Pabitra Kumar Deka: the pioneer of professionalism in film writing in Assam.
Parthajit Baruah reflects on the pioneer, Pabitra Kumar Deka, whose seminal journal "Roopkar" sparked many fresh voices in cinema writing in Assam.
Pabitra Kumar Deka's (b. 29 Jan 1940) cultural journal Roopkar, which he launched in 1975 and ran until the early 1990s, is credited as the impetus for the rise of professionalism in cinema writing in Assam. This journal broke new ground in the field of culture since it gave many unheard voices of the late 1970s a platform from which to discuss films. As a result, it evolved into a significant source of motivation for many film critics.
In an interview with Deeksha Sarin, as published in The Hindu, 22 June, 2013, Utpal Datta said, “I came to the city of Guwahati. I met Pabitra Kumar Deka and suddenly my cultural interest developed with him, in his library and archive. It is purely my interpretation of Pabitra Kumar Deka, as I know him, as I want to remember him. I started film writing being inspired by him and his works as he is like a guru to me.”
In addition to his interest in theatre, creative writing, and journalism, Deka's passion for film ultimately propelled him to a different level of accomplishment. Deka was the president of the Assam Cine-Journalist Association until his death. The office of the Association, which was located in his own home, was frequently used for hosting a variety of activities, including cinema and theatre conferences, press meetings, seminars, film screenings, and other gatherings. In 1988, the Eastern India Motion Picture Association honoured Deka with the award for Best Film Critic. After his death in 2010, the Government of Assam introduced the Pabitra Kumar Deka Award for the State's Best Film Critic in recognition of his significant contribution to the development of film writing in Assam.
Film still: Pabitra Kumar Deka with Indra Bania in Halodhia Chorai bau Dhan Khai
Deka has written film books that have become indispensable resources for all film critics and film scholars in the state. Satuta Dosokor Asomiya Chalachitra (Seven Decades of Assamese Cinema) is a seminal work in the history of Assamese cinema and a labour of love for the author. His film-related works include Bhabendra Nath Saikiar Chalachitra, Bharatia Samantaral Dharar Sobi, and Bishwa Chalachitra (World Cinema). The most important fact is that Deka wrote such books at an era before the development of the internet. There was no such thing as Google back then, and we did not have everything at our fingertips like we do today.
Deka also penned the screenplays for a number of movies and TV shows, including Surjya Tezor Anya Naam, Hastir Kanya, Jakham, Tyag, and the series Aie Saharate, Tadanta, Dhaniramor Dhan, Sahu Aie, Hanumanor Sadhu, Nishar Nayak, etc. Jahnu Barua's Halodhia Chorai Bau Dhan Khai is just one of the several films in which he acted. During these times, Deka conducted interviews for All India Radio, Guwahati, with film celebrities such as Mrinal Sen, Bhabendra Nath Saika, Usha Mangeshkar, and others.
When Deka passed away on January 5, 2010, he was survived by his wife and two sons: Prantik Kumar Deka, an accomplished film critic, and Prodyut Kumar Deka, a lauded filmmaker.
Film critic turned filmmaker Utpal Datta made the 10-minute film By-lane 2 as a tribute to this remarkable individual. The author Pabitra Kumar Deka's works served as the inspiration for this film.