North eastern names of an Indian identity: director- cinematographer Parasher Baruah

parasher baruah assam

Hands on the camera so deft that ekes out such vision through its lens captivating indeed of not just the senses but also stirring of the soul, the photographic conjurings and cinematographic exploits of Parasher Baruah speak of a finesse not availed just about every other day. Instead, his skills are those of a quality impeccable, mimicking thus in production the ultimates of what makes for exalted accounts in sheer revealing, and relaying their excellence not just in the utterly realistic mode of panning but also in the very diverseness of mediums through which they have been able to manifest.

For it isn’t just artistic cinema and true life representation in documentaries and films that occur as the forte of the more than talented filmmaker and director and photographer and cinematographer Parasher Baruah who dabbles also with equal élan in the distinct domains of commercials and music videos and individual projects and social activism to deliver each time such photogenic images of reality that commands him the airs of residing in a space of supremacy which he does not inhabit just in his aesthetic possessing of vison but has in fact made that zone a characteristic of his identity through which is unleashed the true potential rested within.

parasher baruah cinematographer
Source: Twitter

It but is a testimony of his versatility that which one might argue should only be naturally accompanying of each other in catering to the larger pursuit of what plays out from screens whether it be the fancies of the commercial or the nuances of the artistic. But for those who know of the nuances that define either, it is but a matter of immense fulfilment to come to harbour in themselves the aptitude and knack for both, emerging by that measure as an artist true in their steeping of the craft they live through. And for Baruah, the case is one more than surely established in all his experienced expertise, in of course the immediately perceptible standard of his work no doubt but also in the validation that has followed in the form of several national and international awards and screenings for and of his ventures.

A graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India, this Mumbai based Assamese artist has been equally fluent in seamlessly transitioning through the worlds of Hindi language and regional cinema, managing to tell in either tongue provoking indeed stories of stark realities at some times and relevant still but fanciful and yet no less poignant tales in other instances. Chance upon his many a music videos of as much heartfelt rendition and the emotions play out each time as accurately and phenomenally to breathe into the music a life charming enough to romanticise but yet drawing upon and reminiscent even of what one lives indeed as part of their existence. No wonder with such dual dwelling in reality and in imagination alike, Parasher Baruah has more than often collaborated with the likes of artistes as Papon and Shreya Ghosal, to name a few.

In his films as well, Baruah tends to be no less effective in bringing out the true story whether that be in capturing the rawness of the characters or portraying the underlying emotions of them, transforming each frame into such magnificent premises wherein one discovers innumerable facets emerging from that singular narrative, in the phenomenally real settings that the physicalities of the set occur as, as well as in the all important playing of the faces and bodies of the beings to the camera such that the resultant wonder is one experienced as cinema in the truest sense of the term.

Selective no doubt in what he lends his vision and heart to, and that which helps perhaps his cause in devoting himself completely to the pursuit of what beckons him and what he in turn beckons through the focus of his lens, Baruah has been remarkable in crafting out what truly is art in each of the films he has been associated with. With projects as widely spread over the timeline of his career be it the 2008 Supermen of Malegaon or the 2020 Axone and Bahut Hua Samman and the intermediate but still more recent offerings of the 2019 Chappad Phar Ke and Nodir Kul Nai each displaying in diversity the range of what can be availed out of this talented filmmaker, his is a portfolio that shines through in such light equally resplendent but scattered still.

A similar play of variety peeks from the more frequent exploration that Baruah takes to along the realm of music, whether it be through music videos or music based travelogues or similarly musical television series and documentaries, for major labels and in regional capacities as well as in individual artist ventures alike. The man behind the picturisation and dramatic curation of some of the most notable music videos, particularly in recent years, his is a repertoire that converges indeed the reel and the real, dishing out some really incredible specimens in presentation that are true delights to watch and lose oneself in.

And yet, as impactful in his harkening back to matters more real and strikingly revealing at that is Baruah who has been particularly evocative in his documenting of the state of affairs of his homeland. With Assam, Parasher Baruah has been more than deliberate in bringing to fore the circumstances that characterise the north eastern state of India, specifically seeking out the region’s lifeline and threat flowing through the massively singular essence of the Brahmaputra and encompassing also its resident identity of the world’s largest river island of Majuli but not in such means and manners that would rob the flair of the artistic from that hard hitting tale of what is but the sad reality. With his 2017 documentary The Island of Shifting Fates and the short film Nodir Kul Nai that followed two years after, the filmmaker has been more than apparent in his concern for what shapes the current reality and future prospects of the state and the people who call it their home, even when they aren’t exactly as secure in this claim of their belonginess.

