Documentary highlights unique mask-making tradition of Assam's Majuli

New Delhi, Apr 1 (PTI) Majuli is famous as the world's largest inhabited river island and also for its xatras or Vaishnavaite monasteries but over the years, it has also been keeping alive the mask-making tradition of Assam that is the theme of a new documentary.
    "Mask Art of Majuli", scripted and directed by National Award-winning filmmaker Utpal Borpujari, was screened at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) here on Friday.
    The 55-minute Assamese film with English sub-titles recently bagged the Bronze award in the best documentary category at the Northeast Film Festival in Mumbai (March 24-26).
    Borpujari said as a filmmaker, his endeavour has been to tell various stories from Northeast India.
    "The mask art is one subject that I wanted to document since it's an intrinsic part of larger Assamese culture, yet a dwindling one," Borpujari, whose other films include "Ishu", "Memories of a Forgotten War", "Mayong: Myth/Reality", and "Songs of the Blue Hills", told PTI.
    He hoped the film would play a role, even if a small one, in making mask art visible in the outside world.
    Produced by North East Regional Centre (NERC) and IGNCA, the cinematography is by Chida Bora and music by Sourav Mahanta.
    It has also been selected for various festivals like 29th Festival International Cinemas d'Asie, Vesoul, France, 11th Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival, 6th International Folklore Film Festival, Thrissur, and 2nd Indie8 Documentary Film Festival, Shillong.
    The numerous xatras of Majuli are not only religious places of great significance but also form the heart of Xatriya culture that was created by 15th century saint, poet, playwright, social reformer and cultural icon Srimanta Sankardeva.
    One key element of the Xatriya culture is the mask that is worn by performers during Bhaona, which are dance dramas that tell stories primarily from the Ramayan, the Mahabharat and the life of Lord Krishna.
    These masks or 'mukha' as they are called in Assamese represent an intricate art form, and artisans create them in a unique and totally organic way using biodegradable material.
    This film creatively documents the mask art form of Majuli, focusing on the only two families that are keeping the practice alive at the Natun Chamaguri Xatra, including award-winning mask maker Hem Chandra Goswami.
    The other family that is practising this dying art is of another Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee master mask maker, late Kosha Kanta Deva Goswami.
    Both the families are related and belong to the Chamaguri Xatra, established by one of Sankardeva's four sons Chakrapani Aata.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)