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AIDEU HANDIQUE (1915-2002)

Aideu Nilambar Handique was a film actor. She was the first woman to act in Assamese films and played the eponymous heroine of Joymoti, the first ever Assamese film, made by Jyotiprasad Agarwala in 1935. A cousin of Aideu showed a picture of her to Jyotiprasad, and he asked for her to be brought to his tea estate and prepared to play the part of Joymoti. Not unnaturally, Aideu was frightened and unwilling so Jyotiprasad coached her on what to do: how to walk, how to speak, how to look sad or happy. The film was made, with her father’s consent; in it she had to call her co-star ‘bongohordeo’ (husband) and there was also a scene where she was beaten up. She came back to her village, Panidihingia, to face ostracism and hostility as she had spent time with men in a camp, and moreover she had addressed her co-star as ‘husband’.

She got no offers of marriage, while Joymoti was her only film, she did not get any other roles. She did not even get to see the film as there was no cinema hall near Panidihingia. Only in 1985, when the golden jubilee of Assamese cinema was celebrated, did the state government give her a cassette of the remains of the film, as the stock had been partially destroyed. She was also given a pension of a thousand rupees a month, though it was seldom paid on time. She was frail in her last years and died after a long illness. In 2006 Arup Manna made a documentary, Aideu, on her life.
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