'Those working in OFDC are not sincere'

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By HOT SEAT: SARAT CHANDRA PUJARI, VETERAN ACTOR SHILPI SAMPAD AND SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
  • Published 3.09.11
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You decided to step down as the president of the Orissa Sangeet Natak Academy on August 16 this year alleging poor remuneration and inadequate infrastructure. Culture minister Prafulla Samal did not accept your resignation and promised to address your grievances. Has there been any progress?

After joining on February 25, I came to know that I was entitled to a rent-free accommodation, car with a driver and Rs 5,000 honorarium per month. The remuneration was quite low but at the same time, the workload was immense. I had to do work that did not even come under the purview of the Orissa Sangeet Natak Academy. I was given the responsibility of organising the state film awards, which I successfully managed to do. Whatever had not been done in two years, I did in six days.

You had given 15 days' time to the culture department to respond to your demands. What would you do if nothing comes out of it?

I would sit at home. I am not going back. Let them find someone else. I don't want any tension or fuss in life. I want to live in a dignified way.

What has been the role of Orissa Film Development Corporation (OFDC) in improving the quality of films?

Those working in the OFDC are not sincere. Munna Khan (actor) is a political man now and is not doing justice to the post of OFDC chairman. In Orissa, we have advanced technology but our people don't know how to make films. The scenario will not change until we get sensible people who want to spend money to make good films. We need good directors. Nirad Mohapatra made the internationally-acclaimed film, Maya Miriga, but no one approached him for a second film. Our people don't know how to appreciate good films.

Don’t you think Oriya films are increasingly moving towards vulgarity? In the film, Kiye Kahara, you maintained a two feet distance from your co-star, Soudamini, and yet it had all the romance and was a huge hit. Why is it so difficult now to do without skimpy outfits, raunchy songs and vulgar lyrics?

These days the audience is not sophisticated. They look at films as something that can titillate them and arouse their sexual impulses. And filmmakers are giving them just that, which is wrong and highly offensive. If you think vulgarity is essential for entertainment, you might as well move to pornography.

The taste of the audience seems to be changing. But does that mean that promising filmmakers also need to compromise and cater to the trend?

The producers and entrepreneurs of Oriya films are nomads. They make films, earn money and go off to some other place. Some of them are miners, forest contractors, builders or they have other big business. It is their black money that is being used to make films here and the industry is also growing. Films, now, are about big money, good wine and beautiful women.

We are seeing Hindi, Telugu and Tamil movies being remade here. There are channels that run Telugu films dubbed in Oriya. Where has all the creativity and originality gone?

We lack original ideas. There is a craze to replicate item songs from Hindi and Telugu films. None of the producers have ever read Oriya newspapers or magazines. They don't know how many good Oriya writers are there. They don't know who Ramachandra Behera (eminent litterateur and president of Orissa Sahitya Academy) is. They just don't bother finding out about them. Our language suffers because of this.

Many new youngsters are coming into this field. Do you think the actors lack talent?

I would not say that. But they think a film would not work well unless they shed clothes or do a sexy act. Acting is not about showing off your body. An actor comes and lifts his shirt collar in front of his heroine. Does anyone do that in real life? Unfortunately, the actors of today are not interested in learning the art of acting. Their real purpose is to earn money. They do one film and we call them celebrities. And they too start behaving like celebrities.

What kind of feeling do you get when you see the actors?

Have you seen monkeys? Actors are just monkeying around. They want to earn money and enjoy the pleasures of life. And it would be better not to talk about the songs and film titles. Akshay Mohanty (eminent singer and music director) knew a great deal about different parts of Orissa and how to utilise that knowledge to write good lyrics and make good music. After him, there has been no one who has been able to match his calibre.

Who among the present-day actors do you find promising? Do you watch films being made these days?

Yes, I have seen the promos of all the films. I think Akash Das Nayak and Sabyasachi are talented. Babushaan goes over the top with acting. His face does not indicate that he is a good actor. His face is childish and he should be cautious about it. When it comes to the actresses, I have my doubts.

From block designer to actor

Sarat Pujari, 77, is perhaps one of the oldest and best known thespians of the state

He has acted in hugely popular films such as Matira Manisa, Kiye Kahara and Andha Diganta

He was the director of critically-acclaimed films such as Ashanta Graha and Ta’poi

Pujari completed his graduation in economics from Ravenshaw University, Cuttack. He also has a master’s degree in economics and diploma in painting from Allahabad University

He first worked as a block designer and part time office assistant at the State Secretariat

Pujari made his acting debut in the film, Sri Sri Mahalaxmi Puja in 1959 as the lead actor

He then joined the Panchayat College, Bargarh, in Sambalpur as economics lecturer. In 1966, he left the college to resume acting and learn the techniques of filmmaking in Cuttack and Calcutta

In 1968, he joined another intermediate science college at Larambha as its principal and served for 24 years. Pujari became the principal of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in 1992 and retired from service two years later

He was nominated as the honorary president of the Utkal Sangeet Natak Academy for three years. However, he tendered his resignation on August 16 demanding higher remuneration and better infrastructure

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

I had always wanted to become a doctor. But unfortunately, I secured third division marks in my Plus Two (science) exams and, thus, failed to get a seat at SCB Medical College, Cuttack.

I asked my father to send me outside the state to look for other options but he refused. Then my college principal met my father and told him that I would make it big in the field of creative arts and that he should not force me to continue studying science.

Then I switched over to the arts stream and completed my graduation with economics honours.