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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Young film maker from Assam brings in social change through theatre

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SalamatRaho presents the story of Okhrang, a young filmmaker from Assam.  His goal is to bring changes to society through theatre. Globalization has brought changes to the cultural taste of the people in the state. The theatre is losing its artistic value. Theatre has given a unique identity to the state of Assam. People like Okhrang are trying to revive this dying art. 

Also Read: Volunteer Projects Archives – Nomad Lawyer

Assam- largest state of North East, accessible, with its sprawling tea gardens. Land that could mesmerize you with its mystery, mythology, and magic. There are many tribes in Assam. The greater Kachari group forms a major part of Assam with 19 tribes. Bodo is one of the largest tribes.

Boros is officially identified as “Boro, Borokachari” scheduled tribe. Boros speak Boro language, which is one of the 22 languages recognized by the Indian constitution. The Boro along with other ethnic groups of Bodo-Kachari peoples are prehistoric settlers who are believed to have migrated at least 3000 years ago. The Bodo-Kachari were also some of the first people to grow silkworms and produce silk material and were considered to be advanced in rice cultivation in Assam during this time period.

Most of them are settled, farmers. Bodo group of people had migrated into Assam since 1000 B.C. and were dominant in Assam until about 1825. The Bodoland Territorial Region is an autonomous region in Assam. The Bodoland Territorial council accord was signed in 2003, which was the beginning of a new era.

The Bodo land movement is the result of the socio-economic disparities which  make them feel victims of suppression. The uneven development that took place from the colonial times, left the locals dissatisfied. The educated sections of the Bodo tribes have started raising their voice against this disparity.

It was time for the young generation of the Bodo tribe to come forward to protect their heritage and culture before it becomes extinct. One such young Bodo blood responded to this call –  M. Okhrang Boro – Okhrang means the sky. 

Okhrang’s inspiration- his Aai

Okhrang grew up in a village called Banguri in the town Tamulpur, BTAD. Assam. He spent his childhood like any other child of a Bodo village playing football of orange, batha, gheela, fishing, playing bride and bridegroom, and other traditional games. He used to bathe in the Mothanga river and used to build houses with sand. Writing poetry and  songs was a long time hobby.

Also Read: The Story of Namghar – Bharali Namghar, Nagaon, Assam – Nomad Lawyer

His greatest support and inspiration was his Aai, his mother. He lost his father at a young age and his mother worked in paddy fields to feed and educate Okhrang. She used to sell homemade wine and do pig farming to survive.  

Okhrang say “I never saw her asking anything to anybody for free even in the toughest days of life.”

 He did his schooling in the village government school, then I joined Rangiya College. His mother managed to provide the education that Okrang dreamt of. That is why he feels indebted to his Aai and has tremendous respect for women’s will power and mental strength.

Path to protect his tribal roots

During his growing up years, he was extremely aware of his roots and his Bodo tribe. rights.  He realized early that he would have to be part of the movement to protect his heritage. He was strongly influenced by the political unrest and especially, unfair treatment of women in Assam.  His mother always stood up for him, hence he felt he had to stand by the right of his people and create awareness amongst the youth to bring about change.

Acting opened pathways to fight for his causes

Acting was a huge fascination and fortunately, he got a chance to work with theatre groups and meet like-minded people. In his twenties, he went to Mumbai for a job. And coincidently, his village friend introduced him to National award winning Assamese film maker Jahnu Barua. Okhrang assisted him in two films – Bandhoon and Ayeyo.  The seed for a long association with the silver screen was established.

 After two years, he decided to return back to his village.  He was deeply influenced by the work of dramatist Himangshu Prasad Das. What appealed to him was his commitment to both experimentation and popular entertainment. He started acting and writing for plays which were socially relevant and created awareness about his tribe and various burning political and social issues. He got the youth together and founded his theatre group in 2015 and performed his first play “Who are we?”  in Rabidra Bhawan, Guwahati.  It explores the modern identity crisis in times of rapid social change. After that he performed 4 more plays including the Bodo adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A midsummer night’s dream”.

In 2017, he established a drama centre called SWRJINI PHUNGKHA in the backyard of his house where every year, on 5 November, they have been organizing a competition called “Burkhang One Act Play Competition ”. The focus of most plays was raising and highlighting issues which affected his people, religion, culture and superstitions etc. Slowly, the awareness was created amongst his people and he was one of the catalysts.

Stepping into filmdom to create a larger impact

Stepping forward from theatre to a larger silver screen was an ambitious plan. Yet, Okhrang never faulted. He quotes “To achieve success, you’ve got to use every day as a chance to enhance, to be better, to get closer to your goals. But the simplest part is, the more you accomplish, the more you’ll want to try to take risks. So as long as you’ve got the hunger for fulfilment, you’ll always have the facility within you to realize it.”

He took a huge move forward and arranged the funds and produced a film. For a little village boy who grew up on a farm in Bodoland, making a full-fledged, socially relevant movie was a great feat.

Okhrang says “I would not be able to explain it in words but I strongly believe that movies can play an important role, to make people think and I feel that the society I belong to, has stopped thinking. I want society to learn to ask questions to the ruling class. Perhaps that is why I am a cinemaholic.”

The struggle always accompanies the risk takers.

Okhrang admits –“struggle has no ending, after almost 4 years of struggle, I have made my first film but now struggling to release it officially.”

He plans to send his film to national and international film festivals someday. He believes this an effective medium to mould public opinion and people of BTAD will easily relate to this.

He is now trying to get a good producer for his next low-budget film. Till then the struggle will go on. But he never loses hope. This is the inspiration he gives to the youth who come to his theatre centre.

The subject of his film, as expected, was – social, political, satire, realistic. The story reflects social issues, the dark side of society, especially political issues. The purpose is to awaken the youth and ignite the energy in them to stand up for what is right.

When asked why these subjects are used in his plays and movies, he says ‘because I love my society.  I want all to live with equal and democratic rights, I want all to live with self-respect and dignity. I want to protest against all the odd things happening to the poor class by the ruling class.”

Future looks bright for the Bodo community

In the future, Okhrang wants to develop local tourism. When more and more theatre personalities visit his village, and participate in his mission to create awareness through theatre and movies. Slowly change will come in the mind-set of his people. He would like to organize a one-act play competition on a larger scale and have a festival soon. This gives a platform to the youth to showcase their talent and have a progressive attitude. People will see the internal parts of Bodoland and the revenue will be used towards the development of his region and create more employment opportunities. It is commendable to see how the younger generation of the Bodo tribe are thinking positively and working towards a change, along with maintaining their culture and heritage. Hope more and more people like Okhrang come forward to save, conserve and protect their communities. For Okhrang, as his name suggests, the sky’s the limit.

Okhrang – the sky [email protected]

Team NomadLawyer salutes the inspiring journey of social change through theatres! 

TELL US YOUR STORY AT:  [email protected]

What is SalamatRaho

Team NomadLawyer’s ambition is to positively impact the world through the stories of HumanKind. We believe in the art of storytelling. Through “Salamat Raho ”, we are creating a database for social good in the form of “Impact Stories”, which will help us achieve our goal and reach out to the world at large. By contributing through your stories and experience you create a significant impact on the community and an exceptional experience for yourself. Visit the NomadLawyer portal at nomadlawyer.org and you can also get in touch with us at [email protected] We will use hashtag #SalamatRaho for the series.

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