With your last film Rangila Toka, you shattered the notion that comedians hardly make good heroes. But why do you avoid working with established directors?
Our directors don’t keep pace with the changing times or try to understand the audience’s tastes. Gulzar, who penned Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Khayaal Aata Hai, came up with Chhaiyyan Chhaiyyan because he was following the trend. But our directors lack that flexibility.
So can producers rest assured that they will make profit if they work with you?
I don’t give assurances. They have confidence in me. Balunga Toka grossed Rs 6.53 crore – the highest in the history of Odia cinema. Rangila Toka ran for 50 days in the off-season and the producer got Rs 3.5 crore. Toh Akhire Mun also raked in profit worth Rs 1.5 crore. A total of 22 films released in 2012 but only Rangila Toka made profits. So, do I need the producers more or do they need me?
Why have you stopped performing at your village, Kaptipada, and Udala?
Because local people exploited me. They would pay me way less money than agreed upon. Some even dragged me to death anniversaries or when a child was born! Recently, a jatra troupe of Nilgiri near Balasore defamed me, saying I ran away with their money without doing a cameo even though they never invited me.
People feel you have outdone comedians of yesteryears such as Jayiram Samal and Harihar Mohapatra.
Jayi bhai and Hari bhai have their own style. No one can take their place.
Are you insecure about your position here?
Even the Prime Minister of India is insecure about his position. I am like Slumdog Millionaire. People are appreciating me now, but they might reject me tomorrow. Everything has a saturation point.
You have portrayed 384 characters for the satirical TV show Jaha Kahibi Sata Kahibi on Tarang channel. Isn’t that a record?
I have applied to Limca Book of Records for playing maximum number of characters.
Since you have many other engagements, do you feel the quality of your show is being compromised?
Given a free hand, creative people never compromise on quality. Till now, I have not worked on anybody’s commands. I got 24 film offers last year but I went ahead only with Rangila Toka.
There are allegations that you are increasingly resorting to dirty jokes and sexual innuendos in your show, which makes it unfit for family viewing. What would you say on this?
People who are making these allegations are the ones who enjoy them the most. Before every show, I receive jokes from the public. Sixty per cent of them are vulgar and are sent by young girls, homemakers and senior citizens. But then, double-meaning jokes are for intelligent audiences and slangs are censored.
What is your opinion on film awards?
Politics rule every award function. For instance, Tarang has not included Rangila Toka in its nominations for the best film award even though it was the biggest grosser of 2012 and they don’t have a public voting system because they know my film will get maximum votes. I have decided to quit Tarang because they are taking me for granted. They have no agreement with me since 2009 and yet I have been doing Jaha Kahibi Sata Kahibi.
There is a view that you are demanding exorbitant fees for attending private events now that you are famous. Is it true?
I never demand money for charity shows and noble causes or ask organisers for a vehicle. I demand money when they want to exploit my commercially. I have never taken a penny for attending government school programmes. But I will not refrain from demanding money from private schools because they are looting students. I earn Rs 10 to 12 lakh a month, but my lifestyle hasn’t changed.