Hara conquers cancer, directs life - Actor-director back with a bang in Om Sai Ram

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By SHILPI SAMPAD
  • Published 16.09.12
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Bhubaneswar, Sept. 15: Lance Armstrong, Lisa Ray and Yuvraj Singh — now add Hara Patnaik’s name to that list of bravehearts.

Hara Patnaik, the man who redefined the role of villain in Odia films, continues to set benchmarks for others to follow. After a successful battle against blood cancer, the actor-cum-director is back in the moviedom with a bang. Om Sai Ram, his first film since his recovery, hit the theatres yesterday.

“People’s love and God’s blessings made it possible for me to bounce back after my illness,” said 53-year-old Patnaik, who changed the template of the baddie in Odia film industry with his urbane, sophisticated demeanour and dialogue delivery. As an ace reel villain, whom people loved to hate, Patnaik could be menacing on the screen without hamming and communicated more with his mannerisms.

But, when the news of Patnaik being in an advanced stage of blood cancer came in April 2008, it left the industry and the audience shell-shocked. Worse, he was struggling to arrange money — around Rs 60 lakh — for his treatment at a private hospital in Vellore. This came to light when he made a public appeal for financial help in his hour of crisis. The film fraternity did not let him down. The industry demonstrated a never-seen-before unity to bring their “Hara bhai” back on his feet.

They organised charity events to generate funds, some actors and film-makers even went to the extent of making personal donations for his treatment, which included chemotherapy sessions and bone-marrow transplantation.

Actor Sabyasachi, who was inducted into the Odia moviedom by Patnaik in Pagala Premi in 2007 said: “Hara bhai has been a father figure to me. When he was sick, I felt like an orphan in this industry, because we didn’t know whether he would survive. But, like a true fighter, he conquered cancer. I feel fortunate to have worked with him again (in Om Sai Ram) after his comeback.”

Actress Anu Choudhury, who shared a very good rapport with Patnaik and his wife, said she was sure of his recovery. “Life is full of uncertainties, but I had great faith in God that Hara bhai would get better and return to the industry. My prayers were answered. Now, he is back with a new film and I am sure he will go from strength to strength from here,” she said.

Many others in the industry raised the issue of personal insurance covers for actors and film-makers to deal with unforeseen events which was reflected in the case of Patnaik, who has acted in over 60 films and directed another 20.

“The life of industry people is always at risk as big and small accidents keep happening on the sets. Battling a life-threatening disease is even tougher. We do not make as much as money as people in Bollywood do. So, we need a system of personal insurance for everyone, starting from actors and directors to technicians,” said director Ashok Pati.