Veteran Odia actor and president of Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi Sarat Pujari died here on Sunday night following a cardiac arrest. He was 81 and is survived by wife, two sons and as many daughters.
Active till his last breath, Pujari had returned home after watching a drama at Rabindra Mandap, said his son Soumen, an actor. The end came at around 12.30 am.
Pujari’s death has left a void in the Odia film industry where he worked for over 50 years as an actor, producer and director. Debuting in Ollywood with ‘Sri Mahalaxmi Puja’ in 1958, he went on to do 40 movies including ‘Jiban Sathi’ (1963), ‘Matira Manisha’ (1966), ‘Kaa’ (1966), ‘Arundhati’ (1967), ‘Bhukha’ (1989), ‘Drusti’ (1990), ‘Aranya Rodan’ (1992). He had played a negative role in Sabyasachi Mohapatra’s ‘Bhukha’ which bagged the International Jury Award at the Gija International Film Festival. His last movie as an actor was Gadadhar Putty’s ‘Puja Paine Phulatie’ in 2007.
He directed three movies - ‘Tapoi’ (1978), ‘Ashanta Ghara’ (1982) and ‘Astaranga’ (1982) - and produced one film ‘Sadhana’. However, his stint with the small screen was limited to just a few television serials in which he acted.
Pujari held office as president of Sangeet Natak Akademi from February 19, 2011. He was also nominated by the State Government as member of the Board of Director of Film Development Corporation of Odisha.
The thespian was an academician as well. Having completed his Degree in Economics from Ravenshaw University, Cuttack, he pursued diploma in paintings from Allahabad University in 1956.
He first worked as a block designer and part-time office assistant at the Secretariat and then joined the Panchayat College, Bargarh, as an Economics lecturer. In 1966, he left the college to resume acting and learn film-making techniques in Cuttack and Kolkata.
He served as principal of an Intermediate science college at Larambha, Bargarh for 24 years from 1968. Pujari became the principal of Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in 1992 and retired two years later.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Governor SC Jamir and members of the film fraternity condoled his death. “Odisha lost a great artiste and patron of culture,” said Jamir. Naveen remembered Pujari as an educationist and great artiste.
“He was not just a good actor and a director, but also a great human being. It is indeed a great loss to Odisha’s culture scene,” said Culture Secretary Arvind Padhee.
His mortal remains were consigned to flames at Swargadwar, Puri.