as the River flows : A Prologue

January 1, 2010 6 By Fried Guest

Independent filmmaker Bidyut Kotoky has his own production house, dhruv creative production. His documentary, Bhraimyoman Theatre—where Othello sails with Titanic, which was produced by IN2 Infotainment India in association with dhruv creative, got a Special Jury Mention in the 53rd National Film Awards. Bidyut has written and directed a his maiden feature film, ‘as the River flows’, which was which was mentored by the famed Binger’s Film Lab of Amsterdam. He also attended Rotterdam Film Festival’s producer lab on Jan 2009.

Apart from as the River flows, Bidyut is presently also involved in another docu-venture titled ‘Of many lives’ that is based on the Buddhist belief of reincarnation.

When he is not making films, Bidyut loves to do still photography,travel, read and play cricket.

‘I do not enjoy writing at all. If I can turn my back on an idea, out there in the dark, if I can avoid opening the door to it, I won’t even reach for a pencil.’

– Richard Bach

I completely identify with these lines. Honestly, I hate to write…So when Pramathesh mailed to me requesting for a write up, my first instinct was to look for an excuse and say no. But then, something inside told me that if I have demanded from these guys their support for my film ‘as the River flows’, they also have a right over me to demand a write up from me for their noble venture…

So here I am. He had given me complete freedom on the subject I want to deal with in my write up, thus making it even more difficult for me! I end up asking myself, ‘why would anybody approach me today for a write up?’ I still remember the day less than two years ago, when I got to read on the net that I was honoured with other dignitaries in Rabindra Bhawan Guwahati by the govt. of Assam for winning a special mention in the 53rd national film award for my documentary ‘Bhraimoman Theatre – where Othello sails with Titanic’ . The only glitch – I was very much in Mumbai when the supposed facilitation was happening! Latter on, I was told that I could not be contacted by the organizer because nobody knew where to look for me….So if today somebody want me to write an article as a guest, it is only for one reason –‘as the River flows’. I don’t have an identity today beyond that film and it is only natural that if anybody want to read any of my writing (which I still doubt), it will be mainly because of that film…So perhaps I could use this time to bask in the reflected glory – at least till the time the film is out and hopefully, not rejected by people…

How it all started? In the late 90s, I had got a few opportunities to visit the river island of Majuli to shoot a couple of documentaries. And somehow, I developed a strange attraction for the place…something which cannot be easily explained in words…something I never experience till then or since, with any other place… That was just after the time the tragic disappearance of Sanjay Ghosh had taken place from Majuli. And like any other visitor, many a time I used to talk to different people of Majuli about him. Unofficially. And without any agenda – just plain curiosity. What people had to say about Mr. Sanjay Ghosh – a person I never met, left a strong impression on my subconscious mind.

Almost half a decade later, when I sat down to write my first feature film, I realised that the research for the same has already been done…unknowingly. Let me clarify one thing right here – ‘as the River flows’ have nothing to do with the disappearance of Sanjay Ghosh. The film is NOT based on his life. I hardly know anything about him to even think of attempting a film on his life.

I met his wife Sumita Ghosh in Delhi before starting the film to clarify the same thing. My take on this is simple – if a person like Sanjay Ghosh existed, then somebody like Sridhar Ranjan – the protagonist of my film – could also have existed in Majuli. True, the film is inspired by the unfortunate disappearance of Sanjay Ghosh – but inspiration ends there. The entire story is totally fictitious – having no connection to any person dead or alive…

So what is the film is about? The film is about people like you and me. The people who are caught in the cross fire…

Whenever we talk of terrorism, we know the point of view of the terrorists. After all, they survive on propaganda. The people opposing them also have no option but to counter those propagandas, so we know about their point of view as well. But what gets lost in this crossfire of propagandas is the point of view of the common man – in spite of being the vast majority, they have long lost their voices.

This, unfortunately, is true in any place that faces the problem of terrorism– whether it is Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kashmir or Assam. Yes, in this film I’m talking about Assam as I know her better than any other place. But the story of ‘as the River flows’ could very well have been a story in any part of this world. The story of my films protagonist Sudakshina could very well have been my story. Or yours.

The film is an attempt to ask a few questions which has been bothering me for quite some time. After all, if we don’t ask those questions, then who will? We may not have answers to these questions, but does it mean that we are not even entitled to ask the questions?? As long as my questions reaches a few like minded people forcing them to think, I would consider that my journey has started on the right direction…

As any first time film maker will vouch, the process of churning out your first film is much, much more difficult than one imagined. ‘as the River flows’ is no different…after countless rejection by producers who had found the subject matter interesting but too volatile to commit themselves, National Film Development Corporation(NFDC) had stepped in. First they wanted to come as co-producer, with Kerala Film Development Corporation (KFDC). However, at the last moment I realised that KFDC’s participation comes with a rider. As they will participate by providing mostly contribution in kind rather than cash, the film required to be shot in Kerala rather than Assam… Well, I was desperate to make my first film, but not that desperate…. Finally, after yet another wait, NFDC decided to come in as sole producer and it was decided that the film will be made on two languages – ‘as the River flows’ in Hindi and ‘ekhon nedekha nadir xhipare’ in Assamese. Looking back, it appears that the wait was worth it…

However, I will be only sure once the film is released and the audience gives their acknowledgement ….

Bidyut Kotoky

p/s – you can join the facebook group ‘as the River flows’ or follow the blog . to keep yourself abreast of the development of the film.

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