Minaketan fights cancer & penury

Shows to raise funds

By ANWESHA AMBALY in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 7.06.17
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A fundraising event for Minaketan Das in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati

Bhubaneswar, June 6: Every time he arched his eyebrows and delivered dialogues with a typical smirk, the protagonist shuddered and the audience clapped. But today Minaketan, the ace villain of Odia cinema, TV and jatra (opera) world, finds himself at the mercy of others.

Battling pancreatic cancer, Minaketan faces the uphill task of arranging for around Rs 40 lakh to fight the dreaded disease.

After a spell of treatment at the Asian Institute of Cancer, Mumbai, he returned to the state. He was treated at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar for a while before being sent back to Mumbai for treatment.

A student of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Minaketan, who is in his early 50s, has acted in nearly two dozen films, including Balunga Toka, Super Micchhua, Lover Masters and Gote Shua, Gote Shari. He has rendered many powerful roles in Odia jatras as well.

With dwindling patronage from the state, his hopes are pinned on the film fraternity and the artistes' federations but they, too, are struggling to finance his treatment. The situation is typical of artistes in the state when they age. The state culture department has handed a cheque of Rs 1 lakh to Minketan's wife Kanchanbala but this seems to be too little too late. Actor Abhishek said: "Such gestures are of little help."

Moved by his plight, a group of instrumentalists and musicians of the state have come together under - Aama Kalakar Parivar - with the aim of bettering the living conditions of artistes and helping them at their times of need.

They have so far conducted three shows to raise funds. "So far, we have collected Rs 50,000 and plan to organise a total of 10 shows. Within two weeks, we hope to raise some money," said Anshuman Nayak, a member of the organisation. It has earlier hosted similar shows to raise funds for technicians and musicians in distress.

He said: "We do not get fixed salaries or earn much. Unless we come to each other's rescue, there is no hope."

Members of the Odisha Cine Critics' Association also hosted a fund-raising event at Jayadev Bhavan. Secretary of the association and film critic, Dilip Halli, feels the film industry should take lessons from the plight of Minaketan.

"There is very poor response from the film industry in providing help to him. It is high time we realise that unity is our biggest strength. We have to work towards making this association strong so that we may effectively overcome difficult times," said Hali, adding that artistes and technicians need to have life and health insurance policies.

Eminent film director Basant Sahu said there was an urgent need for a policy. "Once such a policy is in place, there will be provision of separate funds for artistes and technicians." He said the film policy that should be modelled on the lines of those existing in Maharashtra and Karnataka providing a road map for promotion of the film industry and its members.