Ollywood is on a high. Gone are the days of familiar locales, shoddy production value and shoestring budgets. Odia film-makers are going big. Film sequences are being shot abroad in picturesque locations across Singapore, Bangkok and Middle East. Actors and technical crew are imported from Bollywood as well as the south. From cheap remakes of Hindi, Telugu and Bengali movies, the industry is fast witnessing emergence of filmmakers and producers willing to loosen their purse strings.
Till the mid-90s, most Odia movies were made on a budget of Rs 30 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. Only a handful spent Rs 60-Rs 70 lakh in the 2000s. That’s passe now. Last year saw a slew of films being made on a budget of Rs 1 crore and more, something unheard of till two years ago. The latest has been 'Thukul', dubbed as one of the most expensive movies this year. Produced by Akshay Kumar Parija, a Dubai-based NRI, it was made at a budget of Rs 3 crore, if industry sources are to be believed. Directed by veteran filmmaker Prashant Nanda, whose previous release, 'Jianta Bhuta', won national and international awards, Thukul was shot in exotic locales in the Middle East.
Besides foreign locations, Thukul scored points for music, costumes and post-production. The film had a 50-day shooting schedule in Muscat and back home, seven huge sets were erected.
“For Thukul, we tried to get the best of everything, including technicians. While post-production works were done at Chennai, some of the computer graphics were done in London,” says Nanda, who is also credited for making the first 70 mm Odia film, Swapna Sagar, in 1983.
Thukul was followed by Ollywood’s No. 1 actor Anubhav Mohanty’s first production venture, Something Something. He roped in two of his favourites — director Sudhakar Basant and actress Barsha Priyadashini for the film produced under the banner of Vishnupriya Arts and Graphics.
To make his venture a success, Mohanty hired the best technicians and musicians, including playback singer Udit Narayan. “The film had the best 5.1 surround sound mixing. We also brought in 60-70 dancers from Chennai for song sequences. One of the songs was shot for seven days with Barsha having 18 changes,” says Mohanty.
While sleek production value has prompted filmmakers to aim big, there are producers who too are willing to take the risk. Prior to Thukul, Nanda always produced his movies. “I never got the kind of producer I wanted. After many years I got someone whose philosophy gelled with mine,” he says. Producer Parija says, “Thukul was based on classical Odissi dance and music. We shot the film abroad not only to give it an international feel, but also because the script demanded it. It is not necessary that big budget movies always turn out to be money-spinners but any compromise would certainly show on the final product.”
Basant too is all praises for Mohanty. “He gave me full liberty to direct the way I wanted. Something Something was released in more than 50 theatres all over Odisha and crossed 50 days of screening.” The Mohanty-Barsha-Basant trio was earlier seen in Balunga Toka, yet another high-budget film which struck gold at the box office. Produced by Prabhas Chandra Rout, the movie was released during Durga Puja last year. Among the few that have crossed 100 days in theatres, Balunga Toka is now being touted as one of the biggest hits in the 75 years of Odia cinema.