GUWAHATI, Aug 24 - A few talented Guwahatians, who were players of repute in their early life, later became stars in the fields of literature, theatre and cinema. Their names if mentioned as players of much acclaim may sound bizarre for many people today. But this remains an undisputable fact that they were players of high repute in their early life. They include late Prabin Phukan, late Nip Barua and late Hiren Bhattacharyya, who respectively became famous as playwright, filmmaker and poet in their later life, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
Hazarika, who was speaking to this correspondent, said now majority of those who saw Prabin Phukan playing as a bowler with fiery pace, are not alive to tell the world how brilliant he was with the ball. Noted filmmaker Nip Barua was also a centre forward of high calibre, while Hiren Bhattacharyya, who was popularly known as Hiru Da, had two magnetic hands and it was virtually impossible for the erring batsmen of the opponent teams to escape him, whenever he was in the gully or slip positions. He represented Cotton Collegiate School and Cotton College. But it was because of his casual approach that he had to abandon cricket forever, Hazarika said.
Hazarika met Prabin Phukan, a scion of the Guwahati-based Ahom royal family, when the latter was residing at a rented house in Manipuri Basti area of Guwahati to know from him the details of his playing career. Besides being a dreadful pacer Assam has ever produced, Phukan was also a good centre forward. When Hazarika met Phukan, the latter had got his legs disfigured and that denounced his past as a player of repute.
Phukan told Hazarika as that initially, he (Phukan) was not aware of the great speed he had as a bowler. But in the 1930s, when he went to Cooch Behar as the captain of the Guwahati cricket team to play in an exhibition match with the Cooch Behar Maharaja's Eleven at the Cooch Behar Palace Ground, the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, who was the captain of the Maharaja Eleven, praised Phukan like anything. The Maharaja requested Guwahati team's leader Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi to leave Phukan under his custody.
Accordingly, Prabin Phukan stayed with the Maharaja and joined the Cooch Behar Victoria College. The Maharaja appointed an English coach to train Phukan and other members of his cricket team. But homesickness, and particularly the attraction of Uzanbazar, started disturbing Phukan and one fine winter morning he gave the Maharaja's guards a slip. In the process, he left his Eri shawl with a guard to give the impression that he was returning soon to the hostel.
After this incident, Phukan stopped playing cricket, except playing in the Christmas Festival Cricket Match and started writing stage plays. His popular plays include Maniram Dewan, Kal Parinoy, Assam Hollywood, among others. He also directed the films Parghat and Sati Beula and was a co-director of Lachit Barphukan. Late Lakshyadhar Choudhury was the other director of Lachit Barphukan, Hazarika said.
Nip Barua represented Assam in the Santosh Trophy for two consecutive years. But in 1953, following a knee injury he sustained in a Guwahati Football League match played at the Judges' Field, while playing for the Maharana AC, Nip Barua stopped playing and became absorbed in cultural activities. Barua was also a good volley ball player.