Aamis references many things that find universal resonance – Bhaskar Hazarika
North East is brimming with talent; a home to several talented filmmakers with Bhaskar Hazarika being one of them. Bhaskar’s debut film Kothanodi was awarded the 2016 National Award for Best Film in Assamese and traveled across international film festivals like BFI London Film Festival, Goteborg Film Festival, IFFLA and MAMI.
Currently the filmmaker is working on his second film Aamis (Voracious), a contemporary story of two chaste lovers set in Assam. Produced by Poonam Deol from Signum Productions and Shyam Bora from Metanormal Motion Pictures, the film is one of the only two Indian projects selected at the Asian Project Market to be held in October in Busan, South Korea. While Aamis is currently in its pre-production stage, Pandolin spoke to Bhaskar about his inspiration behind the film, the universality of the subject that struck a chord with the Asian Project Market and what drives him as a filmmaker.
Aamis and your previous film Kothanodi are based on stories in Assam and were shot in Assam. What influence does the state have on your filmmaking?
I think you’re forgetting that I’m Assamese. This is like asking a Japanese filmmaker how that country influences his/her work!
I’m driven by the need to subvert the popular perception of cinema as a medium that offers an escape from the drudgery of life
Is there a particular genre you are drawn to?
I try to watch all kinds of films but am partial to the horror and sci fi genres. Films that explore nihilist ideas also attract me.
What was the inspiration behind Aamis?
The inspiration behind a film like Aamis is difficult to pinpoint. Several ideas from many people led to the development of the script. The story is an everyday love story that suddenly goes horribly wrong. The hope is that by the end of the film, audiences will empathize with people who make bad choices in love, instead of rushing to judge and condemn them.
Recognition, like love and respect, can’t be forced out of people
What according to you struck a chord with Aamis at the Asian Project Market 2017? Is there a universality in the subject, that people even beyond Assam/India can connect to?
Aamis references many things in its narrative that find universal resonance. Forbidden or taboo love is understood around the world and in all cultures. Aamis also taps into the peculiarities of romance in urban spaces. The relative anonymity and privacy afforded by cities gives rich textures to romance.
City life also leads to the emergence of strange perversions and kinks – for instance the sexual fantasy Vorarephilia, which basically involves dreaming up ways to be ingested whole by your lover. Such aspects of the story may have found appeal at the Asian Project Market.
On what basis do you cast for your films? Do you try and work largely with local talent?
I’m very new to fiction so it’s difficult to answer this question. I would imagine any actor who fits the character would get cast in a film. What is more important is to ensure that the actor becomes the character. In Kothanodi we tried to achieve that through an intensive week-long workshop.
Aamis is an everyday love story that suddenly goes horribly wrong
What drives you to make films? Have you formally trained in the art?
Right now, I’m driven by the need to subvert the popular perception of cinema as a medium that offers an escape from the drudgery of life, and should therefore be populated with feel good, happy content. This perception is particularly acute in India. But if you look at it, what is actually so miserable about the lives of most cinema audiences? They can afford to go to the cinemas, they all have a roof over their heads, eat three meals, have friends and family for support and laughter, live in relative security and freedom. If anything, they need an escape from the drudgery and numbness of their comfortable lives. I am hoping to offer this escape through stories that disturb and provoke.
North East is home to several talented filmmakers. How do you feel about the world recognizing your talent through these various film festivals?
A certain amount of recognition is always welcome and helps motivate filmmakers to carry on. This is true not just for North Eastern filmmakers but filmmakers around the world. But recognition, like love and respect, can’t be forced out of people.
Aamis also taps into the peculiarities of romance in urban spaces
Though the film is still in the making, what are your plans for it – film festivals, a theatrical release? What according to you would be the best way to take the film to the people?
My producers will chalk out the best way to take the film to audiences. My mandate is to deliver a good film, and I am focused on that right now.