Tunes of Success

A profile of Romen Barua
by Dwaipayan


In the keenly-competitive world of Assamese cinema, ensuring a conspicuous position as a film- maker, an actor or even as a musician is a pretty tough job. For, there are a fairly good number of talented people in almost every sphere of performing arts in the industry. But Romen Barua has succeeded in achieving that status which some of his contemporaries in the same line have failed to achieve. That is, assuring a durable place as a musician in the regional cinema. After all, he has the talent of immaculately composing and directing music and appropriately tuning it with the spirit of the situation. The result of which is some heart-rending and entertaining music.

Romen Barua started off his film career, as a play back singer, and did play back singing for several Assamese feature films -- Smritir Paras, Lokhimi, Mak Aru Morom, Lachit Barphukan and Amar Ghar -- under the music direction of his elder brother, noted film-maker cum actor, Late Brojen Barua. But today he is more popular and better known as a music director than as a singer. For, ever since he had taken over the independent charge of music-direction from his elder brother in 1968, he concentrated more on this aspect of creative art than on doing any more play back singing.

Till date, he has been creating music for countless Assamese films, including two Bengali ones (Monima, 1974-75 and Dadu Nati Ebong Hati, 1978-79). Of which Antony Mur Nam directed by Nip Barua, in 1987, had earned him laurels for his brilliant music-composition. Unfortunately, despite his forte he has not been approached by any producer to give music for any other film.

Nevertheless, Barua’s popularity rose among the cine-goers as an accomplished music director with Brojen Barua’s much-hyped and highly-acclaimed film Dr Bezbarua, released in 1968-69, featuring a host of prominent artistes including Meghali Devi, Prathiva Thakur, Nipon Goswami and the Brojen Barua himself, in the lead role. Laced with gripping suspense and thrill it was deemed to be the first-ever thriller in Assamese filmdom, albeit in black and white, one of the major reasons of its becoming a commercially super-hit film was Romen Barua’s highly impressive and heart-rending as well as entertaining music. The musical numbers of the film such as Ki Nam di Matim, Tomar Padum Chokuti..., hogged the popularity charts owing to the marvellous orchestration of the songs to the exigencies of the sequences. These numbers still continue to touch our hearts with their lilting rendition.

After the success of Dr Bezbarua, in which he had made his debut as a musician, Romen Barua got a break at music-direction and from then on he independently directed the music of many a film including Baruar Sangsar (1969-70), Mukuta (1970), Ajali Nabau (1980), Kaka Deuta Nati Aru Hati (1983) and Antony Mur Nam (1987). In most of these films, he scored excellent music equalling the out and out success of Dr Bezbarua. However, the one thing that stood him out in the cluster of musicians was his style of music which was very different and unique.

But despite his tremendous creative potentiality and the release of Antony Mur Nam starring among others Biju Phukan, Purabi Sarma and late Durgeswar Barthakur, Romen Barua did not get any offer or invitation from any producer for music-orchestration for other films. But he continued to score music for TV serials and dramas.

When asked the reason behind his low profile during the past 13 years, since the release of the hit-film Antony Mur Nam, except for just two TV serials, Pratishabi and Lady Inspector, a palpably dejected Barua answered, "These days most producers do not attach much importance to music. Naturally, all those who have a minimum concept or knowledge of Indian and Western music are approached and asked to take up the assignments."

Born in the early 1940s, Romen Barua had a rich cultural lineage. He hails from the famous Barua family, most members of which happen to be the prominent figures in Assamese cinema: Brojen Barua, Nip Barua and Dibon Barua, all of them being his elder brothers. Though his father, late Chandra Nath Barua, was an Engineer, he encouraged a regular evening function in his house in which Brojen Barua would play the guitar and the harmonium, Nip would play the flute and Dibon the tabla while Romen was the one who did the singing. It would be proper to mention here that his mother, Jonprabha Barua herself, was a very good singer who used to sing traditional folk songs. During his college days, Romen Barua had learnt many nuances of music from late Rudra Barua, a noted singer and lyricist Purusottam Das as well as Khogen Das, both classical singers. This in turn, instilled and boosted a much-needed confidence in him which later helped him as a playback singer which was well mirrored in Smritir Paras in which he had made his maiden appearance as a lead playback singer.

Approved composer of AIR, Guwahati, Romen was also one of the core members of the Audition Board of AIR for a prolonged stint. In 1979, on the occasion of the silver jubilee celebration of New Art Players’ -- a leading Guwahati-based socio-cultural organisation, of which he was one of the founders, a LP record on Jyoti Sangeet was produced under his direction at Calcutta. His latest releases a cluster of five audio-cassettes containing some selected hit songs of some box-office hit films of yesteryears, such as Ki Nam Di Matim sung by his younger brother, the noted playback singer, Dipen Barua, has evoked spontaneous responses from the people, which is evident in the sale of about 50,000 albums.

Romen Barua who has the reputation of infusing life in an otherwise dull and boring theme by creating melodious music for it, is of the view that the Indian pop music, whether it be jazz, rock-an-role, all is a blend of both western and Indian music. He thinks that there is no harm in replicating the Western music if any good music can be created out of it after gathering something precious from it just as a bee does from different flowers. Or else, he feels it will sound discordant or distorted. The major snag, he adds, in Indian pop music with its heavy orchestration and the excessive use of the electronic instruments, reduces the beauty and melody as well as the feelings that are expressed in it.

Coutesy: The Northeast Daily

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