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Utpal Datta bagged the Best Director Award for his non-feature film, By Lane 2 on Pabitra Kumar Deka
Versatility has the other name in Utpal Datta who has bagged the award of Best Director for the non-feature film BY LANE 2 which is a film on Late Pabitra Kumar Deka, eminent film journalist, actor and cultural activist. He lived in By Lane 2. So the title of the film has a quite nostalgic association having the resonance of Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane.Utpal Datta received the prize from Bismita Gogoi, Minister,Dept of Cultural Affairs, Govt of Assam. Mr Utpal Datta seems to have discovered his own versatility in the life of this great man.

In Assamese literature and films, Utpal Datta is a great name. But of late he has come to the limelight of fame again when he was adjudged as the Best Director for non-feature film 'By Lane 2' on Pabitra Kumar Deka.  

Earlier he had made two other very important films on Assamese literature and culture - Through Trust and Fear was a wonderful non-feature film - based on the philosophy of life of the noted litterateur Nirupama Bargohain. She was besides being a well known writer of Assam, a political activist. Bargeet is the other such film about the Satriya music of Assam, and now he has come out with By Lane 2, which is a trip down memory lane in the real sense.  

A video programme, Pabitra Kumar Deka was telecast on News Live on January 6, 2009, as a tribute to this great man. It was produced and anchored by Maram Kumar with special help from Atanu Bhuyan. After this video programme, nothing visual was done to celebrate the contribution of this great man to Assamese films and literature. 

Utpal Datta has given timely offerings to meet the long- felt need for highlighting his invaluable contributions by coming up with such a non-feature film. Kudos to him, the award for the Best director for non-feature film seems to have gone to the right man, as he himself is a versatile genius leading at present from the forefront of Assamese films and literature.

Mr Datta has given a brief outline of the biographical details of Pabitra Kumar Deka (29 January 1940 – 5 January 2010), but he mainly focuses on his creativity as a film maker and above everything as a man of simple living and high thinking. His versatility as a novelist, humour writer, publisher and editor of a monthly magazine, film critic and script writer is also touched upon artistically in the feature film.

Pabitra Deka was the winner of the Best Film Critic Award in 1988 from the Eastern India Motion Picture Association. The Government of Assam has posthumously instituted the State Best Film Critic Award in the name of 'Pabitra Kumar Deka Award' from 2010. Deka hailed from a small town of Haibargaon in the district of Nagaon. Being the son of a government officer in the Agriculture Department, he enjoyed some affluence of a middle class family as his father settled in Guwahati in the early 1960s.

After his retirement from office, his father Mahendra Nath Deka started M.N. Deka Films, a film distribution company, which released many Assamese and Bengali films. Deka after passing out of Nagaon Government High School and getting his degree in Commerce from Nagaon College; joined the theatre world.  During his college days, his penchant for films and drama was well reflected when he acted in and directed a number of one-act and full-length plays in Nagaon.

In the one-act play competition held in Nagaon Natya Mandir in 1960, he was given the best actor and best director awards for the play 'Adarsha Homeo hall', written by Deba Kumar Saikia. The play 'Mara Sutir Jiya Saku' (Writer: Deba Kumar Saikia) also received the best direction award in many drama competitions. He did not however confine himself to drama performances when he began to translate short stories of foreign writers in Assamese for the magazine 'Manideep'. His first published work was an Assamese adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's story published in 'Manideep'.

In Guwahati Deka worked at Assam Tribune Group of Newspapers as Advertising Manager, beginning in 1965. In the 1980s he joined the new Sadin-Pratidin group and he remained in this job till his death in 2010. In the 1960s, Deka was invited to be the associate editor of the magazine Amar Pratinidhi, published from Kolkata by Shri Bhumi Publishing Company. He worked under editor Dr. Bhupen Hazarika and used to write a column 'Dhananjayor diary'.

His leftist leaning was reflected in his writings on society and people. During the 1960s and1970s, Deka was influenced by Karl Marx and drawn towards leftist thoughts and activities. In 1967, he along with two other employees of the Assam Tribune group published a magazine called 'Samakalin', edited by Amulya Barua and later by Padma Borkotoki. After the magazine closed down, Deka along with Nitya Bora published and edited a little magazine called 'Naxa' in 1970, where the chief adviser was writer and thinker Dr. Hiren Gohain.

The magazine 'Naxa' was controversial at that time and also ceased publication after a few years. During this period, he also started an amateur theatre group called 'Naxa Natya Parishad' where he produced plays, including Maxim Gorky's 'Enemies', 'Surjahara' and Bertolt Brecht's 'Maa'. The play 'Maa' based on Gorky's novel 'Mother' staged in 1974, with music direction by Dr. Bhupen Hazarika. The Little Theatre Group of Kolkata performed some of their plays in Assam under 'Naxa Natya Parishad'.

He also wrote and translated many social and science fiction novels during this period, some of which were also published included 'Sihote Sar Paise', 'Vietnam', 'Mexicor pora aha gabhorujani', 'Operation Momba', 'Frankenstein' etc. Deka also wrote many humorous articles under the name of Pranpriya deka for the magazine Cartoon, another Shri Bhumi publication.

