Odisha no longer poor, its image is changing: Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda

The book chronicles the five decades of Panda’s life beginning from his birth in the 70s.

Published: 24th September 2023 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2023 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

Nila Madhab Panda

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: When Nila Madhab Panda decided to make films, his primary aim was to change the image of Odisha through his work and stories. In a freewheeling chat with senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai at the Odisha Literary Festival on Saturday, the national award-winning filmmaker spoke why Odisha has been central to all his stories.

He recalled his interaction with some acquaintances in New Delhi about Kalahandi, his native land. “I was in a restaurant in Connaught Place when one person asked me about my native land. When I said Odisha (Kalahandi), he commented that Kalahandi was where parents sold their children to buy food,” recalled Panda whose last release - ‘The Jengaburu Curse’, a climate fiction series - was much appreciated.

Offended by the remark, he decided to create an image for Odisha through his films. “I wanted to show that the ‘Kalahandi Syndrome’ is now past. Kalahandi is one of the richest districts in Odisha today. For that matter, Odisha can no longer be called the poorest state,” he said.

To a query that if his initiative has been able to change the image of Odisha, he said the image is changing. “There is a change in people’s perception of Odisha. People of the state are making names for themselves. Consider the case of Sudarsan Pattnaik. When people talk about Odisha’s identity, I ask them not to do so but to speak about what we Odias do,” said Panda, whose memoir ‘Return to Innocence’ was released this year.

The book chronicles the five decades of Panda’s life beginning from his birth in the 70s. It continues through the young Panda moving to a city from his hamlet and becoming a globetrotting director, and pauses in the present, the era of Panda’s son, who is an urban denizen of the digital age.

On his future projects, Panda informed that he is working on a new story on the future of quantum computing. “It is a futuristic story,” said the filmmaker who grew up on the banks of river Mahanadi. Giving an insight into his childhood, he said Mahanadi to him is more like a mother.

“For someone like me who had a troubled childhood, the only respite was the river. It gave me joy, entertainment, emotional support,” he said, and added that he also learnt storytelling from the river. “There were two fishermen who used to tell me stories every evening in my childhood. These two fishermen are probably the ones who made me what I am today as far as storytelling is concerned”.

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