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Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond: History of Assamese Cinema: Parthajit Baruah’s New Book

January 8, 2022 | By

Parthajit Baruah’s new book, Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond: History of Assamese Cinema is published by Krantikaal Prakashan, 2021. The book was released by Satyashree Agarwala, daughter of Jyotiprasad Agarwala on 29 Dec, 2021 at Nagaon Press Club. Dr. Subrate Jyoti Neog spoke about the book.

Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond - History of Assamese Cinema book_release

The author Parthajit Barua and others at the book release event

Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond: History of Assamese Cinema explores the journey and struggle of Jyotiprasad Agarwala as a filmmaker while making the first Assamese film Joymoti (1935) and second film Indramalati (1939). It is the first comprehensive book on the history Assamese cinema that looks at the background and foreground from Joymoti (1935) to the present time.

The book is significant for many reasons –  Jyotiprasad Agarwala, who made the first Assamese film Joymoti (1935), submitted a film script titled The Dance of Art at UFA, Berlin in 1930, which would have been the first talkie in India. But in the narratives of Indian cinema, Jyotiprasad Agarwala’s name has not been mentioned as one of the pioneers of Indian cinema. This book is the first book in English to discuss in details his days at the University of Edinburgh and UFA, Berlin.

Parthajit Baruah told Silhouette Magazine, “Jyotiprasad Agarwala made tremendous contribution to the growth of Indian cinema. But sadly, in spite of his tireless efforts to give a new meaning to Indian cinema, has not received due recognition as one of the pioneers of Indian cinema. Jyotiprasad, who wanted to construct a new cinematic aesthetic through his film Joymoti (1935) that displays the socio-realistic aspect of Assam, had chosen Bholaguri Tea Garden, a remote place in Assam, to make films. Unlike his contemporary Indian filmmakers who wanted to make films to entertain people, Jyotiprasad acknowledged cinema as a powerful cultural and aesthetic medium, and used it as a tool for projecting the Assamese cultural identity.”

The Foreword ‘Passion and Knowledge’ is written by Italian film critic, Massimo Lechi. 

An excerpt:

“From Dibrugarh to Edinburgh, from the UFA studios to the Bholaguri Tea Estate, from ancient Hindu philosophy to the invention of the cinematograph, from ancestral Asian musical traditions to the creation of modern film institutions in post-Independence India, this brand new history of Assamese cinema spans over centuries and covers with admirable ease the huge geographical and cultural distances that separate the Indian sub-continent from Europe, as well as the common threads that tie them together in cinema and in the arts in general. It tells a story full of pioneering – and therefore highly inspiring – figures and quickly evolving technologies, of individual artistic failures and collective cross-cultural contaminations. A story whose core, I believe, is not, as the title may suggest at first glance, the great Jyotiprasad Agarwala – the relentless dreamer, the ambitious Renaissance man behind the milestones Joymoti and Indramalati – or any of the talented film directors who followed his path, but Assam. Assam the faraway, peripheral Indian state, still relatively unknown to foreign travelers and somehow overshadowed by its noble neighbor, Bengal. Assam with its evocative folk songs structured on pentatonic scales and its fertile rural landscapes, home to a beautiful, fascinating hybrid culture, in which film – the hybrid art form par excellence – unsurprisingly found ways to root and reshape itself during the first half of the 20th century.

In recalling the life of the genius who fathered the Assamese film industry and in depicting in detail the trends of the region’s current production, Parthajit has managed to combine the patience of the experienced researcher with the enthusiasm of the hungry cinephile. The book you are about to read is the work of a passionate man genuinely committed to his native land and its history. And to his mission…”

Filmmakers and film critics on the book

‘Parthajit Baruah belongs to that new generation of film critics and scholarly film historians who make Assamese people proud of their hoary heritage be it Cinema or culture in general. He is the kind that would not hesitate to put in any amount of search and struggle to get at the truth of the matter he is dealing with. With a high degree of awareness and knowledge of life lived in Assam, he is chronicling and analyzing the birth, growth and flourish of Assamese cinema in this book. This authentic new book on Jyotiprasad Agarwala is well worth studying and preserving.’

~ Adoor Gopalakrishnan


‘Situated in a remote corner, it was next to impossible for Assam and the Assamese to start its cinematic journey in the early 1930s. All credit goes to Jyotiprasad Agarwala and his passion for filmmaking. Parthajit portrays the difficult but incredible journey of Jyotiprasad in his new book “Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond.” Personally, I am astounded with delight to see Parthajit’s exploration of Jyotiprasad Agarwala and the early years of Assamese cinema.’

