TEZPUR, Aug 3 - Different organisations including the Tezpur Sahitya Sabha, Ban Theatre family, Chattak, Asomiya Bhasa Unnati Sadhini Sabha, Sonitpur Journalists� Union, Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, Tezpur unit of AASU etc., observed the 45th death anniversary of cultural icon Natasurya Phani Sarma by observing his 45th death anniversary at the Tezpur Sahitya Sabha Bhwan here recently.
Paying rich tributes at the image of the �Natasurya,� the son of Phani Sarma, Ajit Sarma alleged that a time when the Government is taking a major initiative to keep alive the memory of Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha by giving a facelift to his crematorium as a spot of tourist attraction, with the allocation of a huge amount of funds, it is regrettable that the Natsaurya�s samadhisthal (crematorium) is lying in a most pitiable condition surrounded with weeds. He alleged that Phani Sarma who was an unmatched Assamese theatre actor, a playwright, film actor and director, beginning his career as a stage actor and appeared in the first Assamese film, Joymati in 1935, and acted in and directed Siraj in 1948 and Piyoli Phukan in 1955, is yet to get adequate recognition.
Speaking on his contribution towards Assamese culture, he said that the theatrical career of Phani Sarma began as a gate keeper of the women�s gallery of the prestigious Ban Stage here. Phani Sarma regularly went to the Ban Stage and closely observed the acting of a number of veteran actors like Indreswar Borthakur, Dr Lalit Mohan Chowdhury and Prafulla Borua. �This inspired the young Phani Sarma towards acting and had a deep impact on his future life. In 1928, he got an opportunity to act on the Ban Stage for the first time in the role of Akbar in the drama Rana Pratap. That was the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Phani Sarma.� He said that in 1930, Phani Sarma joined the Kohinoor Opera, the first mobile theatre group of Assam, started by Natyacharya Brajanath Sarma.
From Dhubri to Sadiya, from the north bank to the south bank of the Brahmaputra River, Kohinoor Opera performed dramas, attracting thousands of spectators who came to enjoy Sarma�s performance. Apart from initiating a theatre movement, the Kohinoor Opera introduced co-acting on the stages of Assam. In 1931, Brajanath Sarma, with the help of Phani Sarma introduced female actresses for the first time to appear in their drama productions at a time when male acting was completely dominant, revolutionising the nature of Assamese theatre. In 1933, Phani Sarma played a significant role in the first Assamese feature film Joymati directed by Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, where he played the role of the historical figure of Gathi Hazarika, the villain of the film. The acting of Phani Sarma in that role was a special feature of the film which was released in 1935, and Sarma went on to star in Agarwala�s second film Indramalati. In 1948 Sarma, along with Bishnu Rabha made a feature film Siraj, based on a popular short story written by Deshapran Lakshmidhar Sarma.
�In 1955 he directed and starred in Piyoli Phukan, playing the film�s protagonist Piyoli Phukan. His last film was Ito Sito Bahuto in 1963, where he appeared as an actor, rather than taking the director�s role. On the basis of a rebellion that took place during Ahom King Sunyeophaa�s reign, as described by renowned historian Dr SK Bhuyan in his book Konwar Bidroh, Phani Sarma wrote a historical drama Bhogjara. His first film Joymati had also revolved around historical events in the Ahom kingdom and its director whom Sarma had worked under, Jyoti Prasad Agarwala was the pioneer among such a new wave of dramatists. With local plots, he wrote a number of dramas like Sonit Kunwari, Karengar Ligiri, Lobhita, etc. On the basis of his own experiences as an actor and the sad news of the death of his son while acting on the stage, Phani Sarma wrote the social drama Kiya, a tale of an artiste who dedicated his own personal life and enjoyment to entertain other people with very little compensation from society.
In his speech, Ajit Sarma also expressed his serious concern over the Government�s lackadaisical attitude towards preserving the creations of the Natasurya.
The commemoration programme conducted by the central executive of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, Pankaj Baruah among others was attended by prominent actor, Bhula Kalita, historian Madhab Das, noted writer Mrinali Chetia, ex-president of Sonitpur Sahitya Sabha, Guna Kanta Baruah, vice- president of Ban Theatre Bankim Sarma, noted Assamese cine actress, Krishna Das Nath, president of Chatak (a drama platform) Anil Bhattacharya, Sanjib Hazarika and Manoj Kumar Saikia from the Sonitpur Journalists� Union, Pulin Bhattacharya, president of Asomyia Bhasa Unnati Sadhini Sabha, Biswajit Boro of the Sonitpur Sahitya Sabha among others.