MAGHAI OJA: AN ARTISTE OF THE PEOPLE


“As an organizer of IPTA in Assam” revealed Hemanga Biswas the legendary artiste and IPTA organizer, “my chief duty is talent scouting and to create an environment to develop the talent of the artistes. A flower blossoms on its own, but the duty of the gardener is to supply water to the plant and protect it from cattle. I am such a gardener and the magnificent wild flower I discovered in Assam is Maghai Oja.” Once discovered and mentored by Hemanga Biswas, Maghai Oja took no time to be closely associated with the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) movement during his adolescent period and from the very start, he could earn widespread fame by playing the dhol.

The meeting with Biswas had provided Maghai the bigger platform of the IPTA. The philosophy of the IPTA had a deep impact on the dhol wizard. A folk artiste who held the people spellbound with his dhol recitals had now transformed into a mass artiste. The basic philosophy of the IPTA lies in mass life and mass art. It propounds that mass art is impossible without the participation of the masses. The principal motto of the IPTA is ‘people’s theatre stars the people’. Embracing this ideology, Maghai strove to use the dhol as an instrument of social change. He played on to create mass awareness against social oppression, injustice, conspiracy and deprivation of the downtrodden.

The Language Movement of the 1960s had created an unwanted chasm between the Assamese and the Bengalis. Widespread hatred and panic originating from rumours gripped the State of Assam. At that juncture, Maghai, the son of a poverty-stricken farmer from Jorhat, made a bid to bring back peace. Around the same time, a group of artistes under the leadership of Biswas and Dr. Bhupen Hazarika toured the State to spread the message of peace and brotherhood. The cultural troupe staged programmes in different places of Assam. Before reaching Jorhat, Biswas wrote to Maghai; “Dear Comrade Oja, you will have to lead the troupe and your dhol will be the trumpet of victory.”

On the appointed day, at the Lakshmi Union Bengali Club in Jorhat, Maghai presented dhol recital that broke away from traditions. He sang: “Rajkhone kandise, deshkhone kandise/Sua dangoria/Raijor bolote tumi bolobonta/Kionu pahori jua…” (People are crying, the country is crying, my lord. But you are not showing any concern to the people who have voted you to power).

Adopting a satirical tone, he again sang: “Bhai bhaii don kore/Pore pai aash/Mota maiki don kore/Ghore banabas…”

(When brothers quarrel, enemies get the chance to conspire. Likewise, if husband and wife quarrel, a house is in wilderness).

Thus, Maghai played the role of an activist artiste. His dhol recitals soothed the strained nerves of the people. On this performance, Biswas later wrote: “On that day when the learned and intellectual sections of the society were engrossed in communal hatred, the son of a poor farmer family of Assam had evinced cultural conscience with his dhol recitals”.

In the same programme, Biswas and Dr. Bhupen Hazarika sang Haradhan-Rongmon’. With this song, they spread the message that nobody is above humanity. Caste, creed, community and religion should not hinder peace and harmony. A number of people from the Bengali community who were about to leave Assam reconsidered their decision after attending the programme. The then headmaster of Lakshmi Union Bengali high School, Jorhat, told Biswas with moist eyes: “I was thinking of leaving my job and going away. But your programme has inspired me to work here again.”

Maghai had spent his entire life in utter poverty. But in spite of his poverty, he did not compromise on the ideals of the IPTA. Till his death, he played the role of a responsible artiste. He had dreamt of a society without poverty, oppression, casteism, communalism and all the other bad elements.

On many occasions, he caustically referred to the corruption and nepotism of people’s representatives:

“Majuli deshate khowar abhabat/Pelai porialak kati/Shillong roadate dekhiba raijsakal/Minister sakalar mati…)
         
(In Majuli, hunger is killing their families, but the indifferent ministers are busy acquiring land in Shillong).

Maghai was expressing the angst of the individual who had been deprived of food and basic amenities. The mass artiste that he was, he never gave up on his idealism despite penury. Maghai dreamt of a society like Charles Chapin: “You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then – in the name of democracy – 
let us use that power-let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work that will give youth a future and old age a security… Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to the happiness of us all.”
Editorial note prepared by
Dr Jayanta Madhab Dutta
Film society activist, intellectual, 
educationist and writer-translator


DIMORIANREVIEW, VOL-5, ISSUE-6, NOV-DEC 2018 RELEASED

We express our thankfulness to all contributors in this issue for their unconditional support and cooperation in making our effort successful this time also.

We acknowledge also to the honorary advisory board, honorary technical review board and all members of editorial team for their guidance, support and cooperation.

We sincerely acknowledge with thanks to Dr Jayanta Madhab Dutta for writing from Editors’ Desk in this issue. Dr Dutta is a film society activist, intellectual, educationist and writer-translator of repute. Known for his translation of Dr D N Jha’s seminal work ‘The Myth of Holy Cow‘ into Assamese and his pioneering role in holding a number of International Film Festivals in Upper Assam, Dr Dutta is an Assistant Professor in English of a government college and  currently holding the honorary portfolio as General Secretary of Assam Film Society also. We wish him good health, good things and more accolades in life.

We hope readers will love reading this issue also!
Editors
DIMORIANREVIEW



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