By Debamitra Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Cinema is the storyteller of a particular region. With the release of “Adieu Godard”, the age-old monotony about Odia cinema has been vanquished up to a great extent. After traveling across several national and international film festivals, this award-winning movie has finally made it to the theatres and running successfully in its third week.
In our exclusive conversation with the team of “Adieu Godard”, what comes to the surface is- the change has begun, but still a long way to go.
The germination of the movie, as the director & writer Amartya Bhattacharyya explains, was very instinctive. He says, “All my previous films are abstract, surreal, and non-narrative. So, it’s quite difficult for a common man to understand without a narrative. But it was always there in my mind that for a change, I would make a simple, narrative film that everyone will be able to understand and get entertained. So that was in the back of my mind when I wrote this film. I wrote the story in a day or two be precise, in a night.”
The story of “Adieu Godard” was born and took its shape while Amartya was shooting for his film- “Khyanikaa- The Lost Idea” in Odisha. “I happened to be in the rural areas of Balakati where I saw DVD shops which would rent out different types of DVDs and CDs. It figured the phase my later school days and college days of growing up in Kolkata seeing those DVD shops renting out pornographic DVDs. That was the time when the internet was not widely available. So this figured in me that in suburbs, rural outskirts of Bhubaneswar, we still have those shops. Probably that was in my mind and I could situate them in those places,” he marks.
As he mentions, “Adieu Godard” has been shot in places like Garedipanchanan near Buddhanath Temple which is close to Balakati and as well as in Bhingarpur where he believed that Odisha’s villages would look very authentic in the film.
He goes on by saying, “People loved the film right from the beginning which was unexpected for me and the film got tremendous response.
But the matter of footfall in theatres for Odia cinema is a discussion in itself.
“People here generally don’t go to the halls to watch an Odia film. But with this particular film, we have come across many people on social media of the current generation saying that it’s the very first time they went to watch an Odia film. People of the older generation are saying that they went to cinema halls to watch an Odia film after 20-30 years. It’s true in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Kolkata, and Rourkela. It delights me that with “Adieu Godard”, we could break that inhibition and bring people to the theatres. And that is how “Adieu Godard” is running in theatres in its third week.”
Adding to this, the producer & actor in the film Swastik Choudhury mentions, “I am quite clear about my objective while producing a film. People were not turning up for Odia cinema in theatres because of a lot of barriers in minds that can only be crossed by pertaining quality in the film as we did in “Adieu Godard”. It became a good film after traveling through its name, the trailer, the audience’s eyes, and the festivals. So if we want viewers to be convinced about Odia cinema, we need to keep knocking at their doors with quality and the quality comes from what we project.
” “Adieu Godard” has initiated a lot of conversations. Recently, Odisha Film Development Corporation announced that every theatre in Odisha has to mandatorily show Odia cinema for eight weeks in a calendar year. These conversations were happening in small pockets by individuals but not by authorities. Other factors need to be fine-tuned for a proper ecosystem to be built. Media, who has to write and show the good things and criticize the bad things, people need to be aware via the media and come forward to embrace an Odia film, the makers have to understand that there are people for good content and authorities who need to formulate policies and frameworks that would foster this ecosystem.
We need to have four to five filmmakers coming ahead with good films every year. Even though “Adieu Godard” has initiated the change, to sustain it, more such content should be made. Because after all this if we again go back to tasteless, blank contents people have been complaining about, then we are yet again at square one. So, the need of the hour is more good Odia films, at least 4-5 each year coming into theatres which will keep people interested, anticipated and hooked,” says Swastik.
People in Odisha seem to be slowly embracing good content and cinematic experience. Well, Amartya states that people are ‘warming up’ towards witnessing a good cinematic experience with Odia movies. “They are questioning their own belief about Odia movies now which is a positive response in itself. So it will take a little more time to accustom people to good Odia cinema here. And it will take people’s persuasion to bring in their acquaintances to watch a good Odia movie in the theatre. In days ahead, it then could be said that the Odia audience base is ready for it,” he says.
Sumit Panda, an actor who plays the role of ‘Tutu’ in the movie mentions, “Its high time that youth mass should come forward I support of good Odia contents. Be it an Odia film, a web series, a play, or any other form of art, the youth’s active participation, and support will ensure its presence and as well where we move in the future.
Odias should show that love and concern towards Odia cinema and other outputs of entertainment.”
“There are many leading TV channels in Odia operating now. And it’s the need of the hour that there should be few youth-oriented shows that should present the day-to-day lives and struggles of youngsters. Because if people are watching them elsewhere on some other medium in some other language, then why won’t they watch if we develop such content in Odia? It’s a two-way thing. While the production houses should financially back the makers, the makers should initiate with youth-oriented contents, youngsters should come forward with love and support,” he shares.
However, a film’s title plays a crucial role in grabbing the audience’s attention and is somewhat convincing to give the movie a watch. On this, Swastik says, “A title of the film matters a lot in creating the first impression in audience’s minds. So if I am with a clear objective about what kind of cinema I am delivering to the audience, I would even be serious about the name I give it. It’s like choosing the name of your child. So the names we give to our films, we also ensure the kind of attention and interest we are buying for them. Secondly, we have seen people saying for “Adieu Godard” that they watched an Odia film after 2-3 decades. Many have watched it twice and thrice as well. With exposure to OTTs, the audience is wise enough to get a picture of what kind of a movie it would be by seeing its trailer. We need to provide something different every time to the audience. That needs experimentation.”
Another fascinating fact about “Adieu Godard” is Amartya mentions that he held a three-month workshop before the shoot with some of the actors. “It depends on case-to-case and readiness of the actor with the character. Our lead actor in this film Choudhury Bikash Das bagged the best actor award from an Italian film festival.
Well, I don’t do workshops for all my films. I did it for “Adieu Godard”. Also, in some of my previous films, I would have done a six-month workshop with a couple of my actors. I think the workshop culture might be newly happening in the Odia film industry.”
However, no matter how good a film is, it reaches the audience through promotions and publicity. Swastik points out that a good PR agency has a very important role in making a movie visible to the audience. However, the chain of mundane strategies has to break into innovative ideas to create buzz about an Odia film in people’s heads. “Here mostly, the filmmakers and their team mainly brainstorm for the film’s promotion. On the other hand, when a good film travels through the eyes of the audience, they start talking about it and making buzz. That is a very strong source by which a film becomes popular. This has happened with “Adieu Godard” with all the love from people. We need to show that solidarity that would encourage more number of people to watch the film and more such good Odia films will get fine space in theatres here.”
Not always financial, but Adieu Godard’s success can be measured by the love and appreciation all across. It has been invited by prestigious institutions like JNU, Hindu College Delhi University, FTI Pune, IIT Madras, SRFTI Kolkata, and Presidency University Kolkata, for a private screening followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
As a filmmaker, Amartya believes that what is being made should be done seriously which will help in building an ecosystem. The ultimate objective should be ensuring good quality in the output.
He says, “When we talk about cinema, the better we interpret it when we absorb it by ourselves.” He extends gratitude towards the viewers of “Adieu Godard” and to every person who came forward with helping hands.
“Most importantly, my gratitude to Anu Choudhary, who has come forward to present this film because, without her support, Adieu Godard’s release would have been very difficult. Needless to mention, my regards to Platoon distribution from Mumbai and personalities like Anurag Kashyap who have been very supportive of this film. I believe, it’s a collaborative movement of all and we are still in the early phases and have a long way to go,” he concludes.