Tolly pretty faces for Oriya film revival

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By DEBABRATA MOHANTY in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 1.12.04

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 1: Filmmakers in Orissa have turned to Calcutta for heroines in the belief that they will inject fresh life into an ailing cine industry.

In the romantic flick Saathire, Madhumita Basu, a 20-something actor from Calcutta, starred opposite Anubhav Mohanty, the one-hit wonder of Oriya cinema.

The on-screen romance of Basu and Mohanty ? from Agra to Kulu-Manali ? has gone down well with the audience, claims director Hara Patnaik, who dubbed the film a ?miraculous hit?.

Basu and a host of other actors from the Calcutta film industry ? better known as Tollywood ? have found in Oriya films the opportunity to expand their horizons and allow their careers to take off.

Of the handful of films released this year, quite a few feature heroines from Tollywood. While Suna Sankhali starred Swastika Mukherjee, Kathe Deithili Maaku has Rituparna along with Pinky Banerjee and Laboni Sarkar.

There are at least two under-production movies, which have Tollywood actors as the female lead. Ankita Banerjee, whose portfolio includes three Bengali telefilms and several modelling assignments, made her big screen debut in Basanta Nayak?s Barsha My Darling, which was released during the Pujas.

?My character is very good. I gained a lot of experience from acting in the film,? says Banerjee.

Actors like Banerjee seem to be infusing new life into the Oriya film industry, which has been plagued by a drop in the number of patrons and a prohibitive entertainment tax of 120 per cent.

Nearly 200 of the 300 cinema halls in the state have been closed down in the past two decades.

?The Tollywood heroines are not conservative and can deliver what the story demands,? says Nayak, adding, ?they add a touch of freshness to the films.?

The trend, however, is not new. In 1994, Rachana Banerjee acted in director Raju Mishra?s Rupa Gaanra Suna Kania at a time when Oriya heroines like Aparajita Mohanty and Mahasweta Ray were on the verge of retirement. The movie bombed but it didn?t deter Rachana from starring in around 20 Oriya films, including 10 hits.

Other Tollywood heroines like Saheli Mukherjee, Shatabdi Roy, Antara Biswas, Anushree and Srilekha followed in Rachana?s footsteps, but with limited success.

?The girls here can portray the roles of mother, sister and daughter. But they can?t be dream girls,? says director Mishra.

However, director Sanjay Nayak feels that the problem lies not in the absence of heroines who can ?deliver what the story wants? but in the dearth of good scripts. Sanjay has delivered a string of hits with local actor Anu Choudhury in the lead.

There are others too who don?t think that Tollywood heroines are a better option. ?Exposing is not glamour. If the directors are looking for glamour, then the girls here are definitely better. Besides, we won?t go away after doing one or two movies,? Choudhary says.

?Not all of them (Tollywood heroines) are talented,? says film critic Dilip Hali.

Though the trend continues unabated, Tollywood heroines have not exactly set the cash registers ringing. Production costs have gone up and most of the films have come a cropper. Not only do the Calcutta heroines charge more than their local counterparts, but they also have to be put up in luxury hotels.

?We are helpless,? says Patnaik, adding that when he was looking for a fresh face for his film Saathire, the local girls ?refused to act in a romantic movie?.

Besides Calcutta, actors from other places too are descending on the Oriya film industry. The super-hit romantic film I Love You featured a heroine from Mumbai as the female lead.