With the release of his debut movie Local Kung Fu (2013), filmmaker Kenny Deori Basumatary added a new feather to the crown of independent filmmaking from Assam.
Made with an extremely low budget, the stylish and ingenious film premiered at the (now defunct) Osian's Cinefan Film Festival. Since then the craze for the film has only grown in stature and eventually, it earned cult status amongst cinephiles and Kenny’s fan followings have increased across the country.
Local Kung Fu 2 (2017) and Suspended Inspector Boro (2018) are two more films directed by Kenny Deori Basumatary and both films added to his oeuvre as a director.
Apart from donning the director's hat, Kenny Deori Basumatary has also acted in several Hindi as well as Assamese films, which also include the films directed by him.
A few years before the release of Local Kung Fu Kenny Deori Basumatary, upon realising that one of his scripts would earn more respect as a book, went publisher-hunting and eventually released it as a novel titled Chocolate Guitar Momos.
Unbridled by the constraints, Kenny Deori Basumatary is the perfect example of how necessity breeds creativity.
For Local Kung Fu 2 and his unreleased film Local Utpaat he had taken the help of the most popular crowd-funding platform of the country ‘Wishberry’. The campaigns for both films have been successful and ascertains his popularity once again.
With the Assamese web series Tomar Opekhyat (2021), which is currently streaming on ReelDrama, Kenny had made yet another extension of his versatility.
Dipankar: How did the genesis of the web series Tomar Opekhyat take place?
Kenny: Love Actually (2003) is one of my favourite films. I’ve always wanted to make an ensemble romantic comedy that people would find heartwarming and worthy of watching repeatedly. Over the years, I’d put together several love stories that would fit into such a film. During the pre-corona phase, I had met with Sumit and Kuheli Dasgupta, the owners of Reeldrama. They wanted to acquire my previous films, and also produce fresh content. I sent them some of my projects, and out of those, they decided to produce Tomar Opekkhyat.
Dipankar: In Bornodi Bhotiai’ (2019) Anupam Kaushik Borah directed you, while in Tomar Opekkhyat you are directing him. Share your experience of working with him.
Kenny: Acting in Bornodi Bhotiai was a beautiful experience because I got to live in Majuli for two weeks and enjoy Anupam’s hospitality. As a director, he was clear about the tone of the film and the performances. I have directed him in two projects now and in both of the projects, he has played drastically different roles. He was a serious villain in Suspended Inspector Boro, but in Tomar Opekkhyat he has played a poetry-spouting romantic hero.
Dipankar: You have directed three-feature films so far and this is your first web series. What were the major differences you had encountered in both the medium of storytelling?
Kenny: One basic commonality is that the audience has to be kept hooked- whether it is a feature film, a web series, or a short. The major difference in the storytelling is that in a series, you generally need to have some kind of a hook at the end of each episode that makes the audience want to watch the next episode immediately. In a film, you generally have to have a hook in the first 10 minutes or so and then at the interval point.
Dipankar: How do you balance the arduous job of balancing the role of an actor as well as a director in your projects?
Kenny: I guess one just has to do it. Acting in addition to directing means I have to take a little extra care of myself - making sure I’ve shaved or trimmed, ensuring the clothes don’t get sweaty, etc. These little things can eat up a lot of time.
Dipankar: You have written all your directorial ventures. Any particular reason behind the decision?
Kenny: These are the stories I want to tell. So I write and direct, and even edit them myself so that the final product is as close to what I had envisioned.
Dipankar: Is it a welcoming sign for the Assamese film industry with OTT platforms like Reeldrama?
Kenny: Definitely. For audiences in remote places, it is a boon because they’ll get access to films and series. As for the industry is concerned, OTT platforms will not only help recover some of the budgets but by producing original content, the headache and expenses of a theatrical release would also be removed. That said, my biggest high is still sitting in a theatre and hearing the audience’s reactions and laughter to my films.
Dipankar: Your creative endeavours as a director have been entertaining, light-hearted comic, action-packed ventures. What is the reason behind your interest in such a form and genre of storytelling?
Kenny: I think it’s because I like to escape from the unfairness of the real world by creating my world where the good guys and girls win. That is also the reason most people watch films, I’d say. Furthermore, one day we realized that the number of people making proper comedy is quite small. So we almost consider it as our duty to provide laughter and entertainment to people.
Dipankar: What is happening with Local Utpaat after such an astounding crowd-funding success with Wishberry?
Kenny: We have finished editing Local Utpaat, and around 60 per cent dubbing was also been completed when corona stopped all activity. But during the lockdown, discussions began with Reeldrama about making Tomar Opekkhyat and so we got started with this project straight away.
In this time of COVID-19-induced economic hardship, we were grateful that we managed to employ a few people through the series. Now that it’s been released, we can get back to work on Local Utpaat.
We want to release it as soon as possible, but there are two problems. First is that the halls are allowed only 50 per cent occupancy. That’s a huge problem because only if a film runs close to 100 per cent houseful for 2-3 weeks, an Assamese film can hope to recover its budget. So until the capacity is raised back to 100 per cent and some big-budget Hindi films are released, it’ll be a futile exercise to release the film.
The second is that exams, elections, floods, etc all affect a film’s performance, and academic years have all been displaced by the lockdown. So we need to have a clear picture of everything first.
WATCH TOMAR OPEKKHYAT TRAILER HERE