A golden era comes to an end

When Maya Miriga was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, it was not just an Odia film but also a representation of the state itself, as for the first time, an Odia film reached international audience. Nirad Mahapatra, the man behind the film, who earned the special jury award, died this morning at a private hospital in Mumbai.

By Namita Panda in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 20.02.15
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Nirad Mahapatra

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 19: When Maya Miriga was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, it was not just an Odia film but also a representation of the state itself, as for the first time, an Odia film reached international audience. Nirad Mahapatra, the man behind the film, who earned the special jury award, died this morning at a private hospital in Mumbai.

Mahapatra was 67.

Suffering from ill health for over a month, Mahapatra had undergone a surgery in January that led to further complications, said a family member. After a second surgery on February 8, he had shown improvement, but his condition got unstable last night.

Born on November 12, 1947, he was the eldest of seven siblings. Son of a freedom fighter, Mahapatra grew up in Bhadrak and had a keen interest in cinema since his childhood days.

He completed his bachelor's degree with distinction in 1967. He dropped out from a postgraduate course in political science from Utkal University and joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune.

After passing with a first-class diploma in film direction, he joined the faculty of film direction at the FTII as a lecturer and taught there from 1972 to 1974. He had also founded Cinexstasy, a film society in Bhubaneswar, which was active from 1974 to 1983.

Mahapatra made Maya Miriga, his first feature film, in 1984 with a group of amateur actors. Focusing on joint family issues in an urban set-up, the film went on to win him a Rajat Kamal at the National Awards. In 1985, he was invited to visit four US universities to give lectures on films. He was a jury, guest faculty, and a committee member of various film institutes and festivals.

His sudden death has left members of the Odia film industry in shock. "He was like an elder brother to me. It was only for him that I had taken up film-making. He had inspired me to join the FTII and was my teacher there. It is a personal loss to me and a big one for the film community," said director Manmohan Mohapatra.

Film personality Prasant Nanda said: "It is a sad news for me and a great loss for not only Odia but Indian cinema. He was a guide for all of us in the industry. We benefited from his ideas and teaching. His absence will affect this."

Kin of Mahapatra put blame on improper treatment for his death. "The callousness of the hospital employees led to his death. He developed an infection during the surgery. We will take legal action against the hospital authority," said Mahaptra's younger brother Sampad.

Mahapatra was a regular contributor to guest columns for The Telegraph.