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"Kuhkhal" is a masterpiece created by filmmaker Jahnu Barua based on the life and idealism of the great martyr of Assam, Kuhkhal Konwar



Director : Jahnu Barua

Editor : Hue-en Barua

Cast : Sanjib Sabhapandit, Gary Richardson, Bina Potongia, Dinesh Das, Prithviraj, Rabha, Anup Hazarika, Victor David Sasoon, Sakir Hazarika, Paul Carlin, Philips Bose

Released : 1998

Synopsis: (116 mins)

The film is shows 1942 Assam, under the rule of British India. The Congress unit at Sarupathar, a remote village misinterpreted Mahatma Gandhi's call for non-violent political action and decided to sabotage a train. Kuhkhal Konwar (Kushal Konwar), at the time the president of that unit, understood the essence of Gandhi's message and tried to convince his committee against such a sabotage plan, but failed. Kuhkhal accepted complete moral responsibility for the crime. C. A. Humphrey, the then British head of the district, wanted an important scapegoat, and Kuhkhal was the perfect candidate, because not only was he honest but he was also the member of a powerful royal clan of Assam. An example could be made of him.

It's only Jahnu Barua who can have the imagination of rescuing more than a century old real life hero from the footnotes of history to silver screen. Barua's tale of heroism - it is crafted out of the conflicting memories of the people of Sarupathar, Jorhat district, some of whom knew Kushal Konwar in person has a refreshingly novel spin. Kuhkhal presents the political hero as a victim of history, as an ordinary man who cannot turn his back on his Gandhian principles even as the hangman's noose dangles over his head.

Kuhkhal, produced by the Assam government's department of cultural affairs, was commissioned in 1984 by the then state chief minister, Hiteshwar Saikia. Barua, an FTII graduate, had just made his first film, Aparoopa. Before Kuhkhal could get off the ground, the Asom Gana Parishad ousted the Congress from power and the project was all but abandoned. It was in the early '90s that the Rs 60-lakh project was revived once again.

Barua's perseverance has paid off. He has come up with a film that tells its epic tale of sacrifice and courage without losing sight of its thematic core - the clash between an alien power structure which is on the way out and a people clamouring for freedom. And Kushal Konwar (first-time actor Sanjib Sabhapandit), a member of Assam's most powerful royal clan, has to pay the price of freedom as Humphrey (played by Bombay-based American actor Gary Richardson) delivers a desperate final blow on behalf of the Empire by signing the former's death warrant.

The film has won hearts of critics across the country. It is selected for screening in the prestigious Nehru Center, London on the occassion of 64th Independence of India.

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