Rongali festival platforms Assam’s ‘neglected’ artistes

Guwahati: With the spotlight at the Rongali festival on the vibrant culture and crafts of Assam, the extravaganza turned out to be a platform to highlight the problems faced by the oft ‘neglected’ creative industry of the state — be it films, music or fashion.

The artistes pointed out that they need exposure for their survival and they have requested for government support for their craft.

Actress Barsha Rani Bishaya minced no words in pointing out that the government is not helping the film industry, while actress Rimpi Das said that exposure can do wonders for the entertainment industry.

“If we talk about the entertainment industry, actors are completely neglected. The Assam film industry is dying with most of the theatres shut. The only option with the actors is mobile theatre, which is very lucrative. We tour around Assam and do live performances. Government is doing nothing for the film industry,” Barsha said.

Talking to IANS, Rimpi said: “We are trying to get the government on-board in our endeavour to get exposure. We want mini-cinema halls, they are saying they have got the funds. We are hopeful”.

If one talks about the music scenario, then it is slightly better with singers like Angaraag Mahanta, popular as Papon, and Zubeen Garg making a special place for themselves in the Hindi film industry, injecting a new life in Assamese music. This is the reason singer Priyanka Bharali is mulling over the idea of working in Bollywood.

“Bollywood gives a platform to the Assamese music industry. I will be singing a song with Joi Barua, who has composed a song titled ‘Dusokute’ for the movie ‘Margarita with a Straw’, for a Hindi project. I think we need to organise more shows that enable artists to showcase their calibre and flourish,” Priyanka told IANS.

Talking about rock music in Assam, Joshua Queah told IANS: “Exposure is there, but venues need to surface to promote the genre”.

While actors have turned to live theatre for a livelihood, Assamese singers say that surviving in such a cash-strapped scenario is difficult.

“We indulge in music as a passion and do a job for financial support,” Joshua, who is a music history teacher by profession, told IANS.

Yogesh Pradhan, a member of heavy metal band Girish and The Chronicles, said: “Survival is difficult for any musician as India is ruled and dominated by Bollywood. Everyone is used to listening to Bollywood music.”

He also feels that there is a need to arrange more music festivals and venues to promote rock music.

The scenario in the state’s fashion industry is no different. Designers like Meghna Rai Medhi aka Mehzabin Ershad, Dhiraj Deka and Arita Kashyap emphasised that talent in Assam has a “lot of potential, but lacks promotion”.

“We are getting into the mainstream by helping big designers and by opening boutiques,” Arita told IANS while elaborating on how designers can cope with competition.

According to Dhiraj, the gap can be met by building a communication channel between buyer and seller through meets and exhibitions.

There may be several problems, but these artists have an undying energy to continue their initiative to bring about a change.

Rimpi said: “We won’t let the Assam film industry die”. Even Tarulata Kutum, a singer from Mising community, exuding optimism, said: “Assam will get better with government supporting culture” through such fests.

The three-day festival, which began at the Veterinary Ground, Khanapara here on Friday, ended with the rhythms of music band Indian Ocean on Sunday.

But the star of the festival was Papon, who not only mesmerised music lovers with his melodious voice but also showcased his fashionable side by walking the ramp for a fashion designer.

However, language was one hiccup in the first edition of the festival, which wanted to project Assam as a tourist destination.

If not from Assam, one was lost in translation as most of the communication was in the Assamese language — from anchoring to thank you speeches — leaving tourists at the mercy of local spectators to translate almost each and every word.