At the beginning of this year, there was an interesting development in the Oriya Film Industry when the second of the Sambalpuri language film Ulugulan was released. The highlight of this film directed by Mahmood Hussain and produced by Maa Mangala Movies and which had an historical story as its backdrop was that it came out after two decades of the first Sambalpuri film Bhuka that was released in 1989 and was produced by Sabyasachi Mohapatra.

Orissa has a sizeable chunk of Sambalpuri speaking population and yet the Oriya Film Industry has hardly bothered to dabble in the making of Sambalpuri language films and subsequently failed to tap the huge market for these films. However, the release of Ulugunan is a big move in highlighting the demand of Sambalpuri language as a separate language by the people of western Orissa and hopefully many other producers will emulate Mahmood Hussain which in turn will press the state government to pay heed to this language demand.

Odia language films on the other hand has been flourishing off lately. With just three films between 1936 and 1951, over the years, the rise in the number of Odia films have been considerable and at the same time making waves both within the state and outside. In spite of just three films between 1936 and 1951, Odia films made a mark on a national level in 1960 when its eleventh film since 1936 Sri Lokanath directed by Prafulla Sengupta won a National Award for Best Film and actor Prasanta Nanda won the best actor National Award for the film Nua Bou. Prasanta followed it up with two more National Awards in 1966 and 1969 subsequently.

Surprisingly while lot of regional language film industries including the Hindi Film industry started with silent films, Oriya Film Industry tryst with celluloid started with a talkie named Sita Bibaha in 1936 and was made by Mohan Sunder Deb Goswami. This film generated great response at the time of its release in spite of its various flaws.

In the 60s and 70s, people from the Oriya Film fraternity had no qualms about seeking help from the Bengali counterparts for making films. Prominent Bengali directors assisted or helmed Oriya films. Even Mrinal Sen, acclaimed Bengali director helmed the hit Matira Manisha that got Prasanta Nanda one of its three national awards.

Last year, the film industry also gave the Santhali speaking people of the state its first Santhali film Jewee Jurie directed by Ajay Routray and produced by Sohagi Majhi Rusika. This film was made keeping in mind the substantial number of Santhali people in the state as well in Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal including the country Nepal.

To help the cause of the Oriya films and to promote its expansion, Orissa Film Development Corporation announced various new financial schemes for the filmmakers of the state in late 2008 as well as subsidy to theatre owners. OFDC since its inception in the late 70s to promote the growth of the film industry in Orissa, had so far given financial backing to about 86 cinema halls and 137 film producers of the state.

Some of the key objectives of OFDC has been financial help towards constructions and renovation of low costs cinema halls, setting up of various studio complexes, laboratory for developing and printing of films and colour processing, providing subsidy as well as financial assistance to producers of Oriya films including hosting film festivals both regional as well as Foreign Film Festivals.

Keeping the above objectives in mind, OFDC has to an extent managed to meet its goal by setting up infrastructure in the state for production of films like Kalinga Studios, Prasad Kalinga Film Laboratory including video complex for production of video films and teleserials etc. It also hosted over the years quite a number of film festivals as well as provided financial packages to various producers of Oriya films.

However OFDC and the film fraternity should take the initiative to bring Oriya Film Industry in the forefront of regional films in the country. With a dearth of good technical manpower and knowledge, OFDC and senior film technicians could guide the youngsters inclined towards this field in the right direction to nurture their dream to be a part of the celluloid world.

While the Biju Pattanaik Film and Television Institute of Orissa (www.bpftio.org), established in 1992 with the assistance of the Government of India, offers diploma courses in Cinematography, Sound & Television Engineering and Film & Video Editing among others, there are quite a few private institutes that offer film making and animation courses.

Bhubaneshwar also has Orissa Institute of Film, Television & Theatre as well as Rabinayak Academy of Film & Television that caters to teaching students the technicalities of film making. Even a reputed private institute and now a deemed university like Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (www.kiit.ac.in) has a formidable syllabus in films and television fields. But the overall courses and institutes are far less and does not cover the complete department of film making. It’s high time, additional academies and institutes come up that offers sustainable and comprehensive film and television courses in and at an economical price. Only then Oriya Film Industry will become a power of reckoning and on par with the best of regional film producing states. It will add to the economy of the state among other things, is altogether a secondary matter.