An Exclusive Interview with Anupam Patnaik on his directorial debut film ‘Tulasi Apa’, made in Odisha:

By Insha Zarine Sayeed, Sub-Editor,

Anupam Pattnaik, the son of well-known Director/Producer of Film, Amiya Pattnaik, has made his directorial debut with the critically well-acclaimed biopic, Tulasi Apa. His wife, Barsha Nayak has made her acting debut by portraying the main character of the film, Tulasi Munda. The movie Tulasi Apa has been screened at various reputed film festivals and has also been awarded the “Best Feature Film at the recent second Edition of International Film Festival of Simla’.

Reportodisha interviewed Anupam Pattnaik and Barsha Nayak on their debut movie and their take on the Orissa Entertainment Industry.

Sir and Mam, first of all heartfelt congratulations for the wonderful response to have been received on your first film.

Q: Insha: How did you get hold of making a film on Tulasi Munda?

A: Anupam Patnaik: From the very day when I decided to make a film, I wanted to start from my own state, Odisha and also start shooting at my native place or village which is Keonjhar because of the reason that my father, Amiya Pattnaik had also made his first movie in his native village named “Hakim Babu” in the year 1985. The movie had also won a National Award. So, while I started shooting and researching as to what type of film I would make as my first venture. He suggested me to make a movie on Tulasi Munda who is a well-known sociologist and has taken life-long effort to spread literacy especially among the village children. She has also received a Padmashree award for her dedication to society. Hence, we decided to shoot upon her. We met her and interacted with her. Personally I had never heard about her but when I got to know about her, it left me amazed.

A:Barsha Nayak: You did not know about her because you were not here but we knew. But many people do not know about her as she never publicized her works and achievements and so she is titled as the “Unsung Hero”.  At first, we thought of making just a documentary on her but gradually as we went deep inside her life seeing her struggle for children, her achievements and initiatives we decided to make a full biographical film as we have enough material. So, we sat with her she narrated her entire story to us and then we made the script and began to shoot.

Q: Insha: Being a debutant producer cum director, were you not tensed on the fact that making a debut Biopic film would be of high risk as mistakes and negligence would cost a lot?

A: Anupam Patnaik: Yes that tension was obviously there! Risk is there that too a bit on the higher level just because of the biographical element because if by chance something or some life event of that personality is filmed wrong then it comes upon the debutant and he has to answer everything. Therefore, while shooting I had personally checked every scene so that it gets delivered well.

Q: Insha: What message you would like to send to the audience through your first film?

A: Anupam Patnaik: As we all know that today the youth in Odisha especially are very engrossed in their own life and they hardly know the famous personalities of their own region. For me this film is a chance to show that audience that yes there is someone who is although unknown but has contributed a lot towards the betterment of the state by educating the children which is the core ingredient for progress. So the youth should know her, her achievements and initiatives and must be inspired. A single tribal lady has done so much for the people so people should know about her. She is an inspiration to everyone she should be so.

Q: Insha: Coming to the fact that the movie is screened at so many festivals, during the screening didn’t that make you nervous as to how will it be acknowledged among the critics?

A: Anupam Patnaik: Nervous now I don’t think so. Yes being your first movie, nervousness remains. At the first screening there was nervousness. When Tulasi Apa’s first screening happened in Kolkata then tension, fear, nervousness a mixture of emotions was going inside. I was wondering when people would watch the movie how are they going to review it. But after a while when I saw the film being so well-appreciated among the audience, the fear and nervousness automatically vanished or for that matter got lessened.

A:Barsha Nayak: Everyone was like you are the producer Oh God! See, we had to introduce ourselves. Nobody had ever wondered that I am the producer as there in the screening festival all experienced and reputed and aged producers were present. But when the movie received a standing ovation from all of them present there that moment was just unbeatable.

Reporter Insha: Frankly I also had no clue about Tulasi Munda but when I heard about this movie then got to know that there is actually someone so eminent who has done such a lot for the state.

Q: Insha: Over to Barsha, how was your journey throughout the shooting of your first movie. Of course family is a factor but apart from that being a main lead that too of a Biopic, how did you go about it?

A: Barsha Nayak: Family comes later. At first I didn’t know that I am being casted as the protagonist of the movie and l be able to portray this character. Initially I made a lot of mistakes, got scolding also which made me to think to myself that will I be able to do this project or will me being the lead give justice to the film. Such types of thoughts were constantly hovering on my mind. But then gradually it started happening, gradually takes were decreasing. When I met Tulasi mam then a chance to know her more closely helped me to enact my role more easily.

Q: Insha:Did you have it in your mind from before that the main lead in the film would be delivered by Barsha?

A: Anupam Patnaik: No No! We had Auditions. We had started the auditions of the role from October, 2014. We had conducted many auditions in Joda, Keonjhar, Bhubaneswar and Badbil. : Barsha Nayak: That time he didn’t even know me.

Anupam Patnaik:  Yes I did not know about her. We even had approached some renowned actors but due to some date issues that could not work out. Eventually, it was decided that we would take a new face in the movie.

Q: Insha: When you think of making your next film, what type of audience you will cater to first?

A: Anupam Patnaik: It will depend you know upon the script, title. For instance, this film it should cater to everyone who wants to watch a good film. Each segment of the audience must watch the film. But today as the condition of the Orissa Entertainment Industry is where every other film is a remake. Exactly it does not turn out to be a remake but is a copy of Telugu films so such type of films also has a particular audience. So, it depends actually. For the time being, I have not planned a film yet because we need to release this movie first.

