2016: Neither Memorable Nor A Forgettable Year For Ollywood

City Scape: Screenshots

It’s been years now that Odia cine industry has been blamed for surviving out of cheaper remakes of South Indian films or baking scripts on the same boy-meets-girl-love-action-plot formula. But year 2016 has been quite an eventful year for Odia cinema notwithstanding its usual lows.

 While the industry seemed to have its hands full with releases this year, their success at the box office had been mixed. As we recall the films made in 2016, even if they were   not as great in the overall sense, many of them have been in the limelight for some or the other reason – thanks to the rising trend of marketing and promotional activities.
 It won’t be unfair to say that although the year had a good dose of typical ‘masala films’ and remakes, it also saw some non-conformist cinema which managed to draw   eyeballs at the most prestigious film festivals around the world and attract the attention of the intellectual audience. Yet, there was a lack of adequate content driven films on   the plea of unprofitable returns for the producers.
 In fact, as far as returns are concerned, 2016 has been a very average year for Ollywood. Most of the big starrer and big budget films, as usual, tried to en-cash on the festive   seasons of Raja and Durga Puja but while some tasted success, others failed miserably.
 During Raja, Anubhav Mohanty- Akash Dasnayak starrer ‘Agastya’ collided with Babushan’s ‘Love Station’ and Arindam’s ‘Premare Premare’ but none of the three   films has the blockbuster magic though ‘Agastya’ did receive an unprecedented opening.
 The slightly longer Durga Puja holidays also witnessed Anubhav, Babushan and Arindam competing against each other yet again. Anubhav’s ‘Baby’, also his second flick   opposite Jhilik this year after ‘Agastya’, received moderate response from the audience whereas Arindam-Amlan starrer ‘Tora Dine Kuora Dine’ failed to make any mark on the   audience’s mind. Babushan’s ‘Love Pain Kuch Bhi Karega’ with the surprising impressive debut actress Supriya, however managed to charm the audience and box office fairly   well. In fact, both the films of Babushan – ‘Love Station’ and ‘Love Pain Kuch Bhi Karega’ were widely appreciated by the masses.

The fourth Dusherra release, controversially titled ‘Chati Tale Ding Dong’ made headlines for its coveted star cast that included two leading ladies of Ollywood, Archita and    Barsha coming together on screen for the first time with Sabyasachi along with Bollywood baddie Shakti Kapoor.
The film could have hit the right chord with the audience, who were looking for a fresh concept with the story of an obese girl making her place in the body image obsessed society, had it not been a poor remake of the Anushka Shetty starrer South Indian film ‘Size Zero’.

A slightly earlier Archita-Sabyasachi release ‘Bye Bye Dubai’ directed by veteran director Basant Sahoo too, did not meet the revenue expectations and response, despite its large budget and the ‘Dubai’ element. As far as the actors are concerned, it was Buddhaditya Mohanty who unexpectedly stole the thunder from the hit pair in the romantic comedy flick.

Meeting with an even worse fate was Susant Mani’s long held ‘Sweetheart’ which, though, did have an interesting star cast with Babushan, Anu Choudhury and Samaresh along with other actors, and a terrorism-based sub plot, was criticised for its abruptness and scattered execution, and met with a cold reception by the audience.

However, the recently released Siddhant Mohapatra starrer ‘Gunda’, the last talked about film of 2016, has been applauded for its content even though it hasn’t been a big hit either.

So, as far as commercial cinema was concerned, while the year saw the big production houses placing their bets on the winning horses to whip out full package entertainers with trendy music and glossy production values, most of them turned out to be more or less poorly thought out movies with lean and uninteresting plots; or were callously aped remakes that resisted appropriate packaging for the local audience, barring a few.

On the off-beat cinema front, Himansu Khatua’s ‘Krantidhara’ and Chakradhar Sahu’s ‘Mimansa’ were two of the most critically acclaimed films which banked on a simple story and women-centric plots that were heavily laden with sentiments. Both the films deviated away from the trend of star-studded films to more author-backed and character driven cinema.

