It shall be a rarity if anything belonging to or portraying Odia culture and heritage does not reflect a fragment of Jagannath culture in it! The Odia cine industry too is a vivid example of how stories on Lord Jagannath fascinate even the artistic taste of Odia audience. However, it is not just the Odia audience that is enamoured by a film on His life.
Lord Jagannath is popular among deities all over the world and stories revolving Him and His siblings are intriguing even to the most steadfast atheist. Thus, stories on Him are a treasure house for our Odia film makers and provides Odia cinema with an untiring zest for translating Lord Jagannath’s life and history into films, even till this day.
Time and again, Odia cinema has produced many films on Lord Jagannath but one of the movies that created history was ‘Jay Jagannath’. Released in 2007 on the auspicious day of Sri Gundicha Rath Yatra, the film was a brilliant cinematic depiction of Lord Jagannath’s relationship with his brother and his wife. Initially, it was shot both in Odia and Hindi, but was later dubbed in English and 13 other regional languages. It created a record of sorts in the Odia film industry. It was written and directed by National Award winning film director Sabyasachi Mohapatra and Akshaya Mohaty had rendered the music for the same.
In an exclusive chat with MCL, actors Jyoti Mishra and Sritam Das, who played the roles of Goddess Laxmi and Lord Jagannath stunningly, spoke about their roles, the success of the film while sharing some interesting experiences they had during the shooting of the film.
Though it has been 10 years since the film was released and made a history of sorts, actress Jyoti Mishra gets nostalgic even today, simply thinking about it! “Jay Jagannath will remain as one of the best movies of my career. The character of Maa Laxmi is the best I could have ever played. The response that I get from people, especially when I visit any of the villages, is incredible even today. They treat me as Maa Laxmi in real life. All of it has been an entirely pleasant experience for me.”
She further added, “Although I was excited to play the character, I was also worried. It was not just a different kind of a role, but a larger than life image. I had always played characters of the cheerful girl-next-door or of the pretty damsel in my previous movies. But this character demanded different kind of emotions and expressions. It was definitely a challenge for me. I made it a point to give my best to get into the character from the very first day of the shooting. Later, the appreciation that I received for my role felt rewarding.”
Besides the gratifying feeling of essaying the role of Goddess Laxmi, she recalls some of the supernatural experiences she had during the shooting of the movie. “It was an unusual experience. The entire cast for the movie was decided. But at the last minute, most of the cast members had to be replaced with new faces. Interestingly, when we finally saw the film, we realised that all the new actors had completely justified their characters in the best possible way. It all seemed to be destined by the Lord,” said the Jai Jagannath actress.
Not only Jyoti Mishra, actor Sritam Das who played the role of Lord Jagannath also had his share of interesting experiences to share with us. Narrating facts about the movie, he said, “This is the first Odia movie to be shot in two languages and dubbed in 15 languages. Being the first Odia movie to be made with all the latest technologies of cine making, it set a benchmark in Ollywood. For me, playing this character was like a dream come true.”
Reminded of the memorable time the cast had while shooting the film on the sets where ‘Ramayan’ was shot, he further said, “The film was shot in two languages – Odia and Hindi – so we had to shoot one scene twice, once in each of the language. It took us a lot of hard work, but all of it felt rewarding when the film was premiered at Mumbai. The premier was attended by popular celebrities of B Town including Shahrukh Khan and Mani Ratnam among others. I still remember how the public came to us and greeted us. A lot of them looked up to us with reverence as if we were Gods and Goddesses in reality. I can clearly say that playing the role of Lord Jagannath in the film ‘Jay Jagannath’ has been the best experience of my entire acting career till date,” concluded Sritam.