Reporter Insha: Hearing tremendous applause for the movie, I am thoroughly keen to watch this movie as it hits the theatres as I have never ever seen such films in Odiya.

Q: Insha: Being a newcomer in the entertainment industry, what do you feel that the Odiya Industry lacks today for which it is not being able to grow or even popularize as compared to the other ones?

A: Anupam Patnaik: Well there are many reasons if we get down to list all. Being a newcomer in the industry, according to me first of directors, technicians here have not got that amount of exposure as compared to others outside barring few. There are very good directors here no doubt about it and I am also not being judgmental on them but today the situation is such that the directors here tend to finish the particular project as soon as possible. They just watch a Telugu movie, like it and then decide to copy it in Odiya thus having no newness in their project. They just think how to make this movie on a low budget and profitable and ignore the major substances such as quality and content.

Secondly there exists a problem of technological equipment. Nowadays all sorts of new equipment have come out but they are not been utilized here as they are been done in Bollywood or for that matter in Hollywood. May be because it costs more and equipping all such equipment, increases the budget of the film. The mentality among the audience

Thirdly there are limited screens here in Odisha around 80-100 only. During 80’s and 90’s that time things were different. Screens were more also people had interest in watching Odiya films. But nowadays they are more getting inclined towards Hindi cinema. Nobody is focusing on Odiya films and also it’s a known fact now that the audience can figure out that this Odiya movie must be another copy of a Telugu film. So, no one goes to watch them. (BN: audience watch but they now have a perception of their own) hence, now we need young filmmakers who would direct films on new concepts and scripts and if screen also increase in number then may be in the next five years something can change.

Q: Insha: How did the idea of giving direction to the film come into your mind?

A: Anupam Patnaik: My parents say that as I was born the first thing I did was to watch the TV. I have always had a passion for films and directing was one which I had always wanted to do just like my father as he was such a great filmmaker. Filmmaking is not my living but passion. And if your passion becomes your career then there’s nothing like it. But it’s not easy. Filmmaking is tuff. It’s not that easy. Along with passion luck is also very important. You need to have both and talent as well.

Q: Insha: According to you what does Best Direction imply?

A: Anupam Patnaik: See ultimately be Biopic or any other genre of movie, it is the script and the screenplay that gives weight to the movie. If a particular movie is shot with prompt style and techniques then the audience will admire it and the movie will become a hit. So I think for me direction means a good script and good screenplay.

Q: Insha: Mam, did you always wanted to become an actor or you had some other plans?

A: Barsha Nayak: I love acting. I love acting. Since childhood I had a knack for mimicry I used to mimic others but I never knew that I would like to become an actress. But yes, I love dance and I am a classically trained dancer. But as I grew up I gave a try in this line as well. I have done a mytho period as well called as Sri Jagannath. Then gradually I realized that it’s time to concentrate on my job which I had got recently and if I had to try in acting then I would do that later somewhere else because truly this industry doesn’t have that amount of exposure and if I get a good offer then I would return so that moment I got this offer and so I came back.

Q: Insha: Sir, for making a biopic why did you attempt to make it on a social activist and not on any other Odiya personality such as an artist or musician or dancer?

A: Anupam Patnaik: A Biopic does not only mean to make on famous personalities or known ones, it’s very important that people should know about those as well who have contributed towards the welfare unknowingly. Although they have not got recognition but that’s the point through films we can portray them because it the film which most the audience love more.

Q: Insha: Tulasi Apa- how did you go about this film, the journey while directing this film.

A: Anupam Patnaik: we had lots of fun on the set. We has equal share of problems as well. I had mixed crews. I had two groups of them. I had crews from Mumbai, Chennai and the locals from Bhubaneswar. Everyone had their ego issues. At the same time fun was always there. Each and every segment of the shoot was an experience. Barring all the negatives, at the end of the day we did shoot a very good film.

Q: Insha: What is the best thing that you experienced while shooting?

A: Anupam Patnaik: The best thing was firstly the thought of making a film of Tulasi Munda and second I would say was meeting her and getting to know her entire life history. Yes, these two I would say were the best things.

Q: Insha: Two parallel segments of filmmaking- Producing and directing, how well you managed both together.

A: Anupam Patnaik: See, filmmaking is my passion. So it never happened that my passion became a tension for me and even if there were problems we could tackle it easily because we had such a great team.

Barsha Nayak: People belonging to the village where Tulasi Munda was born were very co-operative. We have shot at real locations so the people there knew that what was going on so they were very co-operative. We have shot in Joda, Badbil and Keonjhar and the songs in Simlika.

Q: Insha:Mam, how was your journey throughout the shoot?

A: Barsha Nayak: As I am new to shoot a film, I got a chance to learn a lot. Initially I even had no idea about what is camera angle but gradually I became aware of everything. Obviously this is not the best film of ours but yes we could learn a lot which would help each and every one of us to acquire when we shoot our next film. The mistakes made now won’t get repeated. From all prospects we would be improving from our next ventures onwards. It’s a good film but we could have done a much more good work.

A: Anupam Patnaik: Being the first experience it’s a good work we learnt a lot and would make our next films much better. Our next films will be shot in India and will always have Odiya culture and also the unsung heroes of Odisha. If got a chance to make on such personalities we would definitely go ahead. We want to write something good. Whenever we watch a film we come and write the review on Facebook so we want that after watching a film we are able to review good about it.

Q: Insha: According to you, what magnitude does social media is important in promoting film projects?

A: Anupam Patnaik: Social Media is very important in promoting films especially those projects which have not been able to create a craze among the audience. YouTube and Facebook should be utilized to promote new ventures especially for debutant directors and producers.

Reportodisha: Thanks………………………….