Odia Film Music – A Very Short Introduction

Review of Jhuramana Jharageeti by Surya Deo The first Odia movie, Sita Bibaha, was made just five years after the first Indian talkie, Alam Ara was released, though the real journey of Odia cinema began a decade and a half later when the second Odia film Lalita was released in 1949, followed by more movies in 1950, 1951 and so on. In all these years, songs have been an integral part of Odia cinema, as they have been in Hindi and other regional cinemas. From the ras leela songs of Sita Bibaha to the traditional bhajans in Sri Jagannatha:  from the khorata-type song in Nuabou to the experimentations of Akshaya Mohanty in Malajanha; from the Rafi-Lata songs in Arundhati to the experimentations of Prafulla Kar in turning traditional Odissi tunes to modern beats, the journey of Odia film song has been an interesting and eventful one.

But there has been almost no account of that interesting journey.

The first book on the journey of Odia cine song informs, educates and entertains

Jhuramana Jharageeti, written by noted film journalist and writer Surya Deo, is that monumental work which attempts to chronicle this great journey.

It is monumental, not in the sense that it is voluminous or gigantic—in fact, it is less than 100 pages, just about 6 x 6” in size. It is not monumental only because it is the first attempt in the area. It is monumental because it is complete. In less than 100 pages, which also include so many rare pictures, it tells us the complete story of Odia film song till 1990, in just the right detail.

You get to know when each of important personalities associated with Odia film songs—singers, composers and lyricists—made their debut. You get to know what kind of experimentation was attempted by which the composer in what movie. You get to know—if you are not already aware—which songs achieved what kind of popularity. And you get all this, even as there is no break in the linearity of description—the book’s narration is completely chronological. You do not miss a movie, especially of the early days.

The author resorts to a clever presentation format to ensure that while enough interesting anecdotes are served to the reader, the main narrative does not become too large and too distracting. He achieves this by keeping all the anecdotal information to separate sidebars, mostly presented in the voice of the individuals associated with particular songs and movies. So, you get to know how Pranab Patnaik resorted to Saigal Saab’s style in bedana sagara tire or how the song baridare tu jana was rerecorded in the voice of Sikander Alam, as some thought the accent of Tarun Banerjee didn’t sound Odia enough or how Rafi Saab generously sang two songs for the fees of one, “cheating” his own secretary.

The only jarring note in the entire book is its subtitle: Ardha Shatabdira Odia Cine Geetira Tarjama or Analysis of the Odia cine songs of the (last) half century.

Tarjama? Analysis? Does the book even get into what, in musicological terms, would be called an analysis of a genre or even specific songs?

An analysis of a musical genre (Odia cine song in this case) would typically do one or more of the following: find and/or examine trends; raise questions and possibly answer them. For example: Where and why did Odissi and other traditional music disconnect from Odia cinema? Why is it that some songs (like this one from Arundhati) are never listed anywhere? Or what explains the dominance of non-Odia female singers in the 60s even though most of the male voices belonged to Odias—and this despite hits such as jaa re manadoli udi jaa? What was the relationship between Odia light music and film music and how they evolved together? Or who were the musicians/men behind orchestration and what was their background (In Bollywood, this is probably the most researched aspect, especially by foreign researchers)? What was the impact of regional music of different parts of Odisha on Odia cine song?

The book does not get into all these questions, I believe, because it never intended to do that. It does beautifully what it aims to do—to inform, educate and entertain the general reader about Odia film music.

When I read it, without noticing the subtitle, I did not find that the book fails anywhere in what it attempts to do. The size, the style of narration, the language, the amount of detailing, and the anecdotes in the language of the individuals associated with Odia film music—all contribute to making of a great narrative. Though the author’s deep insights into the subject (and the research behind it) pop out sometimes, he ensures that it does not affect the readability; in fact, he plays those beautifully at places to make the narrative only richer and more engaging. The added incentive: the lyrical flow of language which, at no stage, allows you to get overwhelmed by the abundance of information—and proper nouns!

Except for  this small gap I mentioned above—in the subtitle which is somewhat misleading—the entire content is flawless. The book is a great addition to Odia non-fiction in general and film literature in particular and is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in Odia films or Odia music.

Before this, I have read four books on Odia cinema; three on the history of Odia cinema, and one a collection of essays on topics in Odia cinema—including its music—by Surya Deo himself. While one of the books—Odia Chalachitrara Agyanata Adhyaya—is full with lots of valuable information and is a great resource book for those studying the subject, only Deo’s book—Odia Cinema: Rupa Rupantara—would classify as a narrative non-fiction, a book that is engaging and would interest anyone who just loves to read.

