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‘Jayadev award is incidental’

- Raj Gopal Mishra speaks to The Telegraph on cinema and more

Initially as a musician and then as a cinematographer and director, 63-year-old Raj Gopal Mishra (fondly known as Raju Mishra) has served Odia film industry for three and a half decades. Recognising his contribution, the state government’s culture department is felicitating him with the highest honour of the state, the Jayadev Award that is given for lifetime achievement. Pratyush Patra spoke to the veteran filmmaker.

Are you overwhelmed to receive the Jayadev award?

To be honest, though it feels great that my 35 years of hard work is being recognised, I am not that emotional. The emotional high point of my career was being a jury member in the recent 44th International Film Festival of India. When the anchor introduced me to an audience of 5,000 people in the auditorium that had biggest names from Indian and world cinema, I got really emotional. For that matter, 14 regional films that I have been associated with have won various national and international awards. Jayadev award is incidental.

It is said your mother Sumati Devi had a lot of influence on you. Do you agree?

It is said so because I was a mama’s boy. But my father Bimal Kishore Mishra also inspired me a lot. Both my parents were musicians and ironically they both dissuaded me from taking up music as career as they knew there was no money it. They were simple musicians who did not know the street-smart ways of earning from music. I worked at a multinational company for few years.

But my inner calling took me to Film and Television Institute of India, where I studied cinematography.

You have composed for over 10 films some of which are considered classics now. But did you lose connect with music gradually? Also, what do you think of obscene lyrics of the songs that tourism and culture minister Maheswar Mohanty complained about?

I never lost touch with music. I have given background score for all my films. But I stay away from composing music for the songs now since I’m skeptical the present generation may not like it. The vulgar lyrics are born out of commercial insecurity. It is believed that an item number would add value to the film. Also, since the music is also copied, words are chosen accordingly to match the music.

Most of your films were women-centric and extensively used the Jagannath culture. Why was it so?

Films were not remakes of Tamil or Telugu films in our days. Our stories came straight out of our hearts. By nature, we were very religious people who believed in strong family bonds and it automatically reflected in our movies. We simply knew that those films would work.

There are no winners in seven categories in the state awards this year. As an observer, what do you feel went wrong with Odia cinema over the years?

Nothing went wrong. It is just a phase. We do not have regular producers, those who do not eye quick profits and rather are interested in quality production. Those producers know that investing money in a state where you have 60-odd outlets to showcase your film would be foolish. The present crop of producers would not be around for long because all films are making losses today. So, hopefully this phase would pass away and the filmmakers with better cinematic sensibilities would come back. You may even get to see Raju Mishra donning the director’s hat once again.