The great phase of Deka's life began when he directed his focus fully on films and theatre in 1975. He published and edited a film and cultural magazine called 'Roopkar', the first of its kind in the Northeast India which was published until the early 1990s. Simultaneously, he also started an amateur theatre group called 'Aikyatan' where he produced plays for two decades, including 'Janani', 'Surjastak', 'Sinhasan Khali', 'Panchatantra', 'Hewers of Coal', 'Upahar', 'Night of 16th January ', 'Putala Ghar' and so on.

Without his help many of the artists and actors of our time would not have gained heights of excellence. A music school named 'Aikyatan Sangeet Vidyalaya' was also started in the premises of the club for providing Hindustani Classical vocal, table, western guitar, violin and mandolin classes for the youth. In the field of literature, Deka wrote a regular humorous and satirical column called 'Rasheswar Hazorikar Tukabahi' for the Assamese weekly 'Asom Bani' in late 1970s and early 1980s. In a word, his versatility was outstanding.

Deka joined the Sadin-Pratidin group of newspaper in the late 1980s as a freelance writer on film, stage and theatre. He was the cultural editor of the weekly paper 'Saadin', and also wrote columns for the daily paper 'Ajir Batori', 'Dainik Agradoot' and the film journal 'Chitra Sambad'. He wrote two film related books; 'Bhabendra Nath Saikiar Chalachitra' and 'Satuta dosokor Asomiya Chalachitra', a history book about Assamese cinema.

Deka formed the Assam Cine-Journalist Association, and was its president until his death. Film and theatre conferences, press meetings, seminars, film shows, and other events were regularly held in the office of the Association. During this time, he wrote many scripts for films, including 'Surjya Tezor Anya Naam'' Hastir Kanya' (Winner of National Award in 1997 for Best Biographical Film), 'Jakham', 'Tyag' etc. and TV serials like 'Aie Saharate', 'Tadanta', 'Dhaniramor Dhan', 'Sahu Aie', 'Hanumanor Sadhu', 'Nishar Nayak', 'Sir'.

He was a presenter on All India Radio, Guwahati during 1960s and 1970s where he interviewed many prominent personalities like filmmaker Mrinal Sen, Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia, singers Usha Mangeshkar, Rita Kothari Ganguly, etc. for AIR.

Deka was heavily involved in the Mobile Theatre of Assam. He wrote plays for this theatre group, including 'Overcoat', 'Naginir Amrit Danshan', 'ET (Adaptation of Steven Spielberg's film)', 'Laila Majnu', 'Dr Bezbarua', 'Godfather', which were performed by groups like Kohinoor Theatre , Hengool Theatre and Bordoloichila Theatre.

The Mobile theatre group's unusual style of double stage and format were heavily criticized when it first opened in the 1960s.[Deka was one of those people who promoted it in his magazine Roopkar, to increase its intellectual acceptance and prominence among the classes. Today the Mobile theatre is still in operation in 2015, employing thousands of people in Assam.

In addition to his job for 'Sadin', he wrote about the history of world cinema for nearly ten years for Sambhar, a Sunday supplement published with the daily Asomiya Pratidin . His writings were later published in two big volumes published by the Assam Prakashan Parishad called 'Bharatia Samantaral Dharar Sobi' and 'Bishwa Chalachitra'.

In his short non-feature film Utpal Datta, he has wonderfully explored the versatility of this great man with a constant focus on his contribution to films and theatre. It is interesting to note here that Utpal Datta himself has the same kind of versatility in his creative projects.

He at the one side is a great writer as well as a translator of foreign writers and published a good many books and articles. Very recently his book of translated poems,  'Raktakta Burburanir Malita' also came out from Guwahati. The non-feature film is the outcome of the similarities and identical qualities of the two great men, as if he is appreciating his own versatilities in the other great man.

Utpal Datta has done a great job and his achievement as a film director has been rightly awarded after a long time. The two other non-feature films also relate very much to Assamese culture and literature. As a Programme Executive of All India Radio, Guwahati he is damn busy with official assignments. But quite surprisingly he is doing a wonderful job in his leisure hours of creativity.

The way he is focusing on the contributions of great men like Pabitra Kumar Deka in the non-feature film deserves a big hats-off. The film is well documented with the proper background music and graphics. The major phases of the great man's life are highlighted wonderfully.

Assam is in need of such non- feature films for highlighting its culture and literature. Such films will show to the world the greatness of Assamese culture and its evolutionary stages of struggle to come to prominence where men like Pabitra Kumar Deka pursued their best commitments.

Utpal Datta has done his job well and the state will want more such non-feature films from him. It is a great feature to note that Mr. Datta seemed to have told his own life story of creativity and versatility when he appreciated such qualities in the life of this great man in making the non-feature film with so much care and artistic finesse. By Lane 2 will create history for Assamese film world, nay Indian world of non-feature films. 

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