TETE-A-TETE WITH A VIRTUOSO

 

A celebrated Oriya star, a National Award winner and one of the most revered actors of Ollywood, but most importantly, a magnanimous personality is what makes him stand apart from the rest.

On the eve of the inauguration ceremony of Multi-Ethnic Fest 2k14, our NITR was blessed with the gracious presence of the charming actor Mr. Bijay Mohanty. In a pleasant rendezvous with MM, Mr. Mohanty pours out the various facets of the upheavals of life that one must undergo in order to succeed. His story is one that will touch many cords and inspire us in various ways.

MM: On behalf of NITR we thank you for gracing our institute with your presence as the chief guest of the Multi Ethnic Fest 2k14, and also for giving MM the time to interview you.
To start off we would like to know about your childhood and what made you have an inclination towards theatre and acting.
BM: I grew up in Baripada and as you might know it is a place of art and culture. The people of Baripada adore artistic qualities. If anyone even has a little bit of talent and if it were known to the public, they leave no stone unturned to push you up. It was in class 10, when I was studying in MKC High School that during the annual day I was asked by a teacher to present a performance. At that time I had no intention of becoming an actor, rather I wanted to become a pilot. Not knowing what to do, my teacher guided me and I performed and my acting was appreciated by everybody. That was my first exposure to acting. When I joined MKC College, in the first year itself I performed in a drama in the annual day and won the best actor award of the college. And you know how it captures you. I felt like I was in the seventh heaven and that I should be an actor. That was like a heads up to me.

MM: From your initial exposure in your school days to your first success, please tell us about the journey and the struggle that you went through.
BM: In college, me and some of my friends, who loved me a lot, came together and started and a theatre group (Jugechha) and we started doing plays. At that time a senior of mine from Baripada, who was in National School of Drama, came during the holidays and saw me perform. He was very happy and told me to join NSD. The three year long journey at NSD was a mind-numbing one. It was like a “tapasya” that I had to do to become an actor. At times I was even unable to have a full meal. At that time I had vowed to myself, that even though I was in Delhi, and all my friends were enjoying the beautiful city, I would not see it right then because if I did perhaps I wouldn’t be able to see it in the future.
So I completed my education and came back in 1975 as the state’s first trained actor. My troupe was still functional at that time and my friends were even more excited at my return. I got a job, my first cinema, which unfortunately didn’t work out too well. After the first 10-11 days of shooting, the movie was shelved. Many of my classmates like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri, were there at Bombay. They asked me to come over there so that we could all persevere in the industry together. But it wasn’t possible for me to survive in Mumbai as I belonged to a very poor family and my father would have been unable to financially support me to that extent. Luckily at that time a new school (Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya) was opened by the Government of Odisha and I got the job of the HOD of Drama. So from then on, I have taught and acted in theatre, films and television and I am still doing so.

MM: Your career spans almost 40 years, you have won National Awards, multiple state awards. In 1987 you won the Orissa Cine Critics award for the “Actor of the Decade”. How has the whole experience been?
BM: During my acting career, I have seen many things come into existence and then vanish. Another part of my experience has been my job as a teacher. I have had many students, (points to Nalini Nihar sir) he was a student, some of the judges yesterday, the person who created the set, they were all my students. I strongly believe that

     A teacher lives through his students

If my students are okay then I am fine. It was a strong belief with me and today 90% of the people in the industry are my students. At the outset of my career, my first film “Chilika Tyre” won a National Award. A hindi movie that I did, “Shodh” and “Hakim Babu” too won national awards. Over the nearly 35 years of my profession I have done more than 300 films and it has been a wonderful experience.

MM: The theatre troupe that you found with your friends “Jugechha”, it still works and stages play. Tell us something about that.
BM: I was very busy in the film industry and I really couldn’t dedicate too much time to my troupe. It was a question of survival and at that time surviving in the Odiya film industry was not an easy task. Because I had a job, I had my family and students who supported me. But, in this process “Jugechha” got neglected. My friends have kept on doing theatre and sometimes I go and be a part of it. But they perform once in a blue moon.

MM: Would you like to share any memorable anecdote of yours with us?
BM: Every moment is remarkable and is a story. Every time you face the camera, you face a new beginning. I am still intimidated by cameras and audiences. The stage-fear still exists within me. The moment you address a large number of people, either directly on a stage or indirectly through the T.V, you need to be careful as your actions are being scrutinized and that too by a vast number of judging eyes. The aforementioned thoughts keep riveting me.

MM: What do you have to say about yesterday’s event?
BM: I enjoyed the entire show tremendously, and I really appreciate the initiative taken by the institute in bringing the students closer to their roots. I believe that we must be aware of our own soil before stepping on another one. One must at first be acquainted with oneself.
Also, the project brings forth a sense of joy in me knowing that children of today are being provided ample opportunities to portray their talent in whatever field they wish too. During our days, the thought of having a stage with a large number of people waiting to witness me performing was out of the question. A lot has transpired since then.

MM: How was your experience at NITR?
BM: I discovered NITR to be a much disciplined institute. National Institute of Technology, Rourkela is one of the prestigious institutes of the nation and it is an abode of almost 5000 bright students. The delight in being here and watching the show is beyond words.

MM: What is the axiom of your life? How would you inspire the young generation to dream for unconventional areas like acting and drama?
BM:  You see, I have almost completed my life (laughs). So, today I no longer pray for myself and my amelioration. I pray and wish for the well-being of others. I have experienced 35 years of an intense world of drama and have realized that with dedication as that of the great archer ‘Eklavya’, you shall never fall short of scope to attain your goal. If you have that fire inside you then exploit it and do not let it die. If you don’t have it than no one can give it to you. And what does one mean by scope? Scope is always there. It will automatically come to you if you are serious for it. People have scaled the Himalayas when they tried to, if you want to become an artist then you can. You need to have concentration, courage, hard work and dedication. That is all that is needed to succeed. But one must also realize that though it sounds harsh your dreams shouldn’t be so big that they become bigger than yourself

MM: You have currently joined Politics. Tell us something about your political endeavors
BM:  Politics was never in my list of inclinations. It was my near and dear ones who chose that for me. I have, undoubtedly met with several novice experiences in this field. Earlier, people came to meet me. Now, it was me who went to meet the people and enquire about their hardships. I am glad to state that I made it a point to visit every house of my constituency and put a compassionate ear to their grievances.

MM: Lastly, what is the message that you would like to give to the young generation?
BM: Life is full of challenges, at every point. Mere dreams shall not lead to success unless you devote your heart and soul in working to culminate it into reality. It is only your ardor that persists. Also, this period of your life is the best period. For, after this you will be entangled in your work life and have seldom time for yourself. So spend these moments judiciously and make the best use of it.

 

                                        

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