BHUBANESWAR: How is Odisha or an Odia represented to the country? The question was raised by both the speakers and audience at the session ‘Representing Odisha to the World: A Welcome Move or Sacrilegious?’ on the inaugural day of the Odisha Literary Festival on Saturday.
Chairing the session, founder-secretary of Bakul Foundation Sujit Mahapatra cited the example of the recent Barabati Stadium fiasco when bottles were hurled into the playground by the crowd in the wake of India’s dismal performance against South Africa. Condemning the crowd behaviour, many cricketers and fans had called for a ban on matches in Barabati Stadium at least for a couple of years. “Odias often have an anxiety and angst about the image of Odisha outside. The State is mostly identified with poverty and everything else negative. Hence, there is often an attempt to present Odisha differently in the national and international imagination,” he said.
Former bureaucrat Neelamadhab Mohanty opined that there is a need to rebrand Odisha. Stating that Odisha is the only coastal State in the country that has remained underdeveloped, Mohanty said as Odias are inward-looking, they have remained an unknown entity. “People are generally interested in going to Hyderabad or Bangalore than coming to Odisha. This is because we have not projected ourselves properly to the world,” he said and added that Odisha has to zero in on a brand equity. Areas like economic development, art and culture, cuisine, skill, tourism, education and healthcare can be identified for rebranding Odisha, Mohanty suggested. The former bureaucrat also said the craftsmen of Odisha can readapt their skills to match requirement of the modern day consumers.
While Odissi danseuse Aruna Mohanty spoke on representing Odisha through her dance, artist Jagannath Panda said Odisha and its culture have always found place in his works. Aruna shared her experience of teaching the dance form to students outside the country. She said while initially students failed to understand what Odissi was, they loved it after realising that the dance form is not just limited to mythology and can be adapted to any subject or theme.
The controversy surrounding ‘Rangabati’ also found place in the session. While Sujit said singer Sona Mohapatra and filmmaker Nilamadhab Panda remixed the cult folk song of Western Odisha in their own ways with an aim to put the spotlight on Odisha, other speakers opined that the issue of copyright infringement of ‘Rangabati’ is not a matter of concern for them as remixed versions of the song appealed to people.