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Assam film maker makes new venture

Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)’s newest production “Ishu” is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to a world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy-turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.

Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in Lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, this Assamese feature film is based on renowned Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel “Ishu”, and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.

The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting’ that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through they eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded as a ‘witch’ by the evil village “Bej” (quack) who conspires with another aunt to do so.

Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today’s times, “Ishu” is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu’s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.

The social evil of ‘witch hunting’ has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the state Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is still awaiting the President’s assent to become a law.

Several incidents of witch hunting has been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the state Assembly, 93 cases of witch-hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010 to 2015.

“However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats to subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it a U certification without any cuts,” says Borpujari, who believes that children’s films can affectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.

CFSI Chairman Mukesh Khanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from the society. "Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practicing social evils like 'witch hunting', we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development." 

"Movies like 'Ishu' bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in the society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,” he says. 


According to Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO of CFSI, "This is a highly sensitive film in which exploitation of people due to social evils such as 'witch hunting' is highlighted. The movie is informative, educative and throws light on the harmful effects of social evils practiced by people in the society. The movie tells the audience that such evils harm children and have an adverse effect on their psychology. Our attempt at CFSI has always been to focus on issues concerning children and their welfare." 


"I am happy to note that in Assam, a Bill to prevent social evils like "witch hunting” has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, and is awaiting President's assent. Let us hope that it would become a law soon." 


"This is the first feature film made by well-known film critic and documentary film maker Utpal Borpujari and we hope that children as well as elders will like it,” he says. 

Incidentally, the script of “Ishu” was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.

In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with a maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualized in Ishu, and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” says Borpujari.

The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and talented younger actors like Monuj Borkotoky, Dipika Deka and Nibedita Bharali. Others in the cast include Mahendra Das, Rajesh Bhuyan, Naba Kumar Baruah, Monuj Gogoi, etc.

Along with Kapil Garo, other child actors in the film include Mahendra Rabha, Srabanta Rabha and Uday Rabha. 

The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director Sukracharjya Rabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.

Several actors from the Badungduppa group, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.

It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and Madan Rabha and Basanta Rabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.

The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were Ghanshyam Kalita, Ronal Hussain and Monuj Borkotoky.

An M.Tech in Applied Geology from IIT-Roorkee, Utpal Borpujari won the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards of India in 2003. As a professional journalist, apart from cinema, he has written extensively on politics, society, culture, literature, etc., while working with some of India’s top media houses. Since 2010, when he decided to turn a filmmaker, he has made several acclaimed documentary films that have been screened across the world in various film festivals. Among them are “Mayong: Myth/Reality” (2012), “Songs of the Blue Hills” (2013), “Soccer Queens of Rani” (2014) and “Memories of a Forgotten War” (2016). Borpujari has also served in international film juries as an erstwhile member of the International Federation of Film Critics, apart from having served on juries for National Film Awards and Indian Panorama. He has also curated films as well as served as a consultant for the Northeastern sections in the International Film Festival of India as well as various other film festivals. “Ishu” is his debut fiction feature. He is currently developing scripts for a Hindi and an Assamese film.


ঈশ্বু: Duration: 91 minutes; Assamese; 2017

Produced by Children’s Film Society, India; Screenplay & Direction by Utpal Borpujari)

Adapted from: Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s novel “Ishu” 

Screenplay & Direction: Utpal Borpujari
Producer: Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)
Associate Director: Monjul Barua
Executive Producer: Jitendra Mishra
Cast: Kapil Garo, Tonthoingambi Leishangthem Devi (Manipur), Bishnu Kharghoria, Chetana Das, Pratibha Choudhury, Dipika Deka, Nibedita Bharali, Monuj Borkotoky, Basanta Rabha, Dhananjay Rabha, Manuj Gogoi, Naba Kumar Baruah, Mahendra Das, Mahendra Rabha, Uday Rabha, Srabanta Rabha
Editor: A Sreekar Prasad
Cinematographer: Sumon Dowerah
Music: Anurag Saikia
Sound Design: Amrit Pritam Dutta
Location Sound: Debajit Gayan
Sound Final Mixing: Hengul Medhi
Music Mixing: Bhaskar Sarma
Dialogues: Utpal Borpujari & Sukracharjya Rabha
Assistant Directors: Ghanashyam Kalita, Ronal Hussain, Monuj Borkotoky
Actors’ workshop: Pranami Bora
Sand Animation: Diganta Madhab Goswami


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Token strike by JNV employees of India

16 Nov 2009 - 2:25pm | Jayanta Kumar Das

The regular employees of JNV Darrang, Kalaigaon observed a token strike on November 16 under the banner of joint action committee of ‘Employees Forum of Novodaya Vidyalaya Samiti’ demanding GPF and pension facilities like other central government employees of India.They also demand introduction of CCS pension rules 1972 for the employees of JNV who had joined prior to 01.o1.o4.According to Paul Soren,Vice Principal of JNV Darrang and `president of Assam unit of AINVSA ( All India Vidyalaya Staff Association JNV employees had staged s’ Hunger Work Day’ on September 5 /09 demanding implementation of their demands. He said they also organized a mass rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on November 9 /09 on the occasion where more than 6000 employees of JNV India participated demanding to implement their long standing demands. He said that they also demand granting of 10% of special residential allowance to the non teaching staff of JNV India. According to R.K.Pandey, president of Darrang district unit of AINVSA all the employees of the JNV Darrang have sent post cards individually to Kapil Sibal,Minister Human Resource Development,India; Pranab Mukherjee, Minister, union Minister Home Affairs; sSonia Gandhi,UPA, chair person and Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary of INC.

