Biography of Phani Sarma – Indian Actor and Film Director

Phani Sarma was one of the most respected figure of Assam. He was a actor, film actor, playwright and director. He made his debut as a stage actor initially and later acted in the first Assamese film ever made in Assamese cinema, Joymati, in 1935. He also directed the films Siraj in 1948 and Piyali Phukan in 1955 and acted in there as well. Phani Sarmadev was awarded the title of “Natasurya” in recognition of his contribution towards Assamese theatre/drama.

Biography of Phani Sarma

Biography of Phani Sarma

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Table of Contents

NamePhani Sarma[1]
Date of Birth1910
ProfessionActor, film director, playwright
DeathJuly 31, 1970

Phani Sarma’s film career

Phani Sarmadev started his life as a gatekeeper at the historic Bana Rangamancha in Tezpur. His father Molan Sharma was also known as a theatre expert and a well-known actor in Bana Rangamancha. Phani Sharma, who regularly went to the theatre with his father, got close to veteran actors like Indreshwar Borthakur, Lalit Mohan Chowdhury, Prafulla Barua etc. Since then, he was increasingly attracted to the world of drama. In 1928, he got the opportunity to play the role of ‘Akbar’ in the play ‘Rana Pratap’ of Bana Rangamancha.  Later in 1930, Phani Sarma joined the migratory theatre group “Kohinoor Opera.” From Sadiya to Dhubri, Kohinoor Opera continued to stage plays and Phani Sarma’s performance was one of its highlights. In addition to starting a theatre movement in Assam through this, Kohinoor Opera in 1931 marked the first co-acting on the stage of Assam. Apart from this, Phani Sarma has directed several plays from the first year of Purbajyoti Mobile Theatre, which started under the production of Karuna Kanta Majumdar.

In 1935, Phani Sarma collaborated on the production of Joymati, the first Assamese film directed by RupKonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala, and played the role of Gathi Hazarika in it. Again, in Agarwal’s second film Indramalati, he played the role of the hero’s friend ‘Lalit’. In 1948, Sarma teamed up with Bishnuprasad Rabha to make a film called Shiraj based on a popular short story by Deshpran Laxmidhar Sharma. Again in 1955, he directed the film Piyoli Phukan and played the lead role as a protagonist. In 1963, he acted on Itu Situ Bahuto and this was his last performance in cinematic career, where he appeared as an actor rather than taking the director’s helm.

Also Read: Biography of Nipon Goswami

Phani Sarma as a playwright

Apart from acting on stage and film, he was also a well-known playwright. Though small in number, his plays were of great quality. His stage plays with universal stories and appeal have always been highly appreciated by the audience and critics alike.

Phani Sarma wrote the historical play ‘Bhoogjara’ based on the rebellion that took place in the days of Ahom Swargadeo Sunyeofa described in historian Suryakumar Bhuyan’s book ‘Konwar Mutiny’. Following the footsteps of Jyotiprasad Agarwaladev, Phani Sarma wrote a number of plays that carry the identity of Assamese people and culture. After the success of the film Siraj in 1948, he was inspired to write a play of the same name and its theme was Hindu-Muslim unity. Phani Sharma himself played the titular role in the play and staged the play at more than a hundred places in the 1950s-60s.

Inspired by his own experience as an actor and the death of his son while stage acting, Pani Sarma wrote the social drama ‘Kiyo’, a tale of an artist entertained other people with very little compensation from society. He also wrote another play called ‘Nag-Pas’ on political corruption. In  his play ‘Kola Bazar (Black Market)’, he included elements of comedy with more serious topics like social injustice and inequality as well as humour. Phani Sarmadev had also translated J. B. Priestley’s famous play An Inspector’s Call into Assamese language.


Some of the films and characters he has acted in are:

1.1935 – Jayamati-Gathi Hazarika

2.1937 – Devdas


4.1948- Siraj-Siraj

5. 1955 – Piyoli Phukan-Piyoli Phukan

6.1961- Lachit Borphukan-Rashid Khan

7.1963-Itu Sito Bahuto -retired army officers

8.1964 – Maniram Dewan-Maniram Dewan

‘Rang-Birang’ was an autobiography of Phani Sarmadev. In this autobiography, full of humour, pictures of the cultural world of Assam at that time are still shining. The autobiography narrates his cultural journey with Bishnu Prasad Rabha, the early days of Assamese mobile drama and many experiences in the making of the film Joyamati.


This veteran personality who is one of the most respected personality of Assam and the Assamese people died on July 31, 1970. Phani Sarmadev is a precious gem and bright shining star of Assam, although he is not physically present with us today but his memories and his works will always remain in the hearts of every Assamese.


1. When was Phani Sarma born?

Ans: Phani Sarmadev was born on 1910.

2. Who is Phani Sarma?

Ans: Phani Sarmadev is one of the most respected personality of Assam. He was an Indian actor, playwright, film actor, and director from Assam.

3. Name some of the movies of Phani Sarma.

Ans: Some of the movies of Phani Sarma are: Piyoli Phukan, Joymati, Siraj, Indramalati, Maniram Dewan, Dhumuha, Era Bator Sur, Itu Siyo Bahutu etc.

4. What title was Phani Sarma conferred with?

Ans: He was conferred with the title “Natasurya”.

5. When did Phani Sarma died?

Ans: Phani Sarmadev died on July 31, 1970.

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