A DATE WITH PRASHANT NANDA
Prashant Nanda displays his charm and grace without eﬀort to make you comfortable the minute you meet him. Born 2 May 1947, he is an Oriya movie actor and politician from Odisha who has worked in the Oriya ﬁlm industry as an actor, director, screenwriter, lyricist and playback singer. Meeting him at his residence in Bhubaneswar was a pleasure. With a smile he says, “I started my career when I was very young and had no idea what was happening in the ﬁlm industry. I just did what I was told by my director and seniors.”
It was in 1960 that Prashant Nanda won the National Award as Best Actor for the film NuaBou. The iconic movie personality who would later leave an indelible impression on Oriyaʼs filmdom had just made his debut as a full-fledged actor though he was present in Oriya cinema since 1959. He became super active only after 1976. Such a versatile genius is quite rare. Prashant Nanda alone carried Oriya films into the national honours list by winning National Awards thrice ‒ in 1960, 1966 and 1969 for his acting in NuaBou, Matira Manisha and Adina Megha. He also directed Sesha Shrabana and played the lead role in the film that remains noted for its superb screenplay and soul lifting music. The film also saw the debut of noted Oriya actress Mahasweta Ray. A great box office hit, it is also the only Oriya movie to have been remade in Hindi as Naiya, released in 1979. It was directed by Prashant Nanda who, alongside Zareena Wahab, played the lead parts. In 2009, his film Jianta Bhoota was released to much acclaim. It also won the National Award under the non-feature category. Prashant Nanda reveals, “I always wanted to work in socially relevant films and I got an opportunity to do so by Godʼs grace. In 1966 I acted as the main lead in Mrinal Senʼs Matira Manisha. That gave me the experience to understand how socially committed films are made. Matira Manisha was an eye opener. I tried to evaluate myself as an artiste and find out whether I was a puppet or my own master. Working with Mrinal Sen gave me the impetus to become a director. Itʼs like a child who has all the respect for his parents but wants to be recognised as an individual in his own right.”
Matira Manisha was a national award-wining film drawn from the equally famed novel written by Kalandi Charan Panigrahi. The story revolves around the life of two brothers with antithetical values and their conflict relating to their inherited property. The plot explores human relationships, employing a wide range of themes that range between Gandhian and Marxist ideology, post war social conditions, agrarian life and traditional family values. The music of the film was composed by Akshay Mohanty and songs like ʻUdi gale gendalia…ʼ are still hummed by countless fans.
Prashant Nanda was also the Bharatiya Janata Partyʼs senior leader and Odisha state Vice President. He resigned from his membership in August 2007. After that he joined the Nationalist Congress Party and then became a member of Biju Janata Dal. However, his political career has not deterred him from wanting to make good films. As he says,
“Whether I am politically active or not is irrelevant. Politics will always interest me as an Indian citizen as will films. Good cinema in any language will find an audience. Once people get hooked to original content, the scene is bound to change. Everything has its own space and time!”