Monuj Borkotoky

Candid With Assamese Actor Monuj Borkotoky

'Midnight Song' is an interesting film with only three characters. I have never seen an Assamese film before which was shot with just three characters in it

January 4, 2021

Monuj Borkotoky is a known figure in the Assamese film circuit, having worked in an array of films that include Ishu, Kokaidew Bindaas, Seema-The Untold Story and many more.

His latest movie, Midnight Song, will hit the theatres on January 29, 2021, and will be the first Assamese movie to get a theatrical release after Pratighat- which was released on December 6, 2019.

First, it was the anti Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) movement and then it was COVID-19 pandemic, owing to which several Assamese films did not release.

Directed by Arunjit Borah, this is going to be the first Assamese film to be released after a year and the entire crew and cast are hopeful that the audience will accept the movie with open hearts.

ALSO READ | Assamese Film Midnight Song To Release on January 29

Apart from Monuj Borkotoky, the film also stars Rupam Chetia and Kalpana Kalita.

The Story Mug caught up with Monuj Borkotoky for a one-to-one chat and learned more about his life and work so far.

Here is an excerpt of the interview in his own words

The lockdown affect

Because of the lockdown, the entire plans sucked. I had planned something else, but obviously, the master planner up there had something else in store for us.

I tried to cope up with the whole process and tried to explore different things. The best part is I stayed in my village for almost six months and did farming and several other things.

The birth of an actor

I was in Class VI when I saw my father act in a play. And when I was watching the play, I just realised that I should be up there on the stage.

I felt "that's my place".

The feeling stayed with me and I feel that is the starting, the trigger point that made me realise that acting is what I want to do.

First project

When I came to Guwahati for my under-graduation, then I attended a residential workshop of National School of Drama held at Sankardev Kalakshetra under the supervision of noted Assamese actor Anup Hazarika. There I acted in the Assamese adaptation of Hamlet. This was my first play from where my journey as an actor began.

Since then I have been constantly doing plays, even though I have not been able to give much time into theatres and plays for the last 2-3 years as I have been associated with several other projects.

In fact, I have written a play which comprises of two characters. It is a Hinglish play titled 'Blackboard'.

I want to experiment in the world of theatre and so I am giving some more time for the project to mature.

Moreover, since I have been busy with films and other projects, I am not able to give much time in theatre, which demands a lot of time.

Hopefully, if everything goes well in 2021 then I plan to stage 'Blackboard'.

My first movie was 'Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare' (As The River Flows) directed by Bidyut Kotoky. It was a small character, but it was a new and learning experience for me.

Present Projects

Midnight Song

'Midnight Song' is an interesting film with only three characters. I have never seen an Assamese film before which was shot with just three characters in it.

The entire film was shot in 10 days and in one location, primarily in one bungalow. It is a thriller and a story of one night.

Midnight Song is a new kind of story with a fresh look. Whatever I have seen or worked so far, I feel this is going to give a fresh look as far as Assamese cinema is concerned.

Baghjan

The movie happened recently. The director, Jaicheng Jai Dohutia (of Haanduk fame) and I have been friends for a long time. After the Baghjan blowout happened, I knew that he was trying to shoot a documentary of the whole scenario.

Then he had some issues with the camera- he misplaced it somewhere or somebody took it, exactly I don't remember now, but the shooting stopped.

Stills from Baghjan. Courtesy: Instagram/Monuj Borkotoky

Then one day we were talking over the phone when he said that there have been some issues with the camera and he can't find it now. I urged him to look for it and ask around- somebody must have found it.

One fine morning, after a couple of months, he called me and said, "Monuj the camera has come. Now let's start shooting for the film. I am sending you the script."

I was confused for a moment because as far as I had known he was shooting a documentary and not a film and when I expressed my confusion, he said, "Things have changed in the past few months and hence I decided to make it a feature film and not a documentary. We will have to shoot as soon as possible before the fire douses."

The entire film was shot in real locations with real people. The only outsider there was me (chuckles).

