When one talks about martial arts-based movies in Assamese with loads of comedy, one name that definitely comes to mind is that of Kenny Basumatary. He did feature in Bollywood movies like Shanghai, he also shared screen space with Priyanka Chopra in ‘Mary Kom’, played Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in ‘Raag Desh’ and played a role in ‘Phaata Poster Nikla Hero’, but what he got noticed in is his directorial debut movie ‘Local Kung Fu (LKF)’ (was nominated for best feature film at the inaugural Filmfare Awards for the Eastern Region in 2013), where he had acted too and his other movies ‘Local Kung Fu 2’ and ‘Suspended Inspector Boro’.
Now Basumatary is coming up with his fourth movie, ‘Local Utpaat’ — another comedy with some action. the film will be released on September 4 this year. Written and directed by Basumatary himself, the teaser of ‘Local Utpaat’ was released on February 11. To meet the expenses for the film’s production and release, the team is running a crowdfunding campaign on Wishberry.in.
In an interview with VibesMojo, Basumatary gets candid and here are the edited excerpts of the interview.
VM: Kenny tell us about your next venture ‘Local Utpaat’?
KB: ‘Local Utpaat’ is our fourth film, and we promised that it would be a comedy film, the kind of film you watch with all your friends and family and laugh for two hours. Most of the cast is from our earlier team of ‘Local Kung-Fu’ and the ‘Heavy Budget’ gang. We also have Himagshu Gogoi and Kaushik Nath from ‘Bornodi Bhotiai’. The genesis of this film came from the ‘Heavy Budget’ channel as it was doing so well. We thought why not make a full feature film out of it because that’s what a lot of people do in the West, you have a hit TV show, they make a movie out of it. So we thought let’s make kind of ‘Heavy Budget’ film so we titled it ‘Local Utpaat’. And we set about making it make a full-on comedy.
VM: You are a director, actor, scriptwriter all in one. What do you enjoy doing the most?
KB: I enjoy all of them at different times. As a director, you’re busy the whole day, you don’t have any time to stop and take a break. You have to think all the time what the next shot is going to be, how we finish on time, we have this location only for today, and we have to finish today. So all these things always keeps going on. At those times when the pressure is too much, that’s when I think it would be nice to be just an actor and not have any tension and the only tension is knowing your dialogue that’s it. When I’m an actor, sometimes especially on big sets, on big Bollywood films and all, at that time, sometimes you are doing nothing but just sitting and waiting for three-four hours. That’s when I think that being a director would have been better.
VM: Did you ever try a hand in singing?
KB: I’m not a singer, I am totally out of tune. But my entire family is into music. I don’t know why I was the only one left out of this, but I did make an effort. We had a harmonium so I put a big blanket to cover the windows and ventilators of my rented house so that my voice would not go out, and I used to practice on the harmonium. I used to practice the guitar and my vocals as well trying to at least get a little in tune. But all in vain.
VM: I am sure you have been asked this question end number of times. How was it working with Priyanka Chopra?
KB: It was good, we didn’t have too many scenes together. But whatever was there it was okay. She came and did her part professionally and we did our parts and that was it.
VM: So, Kenny, this film of yours is crowdfunded. So can you tell us about the nuances of it?
KB: The Assam film industry is in a bit of a shaky state, with the exceptions of Mission China and Kanchenjunga and Ratnakar films generally don’t make money. Especially because there are so few halls. For any film to recover the money, all the halls have to run houseful for about two-three weeks, only then the film makes would recover some of their money. So in such circumstances, it’s hard to tell anybody to risk 30-40 lakh. So what crowdfunding does is instead of one person risking, say 30 lakhs we get 30,000 people to put in about 1000 rupees each. So that’s the idea of crowdfunding, where you get several people to contribute a little bit. And since we have so many people who love us and support us through our various channels and have seen our films, we thought we could appeal to them for help so that we can bring them our next film on a nice scale.
VM: What is your take on the future of Assamese & Bodo films and films from the region?
KB: For the Assamese film industry as long as more and more halls keep opening, the future will be bright. Because with Mission China, Kanchenjunga, Aamis, and Ratnakar we have seen that people are ready to watch Assamese films. So what we need are more and more halls. That’s the number one thing. If there are more halls then there will be more box office returns and then producers will think okay, this is a risk worth taking, worth take the gamble. As for the Bodo industry, we have, unfortunately, very few halls in the Bodo areas. There’s only Gold Cinema in Kokrajhar, then there’s Jol Max in Bongaigaon and I guess that’s about it. Tongla has one theatre but otherwise, the BTAD region has only these three-four halls. So until and unless there more halls, the industry can’t flourish. Right now it works on a traveling cinema basis, so that way also some people are making some decent amount of money. But if halls come up, then the business will do better.
VM: Any plans to get into the world of Bodo film making?
KB: Well, we had started one, but that didn’t work out. But if we manage to get a producer who’s willing to take a bit of a risk, because, at the end of the day, films are a risk. So if they’re willing to take the risk and invest some decent money on making a good Bodo film, then we are ready to do it. There are a lot of talented people in the Bodo industry as well. We worked with Sarang Narzari, who’s a very skilled guy, and he’s a very good actor also. And we have Rubul Boro with whom I’m acting in Bhaskar Hazarika’s next film. So with such good people, it would be nice if some producer comes and gives us some money to make a good film.
VM: Do you think that the film policy is good enough?
KB: Well, I can’t speak for India as a whole. I can only speak of what I’ve seen in Maharashtra and Kerala. For example, Maharashtra doesn’t take entertainment tax on Marathi films. So if the usual film ticket price is Rs 200, then the Marathi film will cost about Rs 140-150. So people automatically have an incentive to go and watch local films. So if we could have something like this over here in Assam where the GST is not taken on Assamese film then that would be a big help in itself. If a person goes to watch an Assamese film, and the ticket is lesser than the usual Hindi or English film, that becomes an automatic incentive for them. Right now, the policy is that the entertainment tax will be given back to the producer. But again, you have to go through all the governmental bureaucratic red tape.
VM: Who are lending their voices in the movie ‘Local Utpaat’?
KB: Utkal Hazowary will be singing a song, and Sharmistha Chakraborty is also singing. She’s also acted in the film, and then we have a song by our heroine Poonam Gurung. Bonnie also will be lending his voice and Geet Bhairav. We are using a couple of his songs as well. Even Bornali Deori will be singing one of them.