Recasting Feminine Identity in Assamese Cinema: Joymoti

Recasting Feminine Identity in Assamese Cinema: Joymoti

Rinku Pegu
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3511-0.ch002
(Individual Chapters)
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Rarely would an auteur choose a female protagonist as the lead character for one's debut film. In 1935, Jyoti Prasad Agarwal chose a historical figure of Ahom princess Joymoti as the central character for the first Assamese film. Was it enough to portray an Ahom princess as the lead character, or was it lending the historical figure a new perspective? During the stated period in Assam, the cult of Joymoti had gathered momentum. In this discourse, much emphasis was given on Joymoti sacrificing her life rather than revealing the whereabouts of her husband Prince Gadapani to the state authorities. This chapter seeks to explore how the social status of women was addressed and tackled in the film.
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Joymoti: The First Assamese Talkie

Nothing would deter Jyoti Prasad from the object of producing the first Assamese film, not merely directing but engaging in every other creative aspect of film making from scripting, penning lyrics, composing music to training the actors male and female. Indeed to embark on the filmmaking project, Jyoti Prasad had first to establish a production house by the title Chitralekha Movietone. Joymati was made at the cost of rupees fifty thousand and as a consequence had incurred a loss of twenty-eight thousand. Intending to give an authentic experience about Assam, Jyoti Prasad went to great lengths leaving no aspect unattended. Right from the architecture of the Ahom monarchy, to their attire, gait and lifestyle all were researched through books, documents and consultation with domain experts by the auteur himself.

The craft of film making for Jyoti Prasad was not merely a medium to dabble with and tell a story. It was a project attached with showcasing the distinct nature of Assamese arts and culture as well as to serve as a tool for archiving Assamese uniqueness for posterity. In doing so, Jyoti Prasad felt that film making through Joymati was a cultural project of Assamese identity and sub-nationalism.

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