However the normal functioning of the school was not interrupted as the contractual staff looked after the smooth running of the school. The employees of the JNV hopped that the government of India would listen to their grievances and some solutions would come out very soon.The employees observed the strike with slogans and play cards such as “Pension is our professional rights”;”Pension and special allowances need of the hour- in residential schools”;” 24 hour duty hence pension and special allowances”;”We want pension, implement GPF cum pension and 10% RA for non-teaching” etc.

R.K.Sinha,Media Secretary of AINVSA Assam unit told this correspondent that they would resort to indefinite strike from December /09 if their demands were not implemented.

Ever since I first saw the sky

27 Jan 2018 - 9:18am | Priyanka Das

Ever since I first saw the sky, I have been interested in Space. This dream has been the most effective motivating factor in my life so far; sometimes directly, for example when I put in every effort to get a chance to discover NASA's Jet Propulsion laboratory, and sometimes indirectly, like when I made the choice to do Physics over a course in art and design, my other passion. In this small article, I present my academic journey to the reader, in the hope that it might inspire some young people and show them a way of how to approach their dreams.

My parents, being from scientific profes­sions themselves, have had a big role to play during my upbringing in helping me cultivate the quality of being autonomous - I could always approach them comfortably for just about everything but my deci­sions were always my own. This sort of freedom gave me a sense of control over my life so I could really aim for the stars if I so wished. However, the most important contribution from them was, at the same time as being supportive, to be strict enough that I could differentiate between what I was privileged to have and what I had to get on my own.

School life

Like a lot of children I was interested in several things at the same time. With time I started to focus on a select few of these fields - including art, myviolin, dance, writing, sports and of course, science and puzzles - but they were still too many in number to give me a direction in life, worrying my parents. However that did land me the BestAll­rounder Award just before leaving school. Since I did rather well in competitive exams like the Junior Science Talent Search, and the National Science Olympiads, I felt encouraged to pursue a career in science. But deep down, I was an artist and I started getting really distracted by its nature during my teens. However, like it is in India, parental pressure made me focus on my studies again and after work­ing really hard during my 12th boards, the hardest I have ever worked for the sake of rote learning, I secured a 95%. It served as a trampoline for me, as it secured me a place at Stephen's College for an honors course in Physics, and my adventure in the exploration of science thus began (and my mother seemingly forgave me for messing up my IITJEE exam). Itwas a difficult decision at first because the National Institute of Design (NID) at Ahmedabad had also offered me a place, but sometimes choices have to be made.

St. Stephen’s College 

While at St. Stephen's, I realized that my aerospace dream could actually become a reality. I did my first summer internship at the Inter Uni­versity Accelerator Centre at Delhi where I studied the focusing properties of magnetic quadrupoles on a charged beam of particles. Seeing that particle physics involved similar principles as light optics, my perspective on Physics post-school started to mature. Pursuing my newly developed curiosity for optics, the following year I did an internship at the Photonics lab at IIT Delhi, on holography, a subjectthat I became obsessed with because itwas so artistic as well as scientific. In my final year, I was selected for a summer course in experimental physics at the Homi Bhabha Centre (HBCSE) orga­nized by TIFR Mumbai. My academic experience at St. Stephen's was thus quite rich and eventful. The fact that I turned up with very little preparation for entrance exams for masters like JAM, JEST and TIFR, and yet qualified with good ranks too showed that I had indeed enjoyed my bachelors and been a serious student. However, it did not mean that I felt satisfied as deep down I felt the need to explore more - not just academically but in what life had to offer in general.

École Polytechnique

Thus, encouraged by my professor Dr. Bikram Phookun, I jumped upon the opportunity to apply to École Polytechnique in Paris. École Poly-technique is one of the most prestigious schools in France, having produced several of the best French minds since the end of the 18thC, and it was given a military status by Napoleon himself in 1794. I men­tion this because people in India do not generally know much about France,exceptthat there is the Eiffel tower in Paris. Moreover, there are a lot of stereo­types about west­ern culture that are either baseless or unimportant, and some people I know were even skeptical of the term 'Polytechnic' itself. However, if we stay stuck to what people say and believe, we would never make progress ourselves. Thus, I would like to highly encourage students to apply to French universities like École Polytechnique. My parents were a bit troubled by the fact that it was a four year course; a master normally takes two years. But as Dr. Phookun told me, two extra years hardly makes a difference when we think about a career doing what we love. Moreover, the course at Poly‑technique gave us not just one internationally rec­ognized master in science and technology, but two of them, and the second year can be counted as a second bachelor. Thus it is quite far from a waste of time. My happiness knew no bounds when I received my acceptance letter! I had even received full scholarship and a paid flight to France. École proved to be the second major trampoline in my life. A new country, a new culture, and a plethora of opportunities. There was so much I could learn and do at the same time - I even took up fencing as a sport and competed at university level.

