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Assam Skies by Karen Weed and Jim Ankan Deka
Assam Skies - a docudrama by Karen Weed
Frank Cyril Edwards did not have much idea about what awaited him when he boarded the ship Manora to India in 1919. He reached Assam to join the Balijan Tea Estate in Tingrai, Dibrugarh district, as an Assistant Manager. Little did he know that this trip will change his life and generations later. This is the story of F.C.Edwards and Rampiyari, as researched by Karen Weed, the great-granddaughter of Frank. A story of love, betrayal and broken hearts - this is the story of 'Assam Skies'!



Gargi Buragohain as Rampiyari | Assam Skies
When Frank was working in the Balijan Tea Garden (Hoogrijan), he met and fell in love with Rampiyari, a tribal girl from the tea garden. Going against the will of the society, their relationship flourished. In 1920, they had their first daughter and two years later another daughter was born.

Everything went fine, until 1925, when Frank's fiance from England arrived; an English lady named Muriel Florence Collins (also known as Rita). Ramipiyari was surprised by the new events as well as Frank's change of behaviour; but she being an Indian, could not raise her voice. The same year, Frank forcefully took away his 5 and 3-year-old daughters from their mother and put them at Dr. Graham's Homes in Kalimpong, a home designed especially for the Anglo Indian Children, where they were baptised and christened.

Lain Heringman as Frank | Assam Skies
Frank got married to Muriel in 1925. They had a son and lived in Balijan till 1928. Frank left for England with his English wife and son in the same year in the ship Manora. Although not much have been written about Rampiyari, it seems, she died shortly after her children were taken away from her. This was told to the elder daughter, Ms Edwards, when she was a resident at Dr. Graham's Homes. She was also told by the caregivers at Dr. Graham's Homes that her father paid for their education and well being, but did not want anyone including his daughters to contact him or his new family. They did not share his whereabouts.

Alice Banting as Muriel | Assam Skies
Around 1936, Ms Edwards, a 16-yr-old young lady then, left Dr. Garhams Homes and travelled in train throughout India. She reached Karachi (a part of undivided India then; now in Pakistan) where she started her life as a nurse and took up a job of 'live in nursery nurse' for a British Army family. Whilst in this job, she met her future husband. They had a daughter together in 1941. In 1943, they left Karachi and moved to England. Her younger sister, who was still at Dr. Garham's Homes, left India and moved to London and got married to an Englishman. None of them knew that Frank Cyril Edwards lived in England till 1964. In fact, Ms Edwards tried once more to find his whereabouts before leaving Karachi; but, she received an anonymous letter which appeared to be full of lies.

Karen Weed, writer & great-
granddaughter of Rampiyari
When Karen Weed, a writer and the granddaughter of Ms Edwards, heard the entire story from her grandmother, she wanted the story of Rampiyari to be heard. In 2017, she wrote the poem 'Assam Skies' based on the life of her grandmother and the relationship between Frank and Rampiyari. She decided to enter the prestigious UK Songwriting Contest where 'Assam Skies' achieved Semi Finals placing. With more excitement in her heart, she shared the poem with various people. In the winter of 2018, Char Seawell, a folk-country singer from Bothell, USA, after having a talk with Karen, came forward to give a tune to the poem, transforming it to a melodious song.

Jim Ankan Deka; Char Seawell; Catherine Khiangte
In 2019, Karen approached an Assamese music producer, Jim Ankan Deka, who agreed to produce the music for Assam Skies. He brought together a team of traditional and western musicians, actors and filmmakers to fully produce a musical docudrama based on the story. The audio of Assam Skies is recorded in Assam and in the US. For the first time, traditional Assamese musical instruments are used for an American country-folk based song. The song was released worldwide in June, 2019 and the music video will be released on September 25, 2019, which is under post production at present.

Pragyan Bezbaruah; Tarunabh Dutta; Angshuman Bhattacharya
The song is sung by Char herself along with Catherine Khiangte from Mizoram. The Assamese traditional instruments like dotara, dogor, bamboo flute etc. were recorded by Barun Das and Debojit Kalita of Assam. The percussionists are Prabal Gogoi and Debjani Hazarika. Jim himself played the guitar, bass and keys, and programmed the drums. The music was recorded in Guwahati and Char's voice in Bothell, Washington, USA.

The shooting of the video started in August with the lead actors Lain Heringman (Frank) from Spain, Alice Banting Bhattacharya (Muriel) from UK and Gargi Buragohain (Rampiyari) from Assam. The child actors who acted in the video are Harshita Baruah and Bornali Thakuria. Few other actors who acted in different roles are Nitesh Parvat, Arnabjyoti Kashyap and Bishnu Pada Pramanik.

Prabal Gogoi & Debjani Hazarika
The music video was directed by well known filmmaker from Assam, Tarunabh Dutta. He was assisted by his teammates Himakhi Dutta and Angshuman Bhattacharya. The stills from the shoot had been handled by photographer cum blogger and founder of Pocket Friendly Travels, Pragyan Bezbaruah. The 2nd Unit Director is Prabal Gogoi of Assam. The video is produced jointly by Karen Weed, Jim Ankan Deka and Debjani Hazarika. The video will be released under ChaiTunes Project by Music Malt, a Bengaluru based production company.


The companies and people who helped in making of this periodical docudrama are:

1. Rohit (Rana) Choudhury for the locations and heritage bungalow.
2. Manohar Choudhury & Heritage Automobile Association of Assam (HAAA) for the vintage cars.
3. People of Garo Para and Nokari villages of Assam.
4. Simi Batra, Antara Bordoloi Kalita, Jubee Baruah and Arzoo Sarma for the costumes and the heritage items.
5. Joey Baruah, Rajat Bangia, Rakesh Borgohain for being the bridges in connecting with people.
6. Entire team and members of
  • TD Film Studio (video & editing) 
  • Music Malt (production house) 
  • OK North East (publicity) 
  • JM Design Studio (makeup studio) 
  • Jenie's Mascara (makeover & wardrobe)
  • Eastern Fare (artist repertoire)
  • Purple Trope (creatives)
  • Pocket Friendly Productions (teaser videos & stills)
Assam Skies is powered by OK North East.

CREDITS:

Lyrics: Karen Weed (UK)
Music by: Jim Ankan Deka and Char Seawell (US)
Produced by: Karen Weed, Debjani Hazarika & Jim Ankan Deka
Video Director: Tarunabh Dutta (TD Film Studio)
DOP: Tarunabh Dutta
2nd Unit Director: Prabal Gogoi
Teaser video: Pragyan Bezbaruah
Production Assistants: Himakhi Dutta, Angshumann Bhattacharya
Camera: Tarunabh Dutta, Pragyan Bezbaruah, Arnabjyoti Kashyap, Nitesh Parvat, Prabal Gogoi
Cast: Lain Heringman (Spain), Gargi Buragohain, Alice Banting Bhattacharya (UK), Nitesh Parvat, Arnabjyoti Kashyap, Bishnu Pada Pramanik, Mr Gogoi.
Child artists: Harshita Baruah, Bornali Thakuria
Musicians: Jim Ankan Deka (guitar & keys), Char Seawell (vocals), Catherine Khiangte (vocals), Debojit Kalita (flute), Barun Das (Assamese traditional instruments), Prabal Gogoi (cajon), Jenie (percussion)



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