Education is a powerful tool with immense potential to change the world, but what do we do if people do not realize it? Boomba Ride, an IFFI 52 film in the Feature Film Category of Indian Panorama section is a movie which offers an arrestingly natural portrayal of the contradictions underlying the inefficiencies in the education system, especially in some rural pockets of the nation.
Explaining the fount of inspiration behind the film, Director Biswajeet Bora told film lovers at IFFI: “Through this film, I wanted to give a message to society as a whole, as to how education can play a huge role in transforming the lives of people in rural areas. I wanted to tell that schools in poor state, as poor as shown in the film, exist in rural Assam even today. Though the government has been extending all possible help, the people there, even the teachers, are not ready to take it seriously.”
Bora was addressing a Meet the Directors press conference today, November 22, 2021, on the sidelines of the 52nd International Film Festival of India, being held in Goa during November 20 – 28, 2021. He was accompanied by his wife and costume designer of the film Lopamudra Gogoi Bora, actor Hiranya Pegu from Assam’s Mishing community and Troy, son of the director-costume designer duo.
A seriocomic film, in other words a queer admixture of comedy on matters of grave importance, Boomba Ride is the story of the young boy Boomba, who is the only student at a primary school in Assam, located near the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The school teachers struggle to keep it afloat, Boomba being the only student in the school, and one at that who is reluctant to attend school. What adds the tragicomical touch of suspense to the story is that the teachers are motivated to sustain the school, only in the hope of continuing to benefit from the spoils they extract from government schemes like Mid Day Meal Scheme.
But a time comes when the school is on the verge of collapse. With his wisdom, Boomba saves his school, making all of them realise that what education can do to a society.
Tracing his journey about the making of the film, which is based on real-life events, Shri Bora said that the idea stuck him in 2003 when he saw a TV report on the same. “I immediately shared this idea with my mentor and noted filmmaker Shri Jahnu Barua, who gave the green signal after listening to the story line.” He added that the idea however did not fructify then. “I wanted to make it in Hindi, but due to some unfortunate reasons, that couldn’t materialise.”
The idea found newfound roots during the COVID-19 induced lockdown period. “My producer friends came forward during lockdown period, helping me realize the long-lost idea of making the film. My friends said let’s make a low-budget film, and since this idea was in my mind for years, we thought of giving it a shot.”
Agreeing that though budget constrains played a role in the decision to cast non-actors, Bora added that he wanted everything to be natural. “The film has been shot in Bormukoli village in Golaghat district in Assam where Mishing is the language for communication. We handpicked some people from there and trained them.”
Language posed a major hurdle in execution of the project, explained Bora. “We sought the help of people like actor Hiranya Pegu, who helped with translation. He would talk to the actors in Assamese, they could follow what he had said, and then translate it among themselves. Hiranya Pegu is a noted musician in Mishing community; at first, he was a part of the movie as translator, but later he became an actor in the movie by virtue of coincidence.”
Sharing some interesting anecdotes during the course of making the film, Bora said that he used to walk 3 – 4 kilometres per day to shoot the film, as there are no transportation in that part of the rural area still. “It was altogether a new experience as I was dealing with actors who haven’t even seen a theatre or cinema in their entire life. Even Indrajit Pegu who plays Boomba, was not aware of what I had shot about him.”
The idea struck him 12 years ago, but he has made the film only now; so, is the film still relevant? “The situation is still the same in those rural parts of Assam. I was surprised to see a school in the same state as I have visualised.” Revealing the persistent gravity of the problem, he added that even he sends his son to a convent school, and not to a government school.
Thanking IFFI for the world premiere of the film yesterday, Bora said that the people’s reaction was overwhelming. “People have appreciated the movie, and that means a lot to me. In fact, one lady delegate was so moved that she came up to me and asked whether she could hug me.”
Biswajeet Bora is a filmmaker, producer, editor and writer. His Hindi and Assamese films include ‘Aisa Yeh Jahaan’, ‘Bahniman’, ‘Raktabeez’, ‘Phehujali’, and ‘God on the Balcony’.