December 2014 – I still remember the excitement within me – As a producer (rather co-producer) my first ever film – Capital I was getting censored and that too a feature film in my mother tongue – Odia. And since then the film went on to achieve many firsts for Odias and Odisha.
Cut to October 2015 – After almost 2 years of oblivion in her own own home state – Capital I was suddenly in news. A news was flashing across a leading Odia channel that read “Capital I in Controversy”. Of course it was out of the blue to which initially I had no clue.
Being from a non-film background with hardly any idea on the steps to be followed the 4 years before this were full of uncertainty. All I knew was films were a medium that made instant connection with the viewers. When I questioned myself when did I last watch a Odia film in theatre or which Odia film made me really proud – the answers were few and mostly from the past years of 80’s and 90’s. Certainly none in the recent space of time and memory. It seemed all the more necessary to bring together groups of people, young and old, who would be interested in the art inside films and experience a visual performance that provokes them to question and explore.
“It is often quite easy to outrightly discard something new without analyzing it. But it takes a lot of understanding and courage to appreciate a new wave. The Odia film – Capital I which has been a “first” in many for the state is still unknown to the people of Odisha.”
– Swastik Choudhury
This journey started after a chance meeting with Amartya Bhattacharyya – “talented” would be too small a description for him. After few short films in English and Bengali, one day Amartya came up with a script to be made in Odia. As the name suggests he is a Bengali and surely it takes some talent to understand a different language and write a complete feature length script with it. And after many sleepless nights and sun burns later, ‘Capital I’ became the first ever Independent feature film of Odisha.
It was made literally on a shoestring budget with a cheap tripod and a mid-level Canon DSLR. People on the streets who saw us and asked if we were shooting some music videos, literally laughed or looked at us with utter disdain when they learnt we are shooting a full length 90 minutes feature film. It was certainly a new direction to the way films were being made here, which unfortunately was never recognized much.
From there on, ‘Capital I’ became the only Odia film to have entered the competition section of South Asian Alternative Film Festival, 2015 and competed with 5 other films like Titli from Yash Raj banners and Zinda Bhaag starring Naseeruddin Shah. Certainly something that should make all of us proud. Later at the prestigious Festival de Cannes in 2015, ‘Capital I’ was acquired by the Italian company – The Open Reel for International Sales and Distribution.
It was the first Indian film and certainly the first ever Odia film that they acquired for international sales. In spite of all these, back at home, we faced many rejections from festivals and distributors all around. Later ‘Capital I’ got accepted at the prestigious International Film Festival of Kerala, 2015.
This is probably the first time in the 20 years of IFFK’s history that an Odia film was selected.
So where has been the controversy?
I am sure many crying hoarse about the film and its content, would not have even watched the film. If this film is what the “intellectuals” are calling as detrimental and non acceptable to our progressive society, I urge them to first explain me where is the progress? Do they feel the films now running in a theatre nearby are taking our Odia culture to greater heights? Aren’t these reasons enough to at least make an Odia consider watching this duly censored film at least once? Well one may dislike it which of course is their right and for that I am certainly not going to crucify them in front of media.
As an Odia I am proud of ‘Capital I’ which has given some recognition to our films beyond the state’s boundaries and without any industry or government support. Personally I am indebted to the director and my entire team who have made this film possible without a thought that whether they belong to this state or not. It is high time that we judge people based on their abilities rather than their identities.
If there can be anything that this film can do for our society – it will be positive only. I am thankful though that a film that was dormant for almost a year now has suddenly become a point of contention for people who do not even have the ability to comprehend the ABC of Art, Boundaries and Cinema.
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