~ Jahnu Barua


‘Parthajit Baruah has done a remarkable, very informative book on Assamese cinema with notable comments on the films he writes about. It is a highly creditable and readable account of the birth and development of the cinema in Assam. He deserves our high praise and gratitude for this.’

~ Aruna Vasudev


‘Parthajit Baruah is a noted film scholar and documentary filmmaker based in Nagaon, Assam. “Jyotiprasad, Joymoti, Indramalati and Beyond: History of Assamese Cinema” is the first ever book in English that charts the history, length, breadth and depth of Assamese cinema, a long-marginalized segment of Indian cinema that needed highlighting to reach out to an international readership. Broken down into eleven chapters, the book devotes several chapters to Joymoti, the first Assamese feature film and to its director Jyotiprasad Agarwala of whom we need to know much more than we do. The book lucidly contextualizes the historical, political, cultural and sociological evolution of Assamese cinema and will fill a large vacuum in the knowledge base of Indian cinema in general and Assamese cinema in particular.’

~ Dr Shoma A Chatterji


‘Parthajit Baruah brings his customary rigour and deep understanding to this fascinating history of Assamese cinema. Brimming with nuggets of information, the book wears its exhaustive research lightly. A must-read for all lovers of Indian cinema.’

~ Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri


Contents of the book

  • FOREWORD: Passion and knowledge
  • INTRODUCTION: Assamese Cinema: Early Stage
  • CHAPTER ONE: Assamese cinema: From Performing Arts to Cinema
  • CHAPTER TWO: Jyotiprasad Agarwala: The Father of Assamese Cinema
  • CHAPTER THREE: The Background Story of Joymoti
  • CHAPTER FOUR: Joymoti: The first feature film in Assam and North-east
  • CHAPTER FIVE: Indramalati: The Second Assamese Feature Film
  • CHAPTER SIX: Assamese Cinema: Regional, International Map and Beyond
  • CHAPTER SEVEN: Other Assamese Cinema
  • CHAPTER EIGHT: P.C. Barua: Why did Barua not make an Assamese film?
  • CHAPTER NINE: Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s Films: A Critical Look at His Films
  • CHAPTER TEN: Female Film Directors from Assam:  Paradigm shift in Cinematic  Spaces
  • CHAPTER ELEVEN: New Film Policy in Assam: a Ray of Hope
  • CHAPTER TWELVE: Shakespeare and Assamese Cinema
  • CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Othello, the first Assamese film on Shakespeare
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • Photographs

About the author

An alumnus of Fergusson College, Pune, Parthajit Baruah is an Indian member of FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics). He authored a book on the legendary Indian filmmaker, Adoor Gopalakrishnan titled Face to Face: The Cinema of Adoor Gopalakrishnan in 2016, published by Harper Collins. The book won the Best Book in Cinema at the State Film Award, Govt. of Assam. He won the Prag Channel Film Critic Award for his book Chalachitror Tarango (Film Theory). He did research projects at the National Film Archive of India, Pune – one on the distinguished filmmaker- Jahnu Barua: Cinema with a Vision (2018) and the second one is Narrative of Assamese Cinema (2017).

Baruah presented his research papers on film at several international conferences such as London, Queens’ University, Belfast, Ireland, Dubai. As a part of his research he had been at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He was invited as the guest speaker and also guest faculty at the MAHE University, Dubai, UAE in 2019. He contributed an article Regional Reflections: Shakespeare in Assamese Cinema for the book Shakespeare and Indian Cinema, edited by Dr. Poonam Trivedi and Dr. Paromita Chakravorty published by Routledge Publication. Baruah has made several documentaries like The Dhemaji Tragedy, Reema Panging, Laxmi Orang- Rising from the Grave, Nagaon- a Land of Diversity, NF Railway- Lifeline of NE people, Dinner with Vivek, Chiaroscuro, Breaking the Silence and The Children of God. They have won multiple awards and are selected in the competition section at several national and international film festivals such as 13th IDSFFK, SIGNS, Kolkata International Film Festival, Lacorne International Film Festival, Paris International Film Awards, Georgia Documentary Film Festival etc.

He served as the juror at many international film festivals. He has been regularly writing film reviews for the national newspapers such as The Hindu, The Assam Tribune, The Sentinel etc. He is the founder of the Sunlit Studio Film Club, a film society that promotes good, serious and meaningful cinema in North-East India.

More to read

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Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee – Two Reviews

Guide, The Film: Perspectives – A Very Well-Crafted Treasure of a Book

The Filmic Journey of Mrinal Sen

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