Mudo Dumi, a teacher at Ziro who was a co artiste in the cinema, reveals how Hazarika used to smoke frequently.

Donyi Lella: Ray of Hope— is a book in the making which will narrate the story of the actors from Arunachal Pradesh who played different roles in Mera Dharam, Meri Maa and their personal relationship with its director, Bhupen Hazarika.

Compiled by Ananta Nath, a fan of music maestro Bhupen Hazarika, the book reveals facets of Hazarika’s personality as perceived by these actors, most of who were then students of the Government higher secondary school at Ziro in Arunachal Prdaesh.

This film is considered to be a ground breaking one as it was the first movie made in Arunachal Pradesh.

Mudo Dumi, a teacher at Ziro who was a co artiste in the cinema, reveals how Hazarika used to smoke frequently when upset and how she was scared of him when he used to rebuke the crew and actors if something did not satisfy him.

Dumi, a class VII student at the time recollected how the team were taken to Bombay by train and how they had all worn flip flops and watched the premier show of the movie there.

“Our first train journey for so many days left most of us dizzy and disoriented when we walked on ground again,” she recalls.

The mahurat shot of Mera Dharam Meri Maa

She further related how the mahurat shot was taken at the PWD inspection bungalow at Yazali by former chief minister P K Thungan on the occasion of Nyokum Festival of the Nishis.

“Bhupenda loved Arunachal and our people very much that is why he penned many songs for Arunachal and for our people.

He was very caring but used to get angry and scold us if the retakes were not done properly, more so when he drank Apong, some of our local rice beer,” she said.

Another actor Tadu Tayung, whom Nath had also met, said that Bhupenda took them to Kolkata for the Northeast Film Festival.

They were the first artistes from Arunachal Pradesh who participated in the Northeast Film Festival, where they had watched another show of the movie.

Here the actors were also stunned to see a swimming pool for the first time.

Nath traces the evolution of Mera Dharam, Meri Maa from a school play penned by Nabam Tata and a group of students of the Govt. Higher Secondary School, Ziro, to its award winning performance to it being performed for Sanjay Gandhi and other VIPs from Delhi who were visiting Arunachal Pradesh.

Sanjay Gandhi, had been so impressed by the theme which had at its core the theme of love and honour that he suggested that it be made in celluloid.

Consequent to this the then lieutenant governor of Arunachal Pradesh KAA Raja on the direction of the chief minister PK Thungon made arrangements for its transformation into a movie.

Released in 1976, the Bollywood hit was built on the theme of superstitions in society which revolved around diseases like the outbreak of measles and chicken pox as well had sub themes on drug addiction and other social evils.

Nath said that he would go again soon to a few places in Arunachal Pradesh to interview some other actors who he had managed to contact.

Along the way but unrelated to this movie, Nath had met Bengia Hemant, a singer at Duimukh, who had told him how Bhupen Hazarika, being impressed by his voice,  had sung a Nishi modern song with him.

This had almost got lost but was found after a lot of searching.

“It was recovered at the AIR station, Itanagar but had been recorded at AIR, Dibrugarh,” Hemant had said.

Nath, who can be contacted on mobile no 7086131512, has also collected a few rare letters shot off by Hazarika to people he had met, and hopes to collect a few more so that he can compile them in another book.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com