‘For delving deep into the contemporary relevance of iconic filmmakers, hunting down the remnants of yesteryear theatres in Mumbai, investigating the new lease of life given to documentary film makers by the Internet and by looking at film making on the other side of the border, the jury recommends her for the best Film Critic Award (English) for the non-mainstream theme of her articles and the sensitivity with which she has presented these issues’ - reads the citation of the national film award that Odia girl Alaka Sahani has won this year.
‘’I am numb and it is taking time for the news to sink in,’’ Alaka says at a time when her phone does not not stop ringing with congratulatory messages pouring in. ‘’Unfortunately, I have not been able to convey the news to my father who has been the reason of my success,’’ says the critic who has received critical acclaim for most of her articles. A journalist by chance, Alaka attributes her foray into the field of journalism to a clerical error in her graduation marksheet that delayed her admission into a PG course. ‘’Which is why, I lost a few months and finally got through IIMC to pursue a journalism course.’’ Expressing gratitude for some of her friends who have stood by her, Alaka feels shifting base from Bhubaneswar to Mumbai also had a big role in making her what she is today. ‘’I had always been a desk person, but there was a point in life when I thought my forte lies in writing about films and making a difference,’’ said Alaka who was exposed to a lot of old Hindi movies during her childhood.
‘’Cinema has been one of my abiding loves. I watch almost all Friday releases and world cinema,’’ says the 30-something. During her stint at The Indian Express, Mumbai, she has written extensively on off-beat Indian cinema and world cinema, apart from covering the Mumbai Film Festival and IFFI, Goa successively for the last five years.
Through her articles, she has brought to the fore facets of cinema, which had otherwise remained restricted to glamour and gossip. ‘‘I felt fulfilled as a writer when I wrote articles like ‘What’s Playing at Edward Theatre?’ that attempted to retrace the early days of cinema by revisiting some of the iconic landmarks of Mumbai such as old theatres and studios.’’ Her story on ‘A River Named Ritwik’ based on the 2013 remake of Bengali movie Meghe Dhaka Tara (2013), that gathered fragments of life of Ritwik Ghatak highlighting his relevance to the present day cinema, was highly appreciated.
Presently with the Indian Express, Mumbai, she is writing a book on the movie Achhut Kanya exploring the early days of talkies and cinema in the pre-Independence era, commissioned by Harper Collins.