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Odia Film DAMAN Caters To The Deprived Odia Film Audiences

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Odia film DAMaN is currently the talk of the town. This much-hyped movie is said to be inspired by the real-life story of a doctor who with his sheer determination and love for his duty turned his initial reluctance to serve in an inaccessible area into becoming a godly figure for the deprived denizens of that locality.

The movie was released on November 4 across the state with limited screens everywhere. Unlike regular Odia movies that hardly survive 3 days in theatres, it has garnered so much love and word-of-mouth publicity in the first weekend that the exhibitors in Bhubaneswar are forced to increase the number of shows to 22 per day from Monday onwards. That speaks volumes about the cravings among movie-goers in the state for good content irrespective of language.

The film starts with a dreamy-eyed, young, fresh-out of-medical college. Dr. Siddharth Mohanty’s (Babushan Mohanty) dreams get disarrayed when his aspiration of opening a multi-specialty health facility near the airport in Bhubaneswar crash-lands in the most inaccessible region in Odisha. What follows after that is a 2-hour long show of the natural and scenic beauties of the region, a display of visual anthropology, an exhibition of the tireless efforts of a doctor and his small but dedicated team to sustain a health service that’s already in shambles, and a superb manifestation of successful implementation of government interventions through convergence.

It’s no doubt one of the best-acted movies of Babushan. Actor Dipanwit Dasmohapatra has given a stellar performance as usual while the local casts have done wonders on screen with their superlative acting. Kudos to the director duo Vishal Mourya and Debi Prasad Lenka for not only picking up content that is copy-paste free but also unique and relatable in many ways. It is relatable for me as I had an opportunity to visit that part of the state and gauge the lives from close proximity.

DAMaN has given what Odia audience has been craving for a long time. The story, acting, direction, cinematography, music, and portrayal of tribal life, everything seems to be perfectly placed. However, there remain some minor glitches that could have been taken care of.

DAMaN’s release was preceded by the multi-award-winning Odia film Adieu Godard directed by Amartya Bhattacharyya in September which ran in one multiplex in Bhubaneswar for 4 weeks giving hope for other content-driven films. Though DAMaN had failed twice to get ample screens during the Raja festival and Dussehra due to big banner releases, its current success just proves that a good film doesn’t need a festival window to attract viewers to theatres.

What I also liked is the film’s cast and crew making their presence felt at theatres for getting audience feedback post-screening. Even though they can go to 2-3 screenings or theatres in the city, it makes a great impact on movie-goers.

Coming to the background of the story that inspired the makers of DAMaN, a lot has changed in the cut-off area now. But the film’s timeline is set 7 years back.

What we know as Swabhiman Anchal in Malkangiri district since 2018 was once known as the Cut Off area or BichchinnaAnchal for over half a century. Deprived of all the facilities of a normal civilized society, it had become a hotbed for left-wing extremist activities. If you know, you know how tough it was for the government machinery to engage with the inhabitants of that region. Odisha government’s compulsory rural posting of doctors post their MBBS brought doctor Omkar Hota to the only PHC operating in this area, where common people had lost faith in modern health service and were forced to believe in traditional healers. Then started the persistent efforts of Dr. Hota who later became a legend among the locals.

DAMaN brings hope for other filmmakers in the state while it poses a strong challenge for time-passers whether to bring good content or get chided by the ever-evolving audience. Ollywood needs to learn from the current buzz and set out on a course correction instead of making rubbish duplications and vehemently defending its mediocrity through some non-performing assets.

About the Back Ground of the Film:

The movie depicts the real-life story of a doctor who goes beyond his duty line to help his patients to get better treatment.

Dr. Omkar Hota, the real-life hero of the movie was in news in 2017 when a picture of him carrying a woman patient on a cot who was bleeding profusely after delivery went viral on social media. He carried the woman along with his assistance to the nearest PHC for better treatment after covering over 10 Km.

The same year he was conferred with the first Utkalmani Gopobandhu Das award by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for his exemplary commitment to walking the extra mile to bring health facilities to people in remote villages of Malkangiri.

Expressing his happiness over the movie, Dr. Hota said, “I won’t say that the movie is completely based on me, but it has aptly depicted my journey as a doctor in rural areas. When I saw the trailer of the movie, I was happy and emotional seeing everything in the reel which I had experienced during those days.”

He attended the first-day show in Bhubaneswar and was excited to see the movie on the big screen. “When I saw the movie today, it reflected my whole journey, how I used to travel on buses sitting on top, walking miles to reach villages, and the struggle of convincing tribal people to take medical treatment for malaria, and snake bites instead of following blind beliefs,” he shared. He praised the makers of ‘DAMaN’ for beautifully narrating and visualising everything in the movie. Dr, Hota has cleared the Odisha Public Service Commission and is currently posted as Medical Officer in Titlagarh Subdivision, Bolangir.

 

About Editor in chief

Ashok Palit has completed his graduation from Upendranath College Soro, Balasore and post graduation from Utkal University in Odia Language and literture.. He has also carved out a niche for himself as a scribe of eminence after joining the profession in 1988. He is also an independent media production professional. He brings loads of experience to Advanced Media, Ashok Palit as a cineaste has been active in film criticism for over three decades. As a film society activist, he soared to eminence for his profound commitment to the art film appreciation and aesthetics of cinema. His mode of discourse is often erudite but always lucid and comprehensible marked by a perfect acumen so rare in the field. A film aesthete with an immense fond of critical sensibilities, he wrote about growth and development of odia cinema in New Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Asian Age and Screen. He has been working as an Editor for Cine Samaya from 2002-2004.. He had made solid contribution on cinema in many odia Dailies and weekly such as Samaj, Prajatantra, Dharatri, Samaya, Satabadi, and weekly Samaya.
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