Finally, we have a Bollywood movie centred around Odissi. Desire: The Journey of a Woman, is a new Indo-Chinese movie that revolves around Gautami, an Odissi dancer, portrayed by Shila Shetty. The male lead role is played by a Chinese actor Xia Yu who falls in love with the dancer during one of her visits to Malaysia for a program. The movie stars Om Puri, Jaya Prada, and a host of other Indian actors. Produced by Shilpa’s mother, the movie has been directed by R Sarath, with music by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and background score by Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the classical guitar maestro.
The Odisha connection comes in form of an Odissi dance sequence enacted by Shilpa Shetty and Jaya Prada, to the Odissi song, Shyama lagi mu pagali, penned by noted Odia poet Gopalakrushna Pattnaik; and also, one of the two choreographers for the movie being Ratikanta Mohaptra, noted Odissi dancer and the son of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
I am happy that finally Odissi has caught the imagination of filmakers. But I am also apprehensive that like some other such efforts in the past, most notably, the movie Asoka, it does not do a wrong portrayal of Odisha, Odias and their culture. The reason for my apprehension is that the no Odissi musician is involved in the music of the movie. While I have all the respect for both the S-E-L team and Pt Bhatt, Odissi music has its own distinct characteristics and to try it out on a global scene without the involvement of an accomplished Odissi musician may be a litte too much of an adventurous experimentation.
Also—it is my personal opinion, though—putting Odissi in the centre stage without that extremely endearing face of Kalia (Lord Jagannath)–is not a great sign. The movie has not been shot in Odisha at all. And that is okay. Our art should not be restricted to the geographic boundaries of the state, but to dissociate Lord Jagannath from Odissi is inexcusable. I did not notice it anywhere in the promo and website of the movie. I just hope that it is there in the actual movie.
I am sincerely hoping that my apprehensions are proved wrong and the world sees Odissi in all its glory, especially that it has been choreographed by no other than Ratikanta.