A throwaway scene from Goutom Ghosh’s ‘Abar Aranye’ (2003), an official sequel to Satyajit Ray’s more well known ‘Aranyer Din Ratri’ (1970), where the characters from the previous film, now married and older, with children, return to the same forest, now more politically volatile, infested with naxalite revolutionaries.
Unlike the previous film, which was subtle, and took its time to unfold, and more reticent, Ghosh’s film is politically aware; there are several political themes, one of them being colonialism, and how the so called Indian democracy has become the same for some as it was during the British era.
So, we have two men talking about tea, and tea plantation, and how the British came to plant tea in Assam, and one of the characters mentions Maniram Dewan, and calls him the first martyr for the tea industry. Then, without telling the full story, the film moves elsewhere.
But how inadequate is the description for Maniram Dewan. Tea was just a part of his multifaceted personality; he was the state’s first ‘shaheed’, of course. But, he was also a beacon of hope, for the Assamese people, a symbol of indomitable will, still strong, still alive, especially in the memory of the film that another great Asomiya, Bhupen Hazarika, directed. The film contains one of Hazarika’s well known songs, ‘Buku hum hum kare’...