No one knows why Runumi, the ninth Assamese feature film, was banned in 1952.
Fifty-eight years later, the lone print of the film has popped up in a tin trunk in a remote village in Assam’s Sonitpur district asking why.
Runumi, based on an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play The Warriors at Helgeland, was banned midway through its first week of screening. The Assam government headed by Bishnu Ram Medhi then did not offer any reason.
The film’s director-producer Suresh Chandra Goswami tried to find out in vain.
"The reason will perhaps be a mystery," he had written in a diary.
The lone print of the black-and-white film that Goswami possessed was used for ‘illegal’ viewing in the tea estates until it vanished one day.
Last week, 13 reels of the film were accidentally found in their original cans in a tin trunk at the residence of Goswami’s brother-in-law Lakshminath Borthakur of Bhir Gaon near Biswanath Chariali town.
"The cans have rusted and cracked owing to humid conditions, but a significant part of the film might still be intact," said Utpal Borpujari, Goswami’s grandson and film critic.
The National Film Archives of India in Pune is expected to restore and preserve the film that could provide insights into the germination of Naga militancy in the Northeast.
"I vaguely recall my father saying the film had something to do with Assamese and Naga societies of that period," said Dolly Borpujari, daughter of Runumi’s maker.
"We would like to know why the film invited the ban," she added, wondering if it was politically untouchable.
The Borpujaris have issued an appeal seeking any piece of writing or government paperwork that could unravel the mystery.