Film Journalism in Orissa
Monday, September 12, 2011
Film Journalism in Orissa

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee                                                        
Oriya film industry is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year. The first Oriya feature film Sita Vivah was released on April 28, 1936 at Luxmi Talkies in Puri. It created a splash in the media world of Orissa. Several reports and features were written on this new art form. The second Oriya film Lalita was released on 1949. The third film Shree Jagannath was released on February 2 at the Capital Cinema in Cuttack. 

After 16 years of the release of the first Oriya film, the first Oriya film magazine Cine Orissa was published in 1951 from Berhampur. The second film magazine in Oriya titled Cinema was published from Calcutta (now Kolkata). Jatindra Mohan Mohapatra and Dukhyshyam Mohanty published it. Basanta Mohapatra published Chitrapuri from Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1960 in litho. Chitrapuri was published from Cuttack in 1965. Randhir Das published Jiban Ranga from Cuttack in 1966. It is still around, but it has adopted a different genre. It has become more of a literary magazine now. Parikhit Jena published Banichitra from Bhubaneswar in 1968. A film journal Rangin Chitra Jibana was published in 1971with Randhir Das as the editor.

Cuttack based newspaper Prajatantra played an important role in shaping the content and style of entertainment journalism in Orissa. It was the first mainstream Oriya newspaper to have taken entertainment seriously. Prajatantra resumed its publication from Cuttack in 1948. It had a section titled ‘Chaya O Mancha’, in which reports relating to theatre, plys and films, and reviews used to be published. Keshab Chandra Samal used to edit this section. In 1970 Harihar Prasad Mahalik started editing this section and continued till 1995. It was during his time that a separate weekly page on film, entertainment and culture titled Roopa Rasa Chhanda was introduced. It became very popular.

By 1980s there were about 20 film magazines published in Orissa. Few of them are still surviving. Here is a list of film magazines, published in 1970s and 1980s, many of which have ceased publication. Chitrakatha (published by Chatrasathi Prakashan, 1972), Chalachitra Jagata (Editor: Adikanta Rout, Cuttack, 1976), Chitradhara (Editor Saral Das, Bhadrak, 1977), Joy (Asantakali, Kolkata), Chitra Taranga (Pradeep Mohanty, Cuttack, 1977), Chitra Pari (Binod Nanda, 1977, Cuttack). Chayachhabi (Sidhartha Das, Cuttack, 1978), Chitra (Girish Kumar, 1978), Nayika (Bansidhar Bhuyan, 1978) In 1979 Susama Samanta published Alokchitra, cine actor Mihir Das published a film magazine titled Chitra Lahari, Srikanta Mohanty published Manoranjan in 1979 from Puri and Indrajit Ghosh published Chayachitra in 1979. Kamal Pattanaik published Chitra Samikha in 1983. Asok Palit published the first tabloid film magazine in Oriya titled Cine Darshan in 1985. Among other film magazines published during this period were: Film Duniya (Editor Tapan Baral, Cuttack), Banichitra (Editor: Parikhita Jena, Bhubaneswar), Chhaya Chitra (Editor Prasanta Mohanty, Cuttack), Cinema Sansar (Murali nayak), Chitra Kirti (Publisher: Satyanarayan Press), etc.

Although by early 1980s there were about two dozen Oriya film magazines and some mainstream newspapers had started publishing reports and reviews, film journalism in Orissa was not taken seriously by the intelligentsia. There had been hardly any serious discussion or deliberation on cinema in mainstream media in Odisha. Information regarding new film projects, story and photographs of films and juicy gossip about the actor and actresses had been the staple in Odia film journalism. As Radhamohan Mahapatra wrote, most of the film magazines promoted the films, who patronized them.  Serious, incisive articles, reportage on films had hardly appeared in mainstream media. There had been, however, some articles in alternative magazines.

Oriya Film Industry underwent a positive change from mid 1970s in several aspects. The number of films increased. From 1936 till 1970- in 34 years only 34 Oriya films were released. Hundred more films were released in the next ten years. Number of viewers increased. So did number of movie halls. The first Oriya colur film Gapa Helebi Sata was released in 1976. The second colur Oriya film Sesha Srabana (later remade in Hini with the title Naia) was released in the same year. It won National award. Orissa Film Development Corporation (OFDC) was established in the same year. Kalinga Studio, a modern film studio was established in Bhubaneswar in 1980. An effort to make parallel films was made in late 70s and early 80s. Manmohan Mohapatra made his first film Sitarati in 1976.  

