The narrow-mindedness of olden days that has disappeared today comes out in the anecdote narrated by celebrated veteran actor Sarat Pujari.
“In one of my films released in the 60s, my heroine had made the director oblige to a condition before the shoot started. She said she would act in the film only when I maintained a distance of more than three feet in our scenes. But during one scene, we had to come close and she was livid fearing her husband would be upset,” said the veteran.
Many also believe there was much truth in the rumour that the 1962 film Dasyu Ratnakara — since the crew could not convince any actress to play the female lead because of social barriers, they had to hire a social outcast for the role.
Film researcher Surya Deo felt things started changing only in the late 70s and 80s. “A lot of changes were visible when women started gaining attention for their performances. Even in earlier days, actresses such as Jharana Das and Parbati Ghosh had done films wherein women were the protagonists. But with Parbati Ghosh taking up direction, it did give a fillip to female artistes in the fraternity. Moreover, things have changed over the years in terms of remuneration, too. From being paid nothing or just peanuts, female artistes now command a good fee for their craft,” he said.
Indeed, well-known actresses such as Mahasweta Ray and Aparajita Mohanty started ruling the audience with many women-oriented films. However, with more commercial films coming into the realm of Odia film industry, skin show in item numbers started as did the gossips about casting couch.
Yet, noted actresses deny such experiences.
“Casting couch probably exists. But for those who are crazy to become stars overnight. For me, it was a very homely and family atmosphere on the sets always,” said Aparajita Mohanty.
In today’s times, it is family members who seem to opt filmdom as the career for their girls. While the young and successful Archita is seen accompanied with her mother always on and off sets, popular actress Anu Choudhury gives her family the credit for her entry into films.
“I love films. It was my dream to pursue acting and my family gladly supported me,” said Anu. “Today, people are more conscious and aware about the artistic skills and intellect needed for films,” she said.
Talking about the comparison of remuneration and financial security for a female artiste in the past and now, Anu said: “To ensure professionalism, the practice of discussing the remuneration with the film makers is in the best interest of all artistes. And even after earning a lot one may die a bankrupt. It all depends on one’s planning for future and lifestyle.”
Aparajita said: “The entertainment industry is volatile. So, we must be prepared for the future. The state government must take care of the veteran stars, but, at the same time, we should also be responsible for own financial security.”