By Anant Mahapatra*

I am not someone who is at ease talking about people who are a part of my life, me. Sarat was one of them. All that I can do is to recount our long journey together, in the briefest possible manner.

Sarat Pujari, Minati Mishra and the author in 'Sadhana'
Sarat Pujari, Minati Mishra and the author in ‘Sadhana’

My association with Sarat began way back in 1960, when I took charge of the Books business and he had come back from Allahabad, looking for a job. The association grew after I formed Srujani Theatre Group in 1964 in which he joined as an active member.


              Remembering Sarat Pujari on the occasion of his Ekadasaha 


Intimacy developed between us after we won the first prize in Odisha  Sangeet Natak Akademy  one act play competition at Berhampur  for our play  ‘Swarga-Martya’ in which we both acted and I had directed.  We were meeting almost everyday, along with Hemanta Das ,Biswajit Das and others to discuss at length on the latest works in theatre and cinema and, of course, books.

Sarat was also part of my efforts to set up the first film society in Cuttack,  My association with him got thicker when he joined  me to form ‘Associated Publicity’, an advertising  agency,  in 1968. Naturally we used spend hours together in the same office.

Then came his big break in Odia films- Mahalaxmi Puja’. After this huge debut, he has never had to look  back in his long and illustrious career in cinema. Although he joined LarambhaCollege as the principal,  he always found time to act in films and even dabble with film production.

But it was in 1965, during the making of the Odia film‘Sadhana’ in Sambalpur and Calcutta studio, that our relationship touched a new high.

Anant Mahapatra
Anant Mahapatra

Sarat, as one of the producers and Prabhat Mukherjee as the director were very kind to seek my views in scripting, music, dialogues and logistics, particularly in Calcutta where I had the advantage of both accommodation and conveyance.

‘Sadhana’ was a huge success and a trend setter- and credit should go to Sarat for his undivided dedication to the project.

As an actor  Sarat was a keen student of character interpretation and had a rare sensibility to delve deeper into the characters he visualized or played both on screen and the stage. Being a painter, he had a unique sense of representation of the vision and the objective. Being honest and humble he played characters as interpreted by the writers and the directors and applied the same principles when he was directing films or plays.

A couple of years ago he acted in one of my telefilms, ‘Kala Koilee’ penned by eminent  Odia writer Kishori Charan Das. He played an almost tailor-made role of an elder village head who remained a mystic to his  people  and family. We had very little time to discuss the character after I gave him the script to read. He knew I would be awfully busy during hectic 30-hour shooting schedule over just two days. I knew Sarat need not be told about what I expect of him while he gives flesh to the crucial character in Kala Koilee. Later Sarat told me it was one of the most satisfying roles he ever played.

When I started the Utkal Rangamanch Trust at Bhanja Kala  Mandap as a regular professional theatre  campaign, he was not actively associated but used to take part in the  workshops and seminars with very keen interest.

His son Soumen of course was a regular  artist  for all the plays we staged  for five long years – from 1999 to 2004. It was a great delight to discover in Soumen, the inheritance of the streak of creativity that distinguished Sarat as an actor and artist.

So the association continues…………


* Anant Mohapatra, a celebrated name in the Indian theatre movement, is also a well known theatre and film actor-director. He is associated with a number of organisations and institutions in the fields of theatre, art, music, good cinema, folk culture and heritage. He lives in Bhubaneswar and can be contacted at [email protected]