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'Being Assamese, I was asked for my passport'

December 03, 2012 17:56 IST

Director Jahnu Barua -- who made the award-winning 2005 film Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara -- gets candid during an award ceremony in Pune. Devidas Deshpande reports.

Even as he received an award in the name of his "Dronacharya-like guru" in Pune, acclaimed Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua revealed how he was once asked for his passport in Rajasthan.

"I have been through many such instances. People mistake us (Indians from the north-east) as foreigners and they can't be blamed totally. We also have to blame ourselves," he said, citing an incident in Udaipur, Rajasthan, when he was asked to present his passport at a five-star hotel.

"When I checked in, the receptionist asked me to present my passport. When I told her I was from Assam, she bluntly replied, 'I understand Sir, but we have a policy of asking passports from foreigners.'"

"The issue was not resolved even when I advised her to see the map of India. Later, it was resolved with the intervention of her boss," he said.

Barua received the first-ever award instituted by the Pune-based non-governmental organisation, Sarhad, on Sunday.

The award ceremony was held against the background of the brief exodus of Assamese and other north-easterners from Pune just three months ago.

"During the late 1970s," Barua said, "I did all the work for my production company. The owner of the studio -- where I gave my movie reels to develop -- thought I was a Nepalese working in my company. I did not try and remove his impression and built a good relationship with him since he was a good-hearted fellow."

"He got to know my real identity five years later through a newsreel playing in a movie theatre when I received the National Award. Had I reprimanded him for thinking me a foreigner, we could not have built a relationship," he recalled.

Recounting his meetings with the late maestro Bhupen Hazarika, Barua said even though he met Hazarika just 10, 12 times, he had a close relationship with the composer and was a 'guru' in a way for him.

"He (Hazarika) told me that 'If you are scared, you are not a creative person'," Barua said.

Describing Maharashtra as his second home, the Mumbai-based Barua recounted some humourous anecdotes from his early days at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.

"I spent three years in Pune -- they were the best years of my life," he said, narrating how he spent three nights in a garden in the city. Many years later, he showed the bench where he had slept during those nights to his wife.

Photograph: Jahnu Barua receives the award from former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta (partly seen).

Devidas Deshpande in Pune