Celluloid tribute to writer - National award winner remembers Oriya playwright

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  • Published 20.04.08

Jamshedpur, April 20: Amid the outside din and bustle of a busy Sunday evening over 30 young theatre enthusiasts from the city gathered at a quiet corner of Baradwari for an interesting session.

All members of Nishan, a city theatre group, the enthusiasts gathered for the screening of Pathika, a documentary of national award winner director Biyot Projna Tripathy. Based on the life of legendary Oriya playwright Gopal Chhotray, this was the first screening of the 22-minute documentary in the city after travelling across the country in many film festivals.

“I have been an ardent admirer of Chhotray right since my childhood and I consider myself lucky enough to get a chance to bring his life on celluloid,” said Projna. Started in 2000, the film was completed in 2004 after Chhortay’s death.

“It took me quite long as a detailed research was involved and later I got busy with other films. The film was being shown at festivals, therefore it took sometime before I could show it here,” added Projna, in her late 40s, who lives in the steel city.

A pioneer in the history of Oriya drama, Chhotray wrote over 500 radio plays, over 25 film scripts and over 100 short plays. “He led strict Gandhian life, but there was no restrictions on his medium, in fact he had also written scripts for stalwarts like Mrinal Sen and Shambhu Mitra and it is this simplicity that I have captured in my film,” said Projna, who originally hails from Orissa.

Projna started filmmaking as hobby but now it has turned to be her full-fledged profession. Her company, Hand Held Production, has produced over 20 documentaries both in India and abroad.

Projna did not go to any film school but her love for cinema made her stood firm behind the camera.

Later, she did a short-term course from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. It was in 2005 that her documentary on Ladakh, The Land of Mystery, won national award in the best documentary section.

Till date, Projna has made seven films re-telling rural lifestyle of people staying across the Himalayas — right from Ladakh to Manipur in the Northeast.

Her next film on eminent playwright Prafulla Mohanty would be premiered in London later this year. Her total number of films are about 25.

In the city for the past 20 years, this Bhubaneswar-born woman is a mother of two and her husband is currently a leading medical practitioner at Tinplate Hospital.

Today also marked the 93rd birth anniversary of Chhotray, a Padma Shri awardee.

Made in both English and Oriya, the film has been extensively shot across Orissa. From his native village in Jagatsinghpur to art academies in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, the filmmaker has travelled to remotest and incorporated real scenes from theatre shows. There are also instances and narration by people close to Chhotray and his family members.

While for Projna it was a tribute paid to the man she admired all her life, for theatre artistes, there was another reason why they watched the film. Come May, the same group of artistes would travel to Dehra Dun for an all-India-level theatre festival where they would enact Shobha, the Hindi adaptation of one of Chhotray’s popular works. “Such a session gave us an insight into his work and an ample chance to learn,” said Shivlal Sagar, the director of Nishan.