Fighting the odds


What is it that makes a person stand out from the rest? What is that quality that separates the men from the boys, the winners from the usual lot? A tough question this, surely. But looking at the life sketches of the personalities featured here in these pages every week, one thing is clearly discernible in the life all of them. And that is faith – faith in His power and grace, and confidence and belief in his or her own abilities. After all, didn’t somebody say that faith can move mountains?

I don’t know about mountains but I do know that belief and faith can indeed bring about change – change in life, in perceptions, our attitude and outlook, et al. Instances of it are spread across the course of history for if certain men, confident about their own selves and abilities, had not dared to go against some of the established dictums of life, then mankind’s pace of progress and development would have had been markedly much slower. Talking about faith, confidence and courage, we remember legends like Albert Einstein – a man whose determination to overcome his slow verbal development and whose rebellious attitude towards conventions and life led to his emergence as one of the most creative scientists to have been ever born in this world.

A similar story of faith can be found in the tinsel world of our State Assam, whereby a young man dared to rebel against conventions and push forth his own ideas. He battled criticism from several quarters, to the extent of being mocked upon, but ultimately emerging successful in the end. Now before proceeding further, let me reiterate that in no way am I comparing this man with Einstein. But the courage and determination exhibited by him did bring about a change, however small it may be. And this kind of an attitude, I believe, surely needs to be saluted by one and all.

To start from the beginning, in the last decade of the twentieth century, when film editors often had to compromise performance for price, a company from Los Angeles introduced into the Indian market a editing product called ‘SlingShot’. SlingShot was basically designed to bridge the gap between digital video and digital film editing. Indian filmmakers, however, were wary of this new software and almost all of them rejected it, saying that editing simply could not be done with it. The mood of the moment had been perfectly captured in the memoirs of critic Barry Silver, who in his visit to Assam during that time had noted, “You can’t make films with SlingShot was the view many heard in Guwahati, the capital of Assam.”

But those people in Guwahati and the country were wrong. In Guwahati emerged Studio Brahmaputra, a professional digital non-linear studio for film and video editing. The studio’s chief editor at that time, Manas Adhikari, went on to prove a point by buying SlingShot to use on the film productions of Brahmaputra studio. And despite vociferous criticism from all quarters, he has not looked back to produce some of the most beautiful editing creations ever created on Assamese celluloid. The most memorable milestone, however, was the successful editing of a full-length Assamese feature film, Bhumiputra, on SlingShot.

One might now surely question as to what makes SlingShot or Manas’s action so noteworthy. Relevance, there certainly is. For until that time, all the production houses in the entire north-eastern region of the country had to depend upon the studios in Mumbai and Chennai on the other end of the Indian sub-continent for their production needs. The result was higher production costs and a tough time for the production crews who had to stay away from their homes for long periods of time. Though clearly a suffering lot, the filmmakers of the region, surprisingly, were wary of trying new and cheaper methods of film production; even going to the extent of criticizing those who tried to do so. Manas, however, dared to go his own way. As he reminisces, “People ask me about challenges in life. All I can say is that I didn’t face that many challenges from people outside than I did from the people of my own State. When I decided to make Bhumiputra using SlingShot, everyone brushed me off saying that films can be made only with Avid (the software used in studios that time). Sometimes, I felt that I was committing a big blunder but I carried on anyways. In the process, I proved a point and also showed the people that a cheaper method of making films does indeed exist.” And they had said it couldn’t be done.

Manas has always been a maverick rebel of sorts, eternally trying to rebel against the established and conventional dictum. An entirely self-made professional, Manas was the key person in the production of Bidexot Apun Manuh – another revolutionary feature that can be said to have opened a new era in Assamese television. For the unacquainted, Bidexot Apun Manuh traced the life and times of Assamese people and their families who are now settled overseas, and the same was highly successful and much popular amongst the people.

Criticism from my ‘own’ people is always present in my ventures, says Manas. He explains, “Bidexot Apun Manuh was a path breaking television series. I acted as the director, camera man, editor – all rolled in one. In the initial stages, people were fearful of the outcome of the production and they tried to stop me at every step through their so-called concerns. Had I listened to them and surrendered to their fear, Bidexot Apun Manuh wouldn’t have been made. Neither would have had Bhumiputra”.

Manas spent the initial part of his childhood in Kolkata where he studied till the eight standard in St. Thomas school. His inclination towards the world of films is evident from the fact that he used to watch the latest movies in theatres on the sly. A science graduate, his entry into the film world happened when he assisted Munin Baruah in the film, Pahari Konya. That was in the year 1987. After helping renowned film makers like Hemanta Dutta and Shiva Thakur as Assistant Director, he made his foray into the world of editing by assisting senior film editor Tapan Dutta. Since then, Manas has created a name for himself as a film editor of substance by repeatedly producing quality creations. An experiential yet successful professional who is always willing to take risks if it augurs well for the future generation, Manas has always been surrounded in the midst of controversies; yet emerging triumphant every time. Till date, Manas has worked as the Chief Assistant Director in as many as ten Assamese feature films and in more than twenty television serials besides editing more than twenty-full length Assamese and Bodo feature films, seven hundred and fifty episodes of Doordarshan and more than a thousand commissioned programmes of Doordarshan Kendra, Guwahati.

Success, however, does not come easy. Having seen Manas from very close quarters, I have personally witnessed his eye to meticulous details and the amount of labour he puts in to his each and every production. Besides writing a saga of valour and determination with his radical initiatives, he has also provided hope for thousands of youngsters of the State. His achievement has been dutifully recognized by the film world and the government, which has heaped a plethora of awards on his lap, including the Assam State Award for Best Editing (2007). Manas had earlier been bestowed with the Moon Light Media Award for four consecutive years in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, Jyotirupa Joint Media Awards for three consecutive years in 2003, 2004 and 2007, the RAPA Award in 2004, the Prag Cine Award in 2004 and the NE Peoples Choice Award 2004.

Manas lives in Guwahati with his wife and two children. With his wife Kabita now helping him run his studio, Adhikari Vision, bigger things can be expected from him. He dared to dream and made those dreams come true. His story proves that even if other people say that certain things cannot be done, remarkable things can often be achieved by putting the right technology into the hands of creative people. Manas has proved that they really can do remarkable things in uncommon places.

Feedback: optionaldutta@gmail.com

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Posted on July 8, 2010, in Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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