Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 12:
A glorious era in the history of Odisha’s culture, theatre and cinema ended today with the sad demise of Sarat Pujari.
We, at Odisha Sun Times, deeply condole the passing away of one of the greatest sons of our state and share the grief of his family as well as his countless friends and admirers.
The following is an interview by senior journalist Jatindra Dash of the IANS and Reuters, which was published in October 2007 .
IN CONVERSATION WITH SARAT PUJARI
by Jatindra Dash / IANS
Producers of most modern Oriya films have distanced themselves from the state’s culture, tradition and literature, according to veteran Oriya film actor Sarat Pujari.
‘A majority of the producers and directors engaged in filmmaking today are copying Hindi ‘formula’ films,’ complained Pujari, a 74-year-old who has acted in 48 Oriya movies in a 47-year career.
‘Oriya movies made these days have lost their identity, and I don’t want myself to be known as a professional filmmaker or actor of Oriya films. I would be rather happy when people call me a teacher,’ Pujari told IANS.
Pujari lives with his wife in a two-bedroom rented house at Niladri Vihar, on the outskirt of Bhubaneswar. The wall of the drawing room in his house is filled with certificates and awards as well as photographs from different movies in which he acted.
His four children, two daughters and two sons, have grown up and are all settled.
‘In 1936, the first Oriya film ‘Sita Bibaha’ (Marriage of Sita) was made, but after that for the next 13 years no films were made. Between 1949 and 1958, nine Oriya films were made.
‘I began my career in the tenth Oriya film ‘Sri Sri Mahalaxmi Puja’ made in 1958,’ said Pujari, who also served as a teacher in private colleges in western Orissa.
‘Earlier, the films were full of stories related to state’s culture and tradition. For example, the mythological movie ‘Sri Sri Mahalaxmi’ is about the story of Lord Jagannath,’ he said.
‘Mahalaxmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and fortune and in the film I played the role of Lord Jagannath. The film reflects the greatness of Oriya culture and life styles.
‘Oriya films made before 1975 were extremely good. They reflected the state’s culture and tradition in the best possible manner.
‘But the films turned completely commercial after 1975. A majority of producers and directors copied Hindi ‘formula’ movies to make profits,’ Pujari said.
‘You will find use of vulgar languages in modern Oriya films which hurt me,’ he said. ‘We can make good films, but we need to study well, need to learn from our rich culture and heritage.’
Despite his age, Pujari looks smart and cheerful. He walks a few kilometers every day and remains active by devoting time for painting, meetings and social work.
He has played roles in mythological film ‘Jaya Jagannath’ and a home production ‘Puja Pain Phula Tie’ (A flower for ritual). They were released this year.
‘I never act in a film if I don’t like the story,’ he said. ‘That is why I never acted in many films even though I was offered a role.’
Besides, time is also a constraint.
‘Since I was also a teacher, I had time for films only when there were holidays,’ said Pujari, who retired as principal of Sangeta Natak Mahavidyalaya in Bhubaneswar in 1994.
‘Mrinal Sen is my favourite director and I enjoyed acting in his film ‘Matira Manias’,’ said Pujari, who has worked under 35 directors. He also played the lead role in a Hindi film, ‘Aranyaka’, directed by A.K. Bir.
Some of the famous Oriya films in which Pujari acted as a hero include ‘Tapoi’, ‘Asanta Graha’, ‘Astaraga’ and ‘Sadhana’.
Although these films were not commercially successful, they dwelt on the plight of farmers and reflected Orissa’s culture and traditions, he said.