The movie narrates the story of four characters who have been affected by the catastrophe and through them, the entire ordeal the people of Baghjan faced is depicted in the movie.

I am very fortunate to be a part of this film. This is an important film because incidents like these are either sabotaged or the narratives change as time goes by.

But we have tried to bring out the real stories and tried to focus on the actual impact the catastrophe will have or has had already.

Taj Mahal

Currently, I am shooting for Taj Mahal- directed by Reema Borah (of Bokul fame). It has been a pleasure working with her. She has her vision clear and she knows what she wants from each character.

She is very meticulous about her ways of storytelling and nothing has changed in Taj Mahal.

We have completed the first schedule of our shooting and the next shoot is scheduled in Haryana. The film narrates stories starting from Biswanath Chariali in Assam to Haryana. I play a non-Assamese character in the film.

The movie's canvas is huge and it is going to be a different experience for the moviegoers altogether.

Experience from the sets of Sacred Games

The canvas of Scared Games was huge and I had a great experience being a part of the series. I feel happy about the fact that even though mine was a very small role, people have remembered me and ask me about it even now.

I am a great admirer of both Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. When I watched Motawane's Udaan, I was so moved with it that I wanted to assist him and thus I landed in Mumbai for assisting him in Lootera.

But as I did not have any contact out there in Mumbai or in the industry, and hence I could not find a way in and meet him.

I visited his office for a number of times but every time I was denied entry.

Monuj Borkotoky

With Saif Ali Khan and Radhika Apte in Sacred Games

Either I was told he was not in the office or I was told that he was busy in some shoot and will be out of town for some days. The days went on and Lootera's shoot was complete and I could not meet him.

Then after six years, I finally worked with as an actor in Sacred Games.

When I told about him about the incident he said, "Arrey, directly aatey na Ghhos jay". (You could come directly and meet me.)

Easier said than done. As a newbie, you don't have that confidence as well to simply walk in to a new place just like that.

The difference in working in Mumbai and Assam

I don't see much difference. We can't say every work out there in Mumbai is great or people out here in Assam are completely lacking in terms of creativity or storytelling.

I only difference, I feel, would be the approach and professionalism. I have been working in Assamese films since 2015 and the new directors with I have worked or have been working even now, I find them very sincere and extremely passionate about their work.

To make such great movies in such a low budget is simply unbelievable. The Assamese audience should appreciate the hard work and support them.

And because of those films, today Assamese films have carved a niche for itself in the world of Indian cinema.

I am fortunate that I have got an opportunity to work with some of these brilliant filmmakers. I am quite hopeful about the present phase of the Assamese films.

About Pepper Chicken

Directed by Ratan Sil Sarma, 'Pepper Chicken' is a Hindi film where the entire crew is from Assam. Apart from one dialogue of Dipannita Sharma, in which she speaks in Assamese with her mother, nothing has been revealed or told about the film.

The place where the story takes place is a secret. Only one dialogue symbolises that the protagonist Sharma is an Assamese.

I think projects like these should take place as this would help in capturing the pan-Indian audience. As our audience base in quite minimal, the pitch for web series in Assamese for various OTTs are also not accepted. If the series is shot in Hindi then they would accept, but no one is willing tom back projects in Assamese.

Actor/director who inspired the most

It is challenging to point one actor or director as various actors and directors have inspired at various times. For me, the performance of an actor in a particular role attracts me more than the actor himself. If the actor portrays a small character with great conviction, it inspires me.

If someone with whom I can relate to is late Irrfan Khan and Daniel Day-Lewis.

It is again tough to name just one director but even then if I have to say one name then it would be Ritwik Ghatak.

In Ritwik Ghatak's movies, I find the truth to be truer. The truthfulness is very much evident in his films.

Monuj Borkotoky is not just a talented actor, but he is also a director as well and has directed short films like Daai in 2018 and Manan in 2016- both of which have been appreciated by the audience and critics.

He has been associated with the industry for over a decade and within this span, Monuj Borkotoky has been able to carve a niche for himself.

We expect to see much more from him in the near future.

Share article on:


linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram