For anyone who has spent a few years of their life thinking and living with cinema in motion, it becomes only natural that every conversation remotely connected with films, ultimately meanders into cinematic comparisons. I am no exception to this. Be it a social issue, a political crisis, protest march or a crime that can cringe mankind – everything gets dissected with the lens of cinema. But cinema, just like any other art form in our state of Odisha is screaming for immediate attention. Not only cinema, if we extrapolate the factors, they will more or less reappear in different measures while understanding the sorry state of other art forms as well.
All of us can admit to the fact that most Odia films are way below par as compared to regional language films from other states. Of course, there have been a few exceptions once in a while but the factors which could have encouraged and championed these cinematic triumphs of the region have rather knowingly or unknowingly caused their untimely (artistic) deaths?
If I am to believe that a government is as good as the society, then as a society we do not value our cinematic tastes or quality. As a result, there has hardly been a collective consciousness to even remotely make the necessary noise for our cinema. There is no concrete film policy even after so many years. The state of Jharkhand has the most progressive film policy in the country, providing a subsidy up to Rs 2 crores to filmmakers for shooting films in their state. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh government provides a subsidy of Rs 1 crore. Likewise Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and Goa have their own film policy and provide subsidy to filmmakers in various slabs and conditions. Some states even reward filmmakers if their regional film gets selected to prestigious festivals or wins a National Award.
However, in our state, the Odisha Film Development Corporation (OFDC) is stationed since ages like an old oak tree overlooking the passing time and growing hollow from within. The concerned ministry knows that the ones who can milk their personal goals through the industry are doing fine, so why bother and meddle in there. Whatever little assistance they used to provide earlier was in terms of a loan. And in such volatile markets, who would want to take the risk of a loan? Subsidies attract more employment opportunities and investments from makers of other states. Also, cinema is the greatest ambassador of any region. Apart from giving a boost to tourism, it can also project Odisha as a happening state.
But if our state government is least bothered, it isn’t a surprise that the entire state misses to acknowledge few well made Odia films. After all, how would filmmakers, especially independent filmmakers, draw the attention of people in today’s time without spending on advertisements and public relations? Our people are not curious either. No doubt we end up with some of the grossest names for our films – just check the posters around.
An extension of this attitude reflects in the activities of a few national level film festivals that are becoming a regular fixture in the state capital. Festivals around the world are constituted with a broader objective to boost the local film making culture. Some of the top festivals of the world like Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) has a German section in its lineup. Back home, our FIAPF accredited film festivals – IFFK (Kerala) has a Malyalam section, KIFF (Kolkata) had a Bengali Panorama and recently in IFFI, Goa 2017 after much cajoling by the state government, a Goan section was introduced. After all, Goa has been hosting this festival for so many years and giving hospitality to the international community, it was only fair to support their local cinema culture on India’s biggest platform.
In comparison, there is no enthusiasm around having an Odia section in festivals being held in Odisha. Forget about a section, we hardly have any Odia films in their lineup; they are comfortable to ignore films that represent Odisha and India on global platforms. Probably like the obsession for fair skin, there are some who believe that things outside of Odisha are better.
Lastly, cinema journalism in this state needs to be uplifted big time. We are not asking tough and uncomfortable questions to the filmmakers, to governments, to the public and to anybody who is in the capacity to bring a difference to Odia films but is knowingly or unknowingly ignoring the responsibility. Media organizations probably do not want to invest time here as there is hardly any point covering a crawling industry or a non-existent independent film movement.
We Odias, have always been the accommodating Joe, waiting for the river to bend its course in our favour. In spite of whatever situation we may be forced to live in, a bowl of ‘pakhala’ in summer afternoons just convinces us that life is good and waters down whatever fire would have been there in the belly. Just “No Questions are to be asked” and we all can happily go into hibernation mode!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Odisha Bytes.