had a powerful influence on me, I also started dreaming about making films. I think, I learned more from watching these films than what I had learnt from books since my childhood. The movies opened a new horizon for me. Eventually my condition started improving and I was able walk slowly. In 2009, I took a video editing class at PVTI. Just out of curiosity, I made my first short film BOND (2011). It was screened in the 3rd Cine ASA International Film Festival and we were all very happy. Now imagine our surprise when it was announced that BOND bagged the Best Film award and I was nominated for the Best Director Award.
Though I am able to walk and I cannot do anything with my right hand. I can do a few things with the left hand. I took admission in BA at KK Handique Open University. With the help of a scriber, I completed my graduation in 2013. By the time, I also got married to Mayurima, and now I have a four-year-old daughter, Aamu.
What made you want to tell the story you did in ‘Bathou Dorja Khol‘?
Students committing suicides or trying to commit suicide has always been a serious issue. I used to ignore such sad and depressing news-items. One day, my mother (Shikha Mahanta) told me to read that day’s edition of Amar Asom as it carried a story which she had received earlier through WhatsApp. Since then, I started thinking of depicting such a story on celluloid. Finally, Horizon Productions came forward to finance the short movie. When I started planning, I came across some very tragic data – according to National Crime Records Bureau, every hour one student commits suicide in India. After seeing my film, if someday somewhere, a student changes his/her decision (of committing suicide), then I will consider it as the best reward for making films.
How have people reacted to the message in the film? Have you had anyone come up to you and share similar experiences?
People in general like the movie. Many students have shared their views with me and it was nice to connect to their emotions. Parents have also exchanged their views. We cannot deny that students are under tremendous pressure now-a-days. If you are not successful in your examination, then you are deemed as nothing. It should not be the case. Success in life is much more important than success in exams. The noblest qualities like love, compassion, sacrifice, patriotism etc., cannot be acquired by securing letter marks in exams. That is something only life will teach us.
What challenges did you face while shooting?
It was difficult the actors and actresses as they were not professionals but my close relatives. The main character was played by my younger brother. The character of the father was played by my father, the mother was my mother, Bathous’ sister-in-law was in fact my wife and the child’s role was played by my daughter. Even petu was our pet dog. The initial phase was a bit difficult but then it was a pretty smooth journey. I would like to sincerely thank Romen Borah, Sourav Mahanta and Suraj Duwarah for all their help.
One movie that affected you on a personal level
The Shawshank Redemption! After watching this movie, I was not the same person anymore. The movie delivered a very powerful message about life, hope, and friendship. ‘Hope is a good thing, may be the best of the things and no good thing ever dies….’ was the best phrase from the movie.
One famous movie that you wished you could have made
Dear Fish is my next project. It’ll be about the pain and suffering of fishes whose scales are removed and then cut into pieces by the fish-sellers while they are still alive.
As told to Meeta Borah