Space projects

Among all the cheese, travel, student associa­tions, parties and wine ­ great experiences when one is in their early twenties - I had not for­gotten my aerospace dream. In fact it was more alive than ever. In my first year at École, I participated in an event called ActInSpace, or­ganized by the CNES, the French Centre for Space Studies. Our team developed an origami-inspired design of solar panels around a space probe for ease of de­ployment in space, and won the first prize in the Paris region and made it to top 5 in France. The next year I was part of a team that made an actual microsatellite for the QB50 project, a mission for developing a network of CubeSats built by Universities teams all over the world to make a global map of the largely unexplored lower thermosphere. My work was on he communication channel between our CubeSat and our ground station. Our satellite was launched n May 2017 with the others from the International Space Station itself via the Atlas-V rocket, and it is still in orbit, transmitting atmospheric data. I have a piece of code in space!

Encouraged by the success of my proj­ects, I jumped at the opportunity of applying to the 2015 Caltech Space Challenge, organized by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in collaboration with scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). I really put all my effort and prayers into it, but I was still really surprised when I was named among the 32 selected from around the world! The challenge itself consisted of simulating the planning of a mission to send astronauts on an asteroid captured and put in an orbit around the moon by NASA's Asteroid Redi­rect Mission (ARM). It was not just all work and no play - we got a chance to visit JPL, play beer pong with NASA scientists, and have a good time! The experience overwhelmed me from a scientific perspective as I realized I was too young and inexperienced to be of any important service to an organization like NASA. This was when I decided that I needed to either do a PhD or work as a re­search engineer.

Brazil and Robotics

I did a research internship in my third year at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Needless to say it was another opportunity to experience a different culture at the same time as delving deep into a scientific field. I have always had a deep interest in Computer Science as it is a very versatile field with applications in every field, which is evident when we look at the way the world is becom­ing more technology based. I was starting to get interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomous Systems. My third year spe­cialization, and thus my first master degree from École Polytechnique, was in Data Science. In Brazil, I worked on a Real-time Indoor Localization System (RTILS), where I trained a system of trackers for automatically and fast localizing a robot with high precision using a particle filter. This internship also gave me a taste of the domain of autonomous navigation. By the end of the third year, I was looking for a PhD that would combine navigation, satellites, machine learning and AI, and give me some opportunities to travel and practice my art.

Supaéro and PhD

During my first year at École, I had learnt thatthere was a possibility of doing our 4th year as a double diploma exchange student at ISAE-Supaéro, France's top school in the domain of aerospace. When they came to present themselves at École Polytechnique, they took us on a visitto the campus of Safran, a leading aerospace company in Europe. 

There, we were greeted by Jean François Clervoy, an alumnus of both Polytechnique and Supaéro ... and a French Astronaut for the European Space Agency (ESA)! I had then a deep desire to study at Supaéro and one day work for Safran. As life turned out, I got accepted at Supaéro from where I recently earned my second master, in Aerospace Engineering with a specialization in Autonomous Systems, Decision Sciences and Robotics, and thereafter through a recruitment process, I got accepted for a PhD in collaboration with Safran.

So here I am, writing this article from my office computer at Safran. There are numerical simulations open on the other windows nearby. My PhD, to explain briefly, is on studying the navigation signals from satellite systems (like GPS) and fusing them with other physical navigation devices so that we can have a robust solution for a super precise position, of the order of centimeters. The GPS we use today from our phones is rarely more precise than at least a few meters. My research could have applications in autonomous cars and planes where a few centimeters can make the difference for sur­vival. Thus, I managed to get the PhD I had been wishing for, and now I strive to continue to pursue my Space dream!

In conclusion

Thus I conclude my article on my journey; however one cannot truly summarize a decade's worth of experiences, even of a young person, in a few paragraphs. If I made some things look easy, it's because I have not spoken of the constant ef­fort I had to put in - the countless emails I wrote, the amount of care I had to take to be aware of a maximum number of things going on without being overburdened by information, the effort it took to stay motivated when I was faced with failure and re­jection, learning to move on to new things, learning to overlook embarrassment and gain confidence, even health problems, and the very general ques­tions we face in our personal lives just because we are human. On the contrary if I made some things look difficult, I would just like the reader to real­ize that if you stop blindly obeying everyone, think with your heart and have the courage to act on your own instincts, nothing is truly impossible. Perhaps extremely difficult, but definitely not impossible.

Golds for Assam Karate players

Golds for Assam Karate players
16 Jun 2013 - 9:39am | AT News

Assam players won golds at the International Invitation Karate Championship 2013 held at University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka on June 9.

The winners are Manjit Dihingia – 2 Golds, Raju Kachari – 1 Gold, Dipu Tanti – 1 Gold and Sushmita Paul – 1 Gold. 

Manjit Dihingia