1980s was a water shade decade for Oriya film industry and also for Oriya film journalism. It was in 1982 that Manmohan Mohapatra’s Sita Rati was screened at an international film festival. It was the first Oriya film to get such an honour. In the next couple of years, Nirad Mohapatra’s Maya Miriga was screened at Cannes International Film Festival. Sushant Mishra’s Indradhanura Chhai won Grand Prix Award at a Russian film festival. It also went to Cannes. Film journalism in Orissa came of age with Cine Sambad (first published on July 2, 1985), edited by Sampad Mohapatra and published by Eastern Media, publisher of Sambad.

It was Mohapatra, an immensely talented writer and artist (he was the hero and art director of critically acclaimed film Maya Miriga, which his brother Nirad Mohapatra directed), who set a bench mark in film journalism in Orissa. With innovative layout and design, interesting and entertaining articles and features, Cine Sambad soon became very popular in Orissa. However, financial crunch forced the magazine to fold in mid 1990s. Later, there were attempts to revive Cine Sambad for a couple of times, but the old magic could never be rekindled. Ashirbad Prakashan, publisher of daily Samay published a monthly film magazine called Cine Samaya with Ashok Palit as the editor.

1990s was a testing decade for Oriya film industry. The spread of cable television and cheap video was eroding its viewership. Rampant piracy drained the revenue. 1999 super cyclone almost broke the backbone of the Oriya film industry as most of the cinema houses in coastal districts were badly damaged. It was television industry which sustained the technicians and actors in this critical period.

The first decade of the millennium showed slow but steady recovery. Films began to draw crowd to theatres again. As a result number of film production increased. Twenty three Oriya films were released in 2010. Critics point out that the development is quantitative and not qualitative. The mainstream films, which often are cheap copies of Hindi, Bengali, Tamil or Telegu blockbusters are loud, melodramatic and lack the technical finesse. There is hardly a parallel cinema movement in Orissa. All these are true to a large extent. But the silver lining is that the industry is definitely picking up its threads- financially.

With the film industry picking up threads, film journalism is also picking up. More entertainment-centric magazines are being published. Among the film magazines published in the first decade of the new millennium, Chitralipi published from Balasore by Samarendra Mohapatra has become very popular.

But the problem of quality faced by the film industry persists with the film magazines too.  Content wise, the focus is more on the entertainment aspect with emphasis on juicy gossip. Same is the case with entertainment journalism on Television.  The situation is not much different from what Rick Ellis writes in his blog on 26 June, 2009 on entertainment journalism in the West: “While print and web entertainment journalism is often shoddy, 90% of the TV entertainment journalists are beyond laughable. Watch the typical entertainment "news magazine," and you'll find almost no actual "news" included. And despite the "journalist" tag, no one really believes any journalism is taking place on the premises. It's common for the shows to pay for exclusive photos, footage and access. Or to craft quid-pro-quo tradeoffs to get some one-on-one time with a star. It's not unusual for stars to stipulate which questions they don't wish to be asked. And everyone goes along because it makes for a nice, profitable business for all sides” .

With some exceptions, there has been hardly any attempt by the mainstream media to talk about the finer nuances of art and culture to common people. There have not been many journalists active in this field. One such committed journalist was Harihar Pradsad Mahalik who used to write on films, art and culture in Prajatantra and Eastern Times from 1960s onwards. Samaja never took entertainment segment, especially films- seriously till late 1980s.  Competition forced it to publish news, reviews and features on film and opera, etc, in its Sunday edition and its weekly magazine.
It was only from 80s that professional journalists began to write about art and culture regularly in mainstream media. It was Bibhuti Mishra (1959-2003), Ashok Palit, Shyamhari Chakra, Kapilash Bhuyan and journalists like them who wrote about art and culture. Radhanath Mohapatra used to write regularly on Odiya films in Sambad. Tapan Ghosh writes regularly on Television. Jakir Khan has written a book titled Oriya Cinemara Itihasa (History of Oriya Cinema) in 2006. Surya Deo has published an anthology of articles on Oriya cinema: Oriya Cinema: Rupa O Rupantare (2010).

[The author is the Professor and Head of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal. Besides media, he writes on social issues and environment. He also writes fiction and has published 5 novels and 4 anthologies of short story. This article is a part of his forthcoming book on history of journalism in Orissa, scheduled to be published on end 2011.
He can be contacted on mrinaliimc@yahoo.in
His website: www.mrinalchatterjee.in]

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