Biju Phukan is no more. For lakhs of ardent fans, Phukan, popularly called Bijuda, will be remembered as the first star of Assamese cinema, an accomplished actor with a charming lopsided smile equally at ease wooing his lady love on camera or in serious roles.

With more than 50 films in his oeuvre and several plays in diverse roles, Biju Phukan, born in Dibrugarh on February 18, 1947, breathed his last at Apollo Hospital in Guwahati at 6.15 pm on Wednesday. The actor, who had been ailing for some years, was admitted to the hospital at 4.30 pm on Tuesday following respiratory distress. He leaves behind his wife Rajashree, son Angshuman and daughter Sanghamitra, the family staying at Panjabari in Guwahati for last several years.

Phukan will be cremated on Thursday in Guwahati with full State honours.

The news of Phukan’s death on Wednesday evening came as a shock not only for Assamese film industry but also for the State in general, and there was a massive outpouring of grief. A galaxy of film stars, directors, producers and prominent personalities from different walks of life including Chief Minister’s Media Advisor Hrishikesh Goswami rushed to Apollo Hospital to pay their last tributes to the departed legendary actor.

Phukan, who first appeared on the silver screen in a dance sequence in Brojen Barua’s Dr. Bezbarua in 1970, was considered to be one of the most natural actors in Assam. He debuted as hero by playing the lead role in Baruar Songshar. He did not look back thereafter, following up with several hits like Aranya, Bonoriya Phool, Momota, Brishti, Natun Asha, Dharmakai, Meghmukti, Ajali Nabou, Upapath, Bowari, Agnisnaan, Bohagor Duporia, Aparupa, Mon Mondir, Anthony Mur Naam, Pita Putra and Abhimaan.

The actor also played roles in a few Bengali films including Hotel Showfox, Aparajita, Doishyu Ratnakar and Gajamukta. He was keen on working in mobile theatre and essayed roles in several pays of Lakhimi Theatre and Theatre Bhagyadebi. He also served as a jury member in Indian Panorama.

Despite failing health since 2013, Phukan showed a lot of zeal and energy to come back again to the film industry. Loved for his adorable personality, the actor was associated with various other activities including politics. He contested the Lok Sabha elections twice from Dibrugarh and Guwahati constituencies.

Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi has deeply condoled Phukan’s death.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal mourned the demise of the veteran actor. He said Biju Phukan was largely responsible for promoting Assamese film industry and raising it to its present status. “His contributions will be remembered fondly by posterity,” he said

Renowned actor Jatin Bora, who is also the chairman of Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation Ltd, said Bijuda immensely influenced and inspired his film career. He said it will be extremely difficult to fill the void created by his passing.

Popular singer Papon tweeted, “Shocked to hear the sudden demise of Biju Phukan! Assamese cinema will miss the quintessential Axomiya Hero who defined and held that role for decades! Sad day! RiP Biju Da!”

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