Profession: Filmmaker, Writer
Bidyut Kotoky has directed over 100 short films on human interests, lesser known facts and unsung heroes from all over India and abroad. His first feature length documentary, ‘The Road Less Travelled… Where The Journey Is The Destination’, was successfully screened in many film festivals in India and abroad. In 2007, his film ‘Bhraimoman Theatre – Where Othello Sails With Titanic’ based on the travelling theatre of Assam won a special mention in the National Awards.
In 2010, his documentary ‘The Mighty Ahoms’ was telecast on National Geographic and Fox History channels. His first feature film as writer/director is ‘As The River Flows’. The film won the best script (written by Bidyut) and the best actor (Sanjay Suri) award in the 2013 Washington DC South-Asian Film Festival. Bidyut’s Guns and Guitars – A Musical Travelogue is a documentary on the music scene (against the backdrop of violence) in the Northeast. His new movie Xhoihobote Dhemalite about children growing up in violent places will be released towards the end of this year.
‘Guns and Guitars – A musical travelogue’ will be screened at different colleges in India, tell us a little about that and how you think it will help create awareness about Northeast India
When I came down to Pune way back in 1990 for my graduation, I knew quite a bit about its history. It is not that I took special effort to read up about Pune – just that in our school days we had a rapid reader called “Singhgad Bijoy” which is based on a glorious chapter of Maratha history. Besides, stories of Shivaji was also part of our school curriculum. However, once in Pune I was really taken aback by the total lack of knowledge about Northeast in the majority of ‘literate people’ (yes, I do distinguish between ‘literate’ and ‘educated’) whom I encountered. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of change in this regard in the last two and half decades. When I tried to analyse the reasons for this, I found the absence of the Northeast’s history in the educational curriculum of mainland India as a major contributing factor behind these ignorance. One of the basic reasons of attempting ‘Guns & Guitars- a musical travelogue’ is to address this phenomenon.
Once the film was ready, we thought what could be a better place to start this crusade than targeting the leaders of tomorrow – i.e, the college students of India. In fact, we already had two screenings of the film in two of the leading colleges of Pune, which was followed by really interesting Q&A sessions on the Northeast.
We recently had a screening and interaction session with the students of ‘Public Policy’ department of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. The screening was of special importance to us as these students, with whom we shared the film and had a heart-to-heart talk with, are going to be the policy makers of the country someday. Devasish Sharma, the resident commissioner of Assam Bhavan Mumbai, also took special interest and participated in the discussion that followed the screening.
We are hopeful of continuing this journey in the leading colleges of different parts of the country and are trying to get some CSR support from corporates to meet this objective. Let’s hope somebody from the corporate reads this.
You made your feature film debut as writer-director with Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xhipare, what challenges did you have to face?
Right from a grenade attack at the time of our shoots to the unfortunate controversy about National Awards, there were indeed many. However, now I prefer to look ahead instead of dwelling in the past. At long last, the Hindi version of the film, ‘As the River flows’, is getting ready to be screened in the near future. Hope you are all going to embrace ‘As the River flows’ warmly.
Tell us a little about ‘Xhoihobote Dhemalite’. When will you be releasing the film?
Set in the Indian state of Assam in the violent period of the ‘80’s, ‘ Xhoihobote Dhemalite ‘ is a film about children growing up in violent places, witnessing brutality around them and how it affects them deeply, leaving an indelible mark on their growth. This film is inspired by true events of my childhood years. The film stars Victor Banerjee, Dipannita Sharma, Nakul Vaid, Naved Aslam and a bunch of kids. The sound is done by Amrit Pritam who recently won the Golden Reel (2016).
‘Xhoihobote Dhemalite’ was one of the films shortlisted in the CLINIK Kathmandu Film Lab (2015) along with 8 other projects from 5 South Asian Countries. The script has been mentored by Michael Henrichs (Associate Producer Chauthi Koot which was part of the official selection in Cannes 2015).
We are planning to release the film in Assam in the later part of the year, after doing rounds in the festival circuit.
As a filmmaker from Assam, why do you think Assamese movies don’t do so well commercially?
Well, with 40 odd cinema halls, it is logistically impossible to have commercially successful film in Assam – it is a plain fact. Why, the last super hit Assamese film, released in 2011, couldn’t break even after running for 25 weeks in cinema halls! And this is at a time, when across the country, movies aim to break even on the first weekend of its release!! It is high time that we wake up and smell the coffee.
What are some topics that you want to make movies about in the future?
Well, there are quite a few scripts ready – most of which are based in the Northeast. Let’s see which one hits the floor first.
Which movie can you watch over and over again without getting bored?
That’s a tough one. The movies that stays with me are generally are of the intense type, that moves or rather disturbs me, emotionally. It is not about getting bored – but at times I lack the courage to visit them repeatedly to encounter the unpleasant realities they compel me to face. Few names that comes to mind immediately are Turtles Can Fly by Bahman Ghobadi, Tamas by Govind Nihalini, Man of Iron by Andrzej Wajda and yes, that cute film of Jiri Menzel – My Sweet Little Village.
Out of all the actors you have worked with, name one who made the most impact on you.
Definitely, Victor Banerjee. A wonderful actor and an even better human being.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Would like to keep my boiling point a little higher and also perhaps be a bit diplomatic at times.
What is the last movie you watched at the cinema hall?
Jolly LLB 2
What are your hobbies?
Cricket. Going for a long drive or ride. Travelling. Trekking. And of course, reading.
As told to Meeta Borah