Sita Vivah, The First Odia Flick

By Nihar Ranjan Beura

The idea of making images talk is not a 21st century phenomena as our forefathers were also equally amazed with the idea of presenting before viewers a tinsel craft. What to do with Bollywood or Hollywood, let’s talk about our own sweet heart Ollywood which has completed its 80 years of journey recently. The first ever Odia movie was far more entertaining than it’s contemporary Bangla or Asamiya movies. Yes! it was a talking one, it was ‘Sita Vivah’ released on April 28, 1936. The movie was a presentation by the well-known poet,writer and theatre personality Prabhupad Mohan Sundar Dev Goswamy, who had also a theatre group of his own.

Goswamy was well versed with the Odia culture and tradition and his idea of making a Odia flick took shape after watching the first talking movie in Bollywood, the ‘Alam Ara’. The first ever talking movie in India was ‘The Melody of Love’ released on December 29,1928. After that M. Irani gifted Indian viewers with Alam Ara in 1931. Not making much late. Goswami satisfied the Odia urge to watch a movie of their own. Accompanied by several art lovers he was able to release Sita Vivah with a meagre investment of Rs 29,781 and 10 Ana (the currency which was in circulation in those days). Members of Madan’s theatre group were absolutely stunned after watching the English talking movie ‘The Melody of Love’ in the Elphinstone Picture Palace owned by him gave him a good hand in producing the Odia one.

Taking into consideration the taste of the then Odia viewers, Goswamy took a plot from one of the plays written by Kamala Mishra. The story was from “Ramayan’ and based on the divine wedding of ‘RAM’ and ‘SITA’. Lyricist of the film was Goswami himself and dialogues was from Dr. Adwit Mohanty. The 12-reel movie was star cast of Makhanlal Banerjee as Shreeram, Adityaballav Mohanty as Lakshman and Pravati Devi as Sita. With a shooting schedule of one month. the film had 14 songs in total recorded without playback comfort. The actors would have to sing for themselves. The famous “Bitalaku Alingana” Chhanda from Kavi Samrat Upendra Bhanja’s poem ‘Baidehisha Bilasha’ was also included in the movie. The remuneration for the stars were Rs 150 for Pravati Devi, Rs 120 for Makhanlal Banerjee and Rs 35 for Adityaballav Mohanty.

While the contemporary Odia actors and actresses these days have got the privilege of technical advancement in terms of video editing, sound mixing and cinematography to make their works more appealing altogether, they still miss those classic movies and draw inspiration from them.

Odia movie actor Deepak Parida who has already proved his skills through several successful movies like Sabata Maa, Saathire, Om Shanti Om and Rakhiba Jadi Se Mariba Kie, just went nostalgic about the good old days. He dubbed the first Odia movie Sita Vivah as the base of the Odia movie industry.

“Taking a risk like film-making in that era was itself a Herculean task. But Goswamy did it with ease. His work showed a path to the prospective movie makers and encouraged them”, said Deepak.

“I have got the privilege to watch that movie and the level of dedication the actors projected in that flick is absolutely inimitable. With the non-availability of technical sophistication they had only one choice and that was good acting. The movie is definitely a source of inspiration for me’, Deepak added.

Another well-known actor of Odia television industry Mihir Ranjan Dash also sees Sita Vivah as the foundation stone of modern Odia movie industry. Mihir, who has acted in several TV serials like Sahanai, Ama Ghara Laxmi, ACP Nikita and Rajakanya, went a step ahead from Deepak and compared the movie with classic Bollywood movies like Alam Ara and Mother India. He said he had seen the movie on television once but became a fan of the director of the movie who presented the plot in a beautiful manner.

“Sita Vivah movie was an inspiring one in many ways for an actor. Firstly, it took a subject with which people on that time were well acquainted. Besides, it was not a remake kind of thing and the actors were chosen according to their capability. Every character in that movie did justice to his or her role and that was most important,” said Mihir. “In fact, people like Prabhupad Goswamy, Kamala Mishra and Dr Adwit Mohanty are stalwarts of Odia cine industry”, he added.

Odia movie industry might have come a long way and we might have got accustomed to watch movies with scientific touch. But those movies of early days and the forefathers who struggled hard to get those done would always remain inspiring souls for every movie lover. We just salute the founders for their memorable deeds.

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