INDIA, July 20, 2023 (The Indian Sun): Nestled in Assam’s Brahmaputra River, there lies a river island known as Majuli. This enchanting island made history in 2016 by becoming the first-ever in India to be designated as a district. However, Majuli’s significance doesn’t stop there. It also holds a vital role as one of the prominent sites where the art of mask making continues to flourish. For Utpal Borpujari, a former journalist turned filmmaker, India’s northeast region, of which Assam is a part, still suffers from a significant information gap when it comes to the outside world. Through his films, Borpujari aspires to bridge this gap and shed light on the region’s rich cultural heritage and untold stories, showcasing them on the big screen. The Mask Art of Majuli is one such attempt. In it, Borpujari creatively focuses on the only two families that are keeping the practice alive at the Natun Chamaguri Satra, including the award-winning mask maker, Dr Hem Chandra Goswami.

“The numerous Satras (Vaishnavite monasteries) of Majuli, the world’s largest inhabited river island, are not only religious places of great significance but also form the heart of Satriya culture that was created by 15th century saint, poet, playwright, social reformer and cultural icon Srimanta Sankardev. “One key element of the Satriya culture is the masks that are worn by performers during Bhaona, which are dance dramas based primarily on Hindu mythology. These masks—or Mukha as they are called in Assamese—represent an intricate art form, and artisans create them in a unique and totally organic way using biodegradable material,” explains Borpujari. This August, Borpujari ‘s documentary The Mask Art of Majuli, produced by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) will make its way to Australia as part of the 14th Indian International Film Festival (IFFM). It will be accessible online during the 10-day festival.