Nodir Kul Nai emerges as rather haunting in its rendition of a certain element of what characterise very much the entire existence of Assam. Depicting the lives of the people living on the banks of the Brahmaputra, particularly the community of Bengali Muslims owing their origins to that part of the once Indian classification that asserts today as the country of Bangladesh, referred to as Miyahs in much disapproval and ridiculing of their very being, this was a project made as part of the 2019 ArtEast Festival in Delhi and screened as an entry in the competition section of the 12th International Documentary and Short Films Festival in Kerala. The premise of the film might have been delving into the experience of those deemed as illegal immigrants but for Baruah the sentiments stirred would be somewhat personal.

Having found himself left out from the first published NRC draft that deemed him therefore as stateless, Nodir Kul Nai deals with the greater issue of identity with the more physically visible problem of displacement induced by the raging floods so characteristic of the Brahmaputra’s eking out for Assam a way of life most impacting the rural masses and the lesser privileged folks of the state. Shot on the chars of the Brahmaputra that despite all their transient nature in existence dawning doom upon those who seek shelter there manage still to stand out as serene locales in picture perfect indeed an appeal, the film is no doubt a delight to partake of in its visual experience.

That however does not space out the real intent built therein with the larger issue addressed interestingly also in similar an imbuing of the artistic essence. Spanning as a heartfelt musical tale of a grim reality, relayed through real songs and tunes of those who strum these hums as essential elements embedded into their existence, the film emerges as a raw specimen in regional depiction left untouched even by the technical necessities of post production and editing and built just around a candle lit ‘ambience’ but for the brilliance of Baruah who manages every time to capture just adequately the exact emotions and feels of what characterise the moment and Nodir Kul Nai flows as a medley itself of immense beauty derived from the not so beautiful facet of existence.

That reality is skewed is a fact of life that could not have been asserted in any more straightforwardness than what the immensely talented Parasher Baruah manages to do in his perhaps most poignant of ventures, and that is something whichresonates also along the lines of his other narratives in comparable capacity. Call to mind his 2009 documentary Waste about the lives of rag pickers in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum area that Baruah directed after winning a fellowship with InfoChange India and the power of what he manages to achieve through the vision of his lens radiates indeed in it being selected for screening at the Munich International Film Festival (Munich DocFest) that year.

That Waste followed the much touted and globally successful indeed film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, which Baruah does not consider much of an insight into Dharavi as against what it claimed to be given his own experience of the place gained as a result of an association with the Dharavi Project, makes this documentary stand out as even more important a composite part in his anthology of work perhaps for its standing in the same context as envisioned by a more visible and global undertaking. And that sums up perhaps also the entire work ethics of Baruah- or of his dedication to his craft rather- which he worships and reveres to such extent so as not to taint it with a not exactly true assertion of reality even when that might make it less (commercially) viable. The artistic acclaim follows unhindered though and that exactly is what Parasher Baruah endeavors for in each of his films- something that he has managed also to accrue to him every single time.

For all his exploits in cinematic rendition though- and to exemplary extents of it, it might be easy to overlook the command that Baruah exerts over every single aspect of the photographic realm. But for someone who has been photographing all life long, Baruah’s portraits are bound to come across as such pictures that speak indeed a thousand words- or even more. Seeped equally in the essence of reality, so as to depict things and beings and identities in images dramatic only in the vision of their capturing and not in the elements superimposed on them to eke out influences of a whole different dimension altogether, are his images that also have found widespread coverage.

parasher baruah director
Source: Cinestaan

Whether it be the photography and art exhibit An Ode To Bamboo that was a part of the 2018 edition of the ArtEast Festival in Delhi relying in part on his more than frequent muse of the bamboo and its associated uses courtesy of course his common encounter with it as a north easterner or miscellaneous many such captures of remarkable exposure and essence and everything published in journals like International Gallerie,Seminar etc, Baruah’s handling of the camera has never failed to attract attention. The worthy son of the illustrious late Pradeep Kumar Baruah of Dibrugarh, himself a cinematically inclined individual and the man behind the production house Ava Films, Parasher Baruah has done well indeed to not just carry forward his father’s legacy in immense pride but also in achieving milestones of his own. A TEDx YOUTH speaker as well, Baruah’s is an identity deriving from many a strands of his talented recognition that he has made sufficiently good use of. Here’s a khati Axomiya, a proud north easterner and an equally humble Indian creating a world of difference and making an impact through it globally in such measures that only the lofty explorings of cinema could otherwise fantasise as an expression in reality.