The scope of Jhuramana… does not allow him to get deeper into any one single aspect, like in Rupa Rupantara, but what he manages to do is extraordinary. The book is unputdownable; I completed it in one and half hours of opening the parcel.  I had ordered it online through Odikart, an Odisha-based e-tailer, in July and have followed at least half a dozen of times before it arrived a couple of days back.

It was worth the wait.

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9 Comments

Filed under Music, Odia music, Odisha & Odia

9 responses to “Odia Film Music – A Very Short Introduction

  1. Really wonderful book review. The subtitle of the book is indeed pompous and deceptive. The alliterative title resonates like a fountain of music, but the mountain of words used in the subtitle strikes a discordant note. The questions raised by the reviewer are worth contemplating. Nobody has ever thought of it.

  2. Thanks for the nice review but the critical aspect seems to be stemming from an erroneous translation of Tarjama as Analysis. Tarjama is more of an Account or Interpretation while Bishleshana is the right word for Analysis. So, we can forget the objection and enjoy the fine prose that Surya babu weaves and highly insighful connections he makes. With good wishes for his forthcoming book on Odia film songs, [TNM55]

    • shyamanuja

      Of course, bishlesana is the text book translation of analysis. And you are right that it’s not the most appropriate word. But then, account and interpretation are far removed from each other in meaning compared to interpretation and analysis. Both actually do the same. In both comes the perspective of the person who is doing it. In interpretation, it is not intended; in analysis it is intended and explicitly expected.

      The reason I got into this is the basic criticism will remain valid if I replace the word analysis with interpretation but will not remain valid if I replace the word with account, because the book is a nice account of the journey, not an interpretation of either the songs or the evolution. The later is what we often call musicological analysis, slightly different probably the common English term analysis

      • When I Google Tarjama, it has several meanings including transfer. And the second aspect is Surya babu’s account is actually replete with analytical observations. That they are limited to a select parameters is another matter. So without expecting any further (higher) discourse, it can be said that Tarjama in the subtitle is not out of place. Thanks. [TNM55]

      • shyamanuja

        I too am not getting into the discussion on the words’ meaning anymore. But the presentation in the book is a mix of factual and anecdotal, not analytical, unlike his other book, Odia Cinema Rupa Rupantara, where a few chapters were on music. That, per se, is not good or bad. As I have pointed out, I did not see the cover properly but read it in one go. And I loved it.

  3. One would ordinarily agree but for the word factual which, viewed critically, turns out to be a misnomer. Surya Deo informs that a particular song is indebted to some folk style, but it’s not a self-evident fact. Thus, it’s through his idiosyncratic observations that they come out as facts to the reader. On the other hand, he might have identified some song as touching the hearts of a large number of listeners based on its lyrics which may not be really factual. Besides, the book also contains some errors which we treat as facts till the new book is published.

    It’s good that this conversation is prompting us to examine Deo’s text and its sub-texts more closely but to say that it lacks analysis would amount to denying him of any originality. [TNM55]

    • shyamanuja

      First of all, this particular comment is not about Surya Deo; it’s about the book. Secondly, there’s no comment about originally. For some reasons, we tend to attach lesser importance to researched and presented facts than to either interpretation or analysis in liberal arts. This has led to many art forms die. Thankfully, that is changing. At least, I see it that way. I am also writing a small piece on what pure quantitative data analysis can reveal in liberal arts. I have highest regard for Surya Deo. Any sensitized artiste or a music critic can comment about musical aspects of a song. To research and present facts in an authoritative manner is no mean task

  4. sanjeev

    Sir, recently I saw Chilika Tirey. Organized by u…..Sir..I got to know about u from Prof. Mr.Saroj Singh Sir of Cuttack, he also give me ur no. 4 months back. Sir I am a old odia movie lover. I met him regarding my wishlist of song “AKHI CHHURI MARENA TU” & he suggested ur name for collecting this song…I also want to share some thing with u sir, I was looking for Sita Bibah songs on net & find out that one Mr.Nihar Mohanty of Puri donated 8 records of Sita Bibah to one Mr.M.V.Sekhar of Hyderabad who subsequently digitized those songs and listed in his site kundanlalsaigal.com. Sir I need these songs…kindly revert…I am regular at All the shows in Bbsr.

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