'I agree we are moving towards vulgarity'

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By HOT SEAT: Munna Khan, Actor and Chairman of Orissa Film Development Corporation SHILPI SAMPAD AND SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
  • Published 30.04.11

As chairman of OFDC, you have drawn flak from various quarters regarding the inconspicuous celebration of the 75th year of Oriya cinema. Why wasn’t it done in a grand way?

We had asked the state government for Rs 50 lakh but the finance department sanctioned only Rs 25 lakh. That was not enough for a grand celebration. We had to conduct film screening as part of the industry department’s Entrepreneur’s Week. I am trying to arrange for more funds from the state as well as through advertisements so that we can keep organising some programme or the other throughout the year in various parts of the state.

The Oriya film industry is mostly thriving on remakes of Hindi, Telugu or Tamil movies. Do you think originality and creativity has gone down the drain?

It is true that earlier original movies were being made, some of which have won several international awards. But the preference of the audience is changing these days and they want to see movies similar to those being made in Hindi or other languages. Another reason is that producers, although talented, do not want to take risks. An original idea might not always generate profits for them.

The industry is also moving towards perversion — skimpy outfits, vulgar lyrics. These are something you cannot watch with your family. Do you think the censor board is doing its job well?

We all are humans and sometimes make mistakes. But it would not be fair on my part to judge a person or organisation. I agree we are moving towards vulgarity these days and it is unfortunate. Something which hampers our culture or makes certain people feel awkward should not be promoted. I would request the board to ensure that all films are suitable for family audiences.

What steps are you taking to revive Kalinga studio, the only studio in the state, from doldrums?

It has been my primary aim to revive the studio ever since I assumed charge as OFDC chairman. We have repaired the boundary walls and are now sprucing up the garden. I have written to the chief minister to disburse funds from the special funds to renovate the village complex. The entire expenditure required would come to nearly Rs 1.5 crore. I will oppose any privatisation of the Kalinga Studio.

Some OFDC officials have been caught in the vigilance net for corruption. What action have you taken against them?

I have written to the DG of vigilance to speed up the investigation. If someone is found guilty, they should file a case or chargesheet against them. If not, give them a clean chit.

There is no Muslim face in the present BJD ministry. What is your take on this?

Yes, the problem is no Muslim candidate has won a seat this time — not even from the Congress, BJP or as an independent candidate. There is no Muslim in the state Assembly who can raise our issues. We would definitely request the party high command to ensure that our minority community gets better representation in the next elections.

While the Congress had several Muslim representatives during its rule in the state, the BJD has failed to promote someone from this minority community. How do you view this?

As far as I know, during the Congress era, three Muslim candidates were given party tickets and all of them became ministers. During the BJP-BJD coalition period, I had expressed my interest to contest elections from Nabarangpur constituency. But I could not, both times, since Nabarangpur and even other constituencies with aspiring Muslim candidates came under BJP quota. Even in 2009 elections, although the alliance ended, my constituency was reserved for ST. BJD gave tickets to two Muslim candidates — one for Assembly and other for Parliament elections. But, unfortunately both the leaders had lost the elections.

But do you feel the BJD could have given a couple more tickets to members of the Muslim community?

It would have been better if the party had given more tickets to Muslim candidates. We had demanded that some more seats be given to us. But, I guess, the party made decisions keeping winning prospects in view, especially since there was a split in alliance.

Muslims all over the country mostly align towards the Congress. But isn’t the scenario in the state different?

Earlier, Muslims and other minorities like SCs and STs mostly supported Congress but things have changed now. After becoming the chief minister, Naveen Patnaik has undertaken several welfare measures for the minorities and underprivileged sections. Their support lies with the BJD and the last election proved just that.

During the Kandhamal riots of 2008, violence was inflicted on the Christian minority by saffron parties. BJP was then an ally of BJD. As a member of a minority community, how did you feel about it?

It was in the wake of the riots that the alliance was split. We condemned the attacks. Many of us, including me, had personally approached the chief minister and told him the alliance could create problems for us in future.

What do you have to say about the global anger against Muslims?

Maybe because terrorist networking has been mostly found in Muslim countries. But people in my state and country are peace loving. Every religion is treated equally here.

From reel to real

Born in Nabarangpur district of southern Orissa, 47-year-old Munna Khan, has politics running in his family

While his uncle, Habibullah Khan, is a Congress veteran who has represented the area for a record nine times in the state Assembly, his father is a Biju Janata Dal loyalist

However, his political background notwithstanding Munna, a graduate in arts from Kotpad College, Koraput, never took to politics seriously in his early days

He was more inclined towards theatre and used to regularly take part in dramas in school and college

Acting came to him naturally and he even gave tips to his classmates

Munna watched a lot of movies in school and college and had always aspired to be an actor. The dream came true when he joined the Oriya film industry essaying the lead role in a strong of movies including Kasturi, Ki Heba Sua Posile, Mamata Dori, Kiye Kahara, Ganga Siuli and Kanha

He made a belated entry into politics a few years ago following a call from chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, whose party, the BJD, was looking for young and dedicated men to carry forward the legacy of late Biju Patnaik who gave the party his name

What would you have been had you not been an actor?

I was always attracted to acting and films since my childhood days. Although I did not participate in many stage programmes

during my school and college days, I always used to help my classmates with acting. Sometimes, I would play the role of funny characters to make people laugh. While watching Hindi films, I would put myself in the place of the actors and imagine how I would have played the part. Often, I felt I could do much better than some actors. Had I not been into films, I would have been in politics just like my father, uncle and maternal grandfather. Politics is in my blood.