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Romen Barua: The Maestro of Assamese Cinema

Romen Barua: The Maestro of Assamese Cinema

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We share the remarkable journey of Romen Barua, a distinguished figure in Assamese cinema on the occasion of his 84th birthday. From his early days as a playback singer to his acclaimed career as a music director, Barua’s innovative compositions have left an indelible mark on the industry.

In the fiercely competitive realm of Assamese cinema, carving out a distinct identity as a filmmaker, actor, or musician is a formidable endeavor. The industry is brimming with talent in every sphere of performing arts. Yet, Romen Barua has not only managed to secure his place but has also become an enduring figure in the regional cinema, particularly as a musician. His remarkable talent for composing and directing music, perfectly attuned to the spirit of the moment, has resulted in some of the most heart-rending and entertaining music in Assamese cinema.

Romen Barua began his illustrious career as a playback singer, lending his voice to several Assamese feature films such as Smritir Paras, Lokhimi, Mak Aru Morom, Lachit Barphukan, and Amar Ghar. These early works were under the music direction of his elder brother, the renowned filmmaker and actor, the late Brojen Barua. Over time, however, Romen transitioned from singing to music direction, taking over from his brother in 1968. This shift marked the beginning of his deeper engagement with the creative aspects of music direction, a field where he would leave an indelible mark.

To date, Romen Barua has created music for numerous Assamese films, along with two Bengali ones, Monima (1974-75) and Dadu Nati Ebong Hati (1978-79). His exceptional work in Antony Mur Nam (1987), directed by Nip Barua, earned him accolades and cemented his reputation as a brilliant composer. Despite his evident prowess, Romen Barua’s opportunities in film music direction dwindled post this period, a circumstance that does little to overshadow his contributions.

Romen’s rise to prominence among cine-goers as an accomplished music director was significantly bolstered by Brojen Barua’s acclaimed film Dr Bezbarua (1968-69). This film, featuring a stellar cast including Meghali Devi, Prathiva Thakur, Nipon Goswami, and Brojen Barua himself, was celebrated as the first-ever thriller in Assamese cinema. Its gripping suspense and thrilling narrative were magnificently complemented by Romen Barua’s evocative music. Songs like “Ki Nam di Matim” and “Tomar Padum Chokuti” resonated deeply with audiences, thanks to their masterful orchestration, and continue to evoke emotions even today.

Following the success of Dr Bezbarua, Romen Barua’s career in music direction flourished. He independently directed music for films such as Baruar Sangsar (1969-70), Mukuta (1970), Ajali Nabau (1980), Kaka Deuta Nati Aru Hati (1983), and Antony Mur Nam (1987). Each of these films showcased his unique musical style, setting him apart from his contemporaries.

Despite his significant contributions and the success of films like Antony Mur Nam, Romen Barua’s journey in film music faced a lull. He attributed this to a shift in producers’ priorities, who he felt no longer valued the depth and richness of music as much as before. Yet, he continued to create music for TV serials and dramas, maintaining his creative output.

Born in the early 1940s into the illustrious Barua family, Romen was surrounded by a rich cultural heritage. His father, the late Chandra Nath Barua, an engineer, encouraged musical evenings at home. Here, Romen and his brothers—Brojen on guitar and harmonium, Nip on flute, and Dibon on tabla—would perform, with Romen singing. His mother, Jonprabha Barua, herself a gifted singer of traditional folk songs, further nurtured his musical inclinations.

During his college days, Romen honed his musical skills under the guidance of late Rudra Barua, a noted singer and lyricist, as well as classical singers Purusottam Das and Khogen Das. These experiences instilled in him the confidence and expertise that would later define his playback singing and music direction. His debut as a lead playback singer in Smritir Paras was a testament to his talent.

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An approved composer of All India Radio (AIR), Guwahati, Romen also served on the AIR Audition Board for many years. In 1979, he directed a LP record on Jyoti Sangeet for the silver jubilee celebration of the New Art Players’, a leading socio-cultural organization he co-founded. His recent release, a collection of five audio-cassettes featuring hit songs from past box-office successes, has sold around 50,000 copies, reflecting his enduring popularity.

Romen Barua’s philosophy on music is both insightful and reflective of his innovative spirit. He views Indian pop music as a fusion of Western and Indian elements, advocating for the creation of good music by drawing from diverse influences, much like a bee gathers nectar from various flowers. However, he cautions against the excessive use of electronic instruments, which he believes can diminish the beauty, melody, and emotional depth of the music.

In the vibrant tapestry of Assamese cinema, Romen Barua stands out as a musician who has not only contributed significantly to the industry but has also shaped its musical landscape. His legacy is one of passion, innovation, and a deep understanding of the art of music, ensuring his place as a maestro in the annals of Assamese cinema.

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