Similarly, a gamut of few short films in Odia this year, also brought to light the fact that the creative genre of film-making need not always adhere to any kind of formula or star-backing to be lauded by the masses (here it is mostly the young viewers on social media) and critics alike. While documentary filmmaker Snehasis Das’ ‘Spandan’ conveying the cause of organ donation, confirms that story is the ultimate hero irrespective of the length of the film or its budget; ‘Capital I’ by city-based young filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharya has also pushed the envelope by taking up a subject that brings out the layers of grim unusual of the human psyche.

What The Industry Predicts

As we bid goodbye to 2016, MCL also talks to a few in the industry to find out what they forecast for original cinema in the year ahead. Will the actors be willing to experiment with new characters and producers willing to invest in more original concepts? Here’s what they have to say about this evolving trend in the industry.

Chakradhar Sahu, film director

“As far as original films in Odia are concerned, it isn’t a new trend. Earlier, there were hardly any remakes and most of them are still cherished for their cinematic quality. The reason they are regaining distinction these days is because the cheap culture of making remakes is gradually losing its favour with the audience. Why should a producer invest twice if the film is a poor product in the name of novelty? The original films also lose out because of poor execution and presentation. Established actors too avoid these films thinking that these will not sell. It is easier for them to prefer a hit remake rather than risking experimentation. Adding to these factors, the major onus lies on distributors who are unwilling to back new concepts and talents, even as their support for the remakes are failing miserably.”

Perhaps, more young and educated film makers can make a difference and revolutionise the trends in Ollywood in the coming years to match the sensibilities of modern audience.”

Susant Mani, film director

“Yes, the trend certainly is seen to be changing for the better with the audience and film makers both looking for more fresh ideas as overused plots are no longer appealing at the box office. But it is important that the production budget needs to be cut down so that a producer is not afraid to invest again if the project fails also.”

Samaresh Routray, film actor

The shift towards content-character oriented films is in the ratio of 10 out of 100 films made each year. This stream will remain and will not increase as some of the big production houses in the state do not want to experiment and rely on tested remakes for business. It is seen that good content will always draw audience but the audience in Odisha is habituated to watching mindless remakes. On the contrary, if they get used to content oriented films, the demand for original concepts will also rise. Moreover, only telling a good story will not work till it is sold well. Publicity and promotions matter a lot when it comes to making the film visible to the audience. Lastly, not only in 2017, the volume of well-made films will increase if we have more people with a background in film education coming into the industry.”

Snehasis Das, short film and documentary film maker

“Retelling a good story is always a welcome thing. So remaking a film from another region is good if it has something to convey. Instead of merely copy pasting the entire film, the story needs to be retained while elements have to be changed to suit local culture and taste. The budget is also a consideration as South Indian culture cannot be made on a tiny budget of Rs. 20 lakhs and with the same South Indian elements in it. This has turned away the intellectual and the educated class of audience from watching these films. To make it worse, people with no knowledge in filmmaking are making films here while exceptional talents are fleeing to other industries to explore their talent and opportunities.

Nevertheless, I see it is a good time for original cinema as enthusiastic youngsters are digitally equipped and do not need a huge apparatus set up to make a good movie. In this scenario, a strong story is the key component to making original cinema. The more minds that come into business, there will be more concepts. Budget is never a constraint for good films. Look at films like ‘Piku’ or ‘Pink’.
2017 will be a good year for film industry, for demonetisation (if not for anything else) as people will try making a film on low budget with depleted stores of black money. A smaller budget will drive people to prove their work when all the fancy attachments will be less. This gives us an intuition of a time for stronger subject oriented films.”

Akshay Kumar Parija, film producer

“We have seen all kinds of movies that have done fairly well this year. Be it commercial or art house cinema, making a good film based on a good story is important above all other factors. Though commercial success is crucial to staying in business, but film making is an art and should be justified in every way.”