Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

Every year as the festivity of Dussehra kicks in, Odisha’s regional cine industry, Ollywood, decks up to entertain Odia movie lovers. Several leading banners queue up with big releases to reap profits during the revelry season. 

However, it seems Odia cine industry has lost its charm in Dussehra this year, just like the previous two years owing to the pandemic situation. Notably, after a brief hiatus owing to the Covid situation, the theatre industry is gradually limping back to normalcy. And while the response to south movies is tremendously increasing the same zeal is missing among fans of Bollywood movies barring a few releases which have considerably done well. 

Meanwhile, the regional film industry from Odisha is seen nowhere. Several movie lovers have expressed concerns that Ollywood may not revive unless the makers come up with something unique instead of the remake trend. 

Earlier, theatre owners used to struggle to clinch an Odia movie during big festivals like New Year, Raja, and Dussehra. However, things have changed drastically in the last couple of years.

While there can be several reasons behind the shambolic situation in Ollywood, OTV has managed to get a first-hand sneak peek into the causes of some theatre owners.

“As of now, there are no Odia movies expected to be released during Dusshera. Indeed, this is shocking for the Odia cine industry meanwhile it is disheartening as Raja, Dussehra, and New Year are the occasions for regional movies. Audience throng theatres in large numbers to watch Odia movies, and at least three movies released every year. But this year, there are no regional movies. The quality of Odia movies is the first reason for which audience is not showing interest for those,” said Lingaraj Panda, owner of Maharaja Picture Palace, Bhubaneswar.

Panda further added, “We are interested to release Odia movies, but if the audience does not show up, how can we run our business? Under such circumstances, it is getting difficult for us to survive. We have to bear an expense of Rs 40000 for theatres’ maintenance.  Apart from that, we have staff to pay on monthly basis. A show will not run with 10 to 15 movie watchers.”

“I request the producers and directors to come up with good content so that it will draw the audience to the theatres. It is distressing for all of us that the makers are coming up with remakes only,” he added.  

On the other hand, Bharat Chandra Bhanjadeo, owner of Keshari Talkies in the capital city said, “Odia films actually are not running successfully for 4 to 5 years. Odia films are not able to stick for at least a week after their release. Even after a day or two, the interest of the audience drastically reduces. Now that a Hindi movie and a south movie has released, even if any Odia filmmaker or production house is planning to release any movie, it will be difficult for them to release as they may not get a theatre. ”

Further, he went on to add, “The craze for Odia movies has lessened and south movies are getting the preference. The main reason behind such a thing is, south movies have unique content. When Bollywood movies are failing to entice the audience unless something is unique, how will Odia flick draw the attention? Sriya talkies in Bhubaneswar was the epicentre for Odia movies. Now that it is closed, it can be expected that after it reopens, things might change.”

Meanwhile, Akshay Kumar Choudhury, owner of Rukmani theatre in Berhampur said, “Nowadays, the audience is content driven. If the content is not good, be it Hindi movies or south or English and even Odia, moviegoers will turn away from theatres. Theatres will opt to release movies that the audience is interested in. If the spectators don't watch we are forced to cancel several shows. Even though the number of shows is increased, many of them will be hit by the lack of audience. Earlier, the Odia movies were running over several months, but due to the lack of audience, after one or two shows, we are forced to cancel the remaining premieres. Similar is the case for Bollywood. People prefer good content. We are not even able to run Odia movies for a day. Earlier, we used to struggle a lot to release an Odia movie during the festivities. Even the producers failed to feed all houses as then the movies ran over 5 to 6 weeks while Hindi movies ran for one to two weeks. But now, Odia movies are not able to stick in theatres for even a week,” said Choudhury. 

However, the manager of Sriya, Swati & Stutee talkies, Rabi Sahoo said, “Ollywood is always prepared. After the pandemic, several movies have released. However, the response of the audience has diminished. The liking of Odia movie lovers has inclined towards south movies and Hindi movies. Earlier, movies ran for over 100 days in theatres, but now, it is becoming difficult to run the movie successfully for a single day. We are getting forced to cancel the shows due to lack of audience.” 
“It is becoming chaotic for us to run Odia movies without the audience as we have to bear maintenance expenses, pay the staff, repay loans, etc. We will certainly welcome Odia movies but we need a surety. Directors and producers should select stories that will be liked by the audience. They need to focus on Odia culture and make films instead of remakes,” he added.

Well, all such reactions clearly pitch the need for good content instead of remakes. Moreover, the need of the hour is to embrace the traditional culture of Odisha and to create unique projects that will impress the audience and revive the old relationship. Indeed, this would most likely help Ollywood and the Odia filmmakers to bounce back with a roar.