Way back in 1936, little did the folks of then Odisha know that they were to be treated with an enigmatic Odia flick for the first time in their lives. Though black and white, it definitely brought colours into the lives of the people of the state. On the fine sunny day of 28th April, 1936, this first of its kind movie in the name ‘Sita Bibaha’ saw its release in just one theatre; Lakshmi Talkies at Puri.
Directed by the prominent Mohan Sundar Deb Goswami, who also acted in the film, this mythological story written by Shri Kamapala Mishra, was a holistic package encompassing 14 song sequences, a strong and effervescent cast and immaculate execution. Cine lovers must have gotten into frenzy to witness this phenomenal trend setter which portrayed the theme of Ramayana. The second movie came in after a gap of about 13 years. So this went on to be a widely sought after film across the state.
The two hour long movie was made within a budget of about just Rs 30,000. Breaking the mould of gender disparity which is very prominent these days, the female protagonist, who played the role of Goddess Sita, Prabhabati Devi had received Rs 150/- which was more than what was received by Makhanlal Banarjee who played the role of Lord Rama! (He received Rs 120).
Prepared and shot at Kali Film Studio, Tollygunge, Calcutta, this was the beautiful outcome of the dream which Mohan Sundar Deb dared to dream at that time when technology was at a budding stage and Odisha had literally no connection with cinematography. The cast and crew members undertook this project just to follow their passion and to manifest Odia and Odisha’s identity through their dedication. Some of the song sequences were also sung by the actors themselves by maintaining the traditional flow of music.
Another intriguing fact about this flick is that there was no censor board pertaining to Odisha individually at that time so it was sent to the Bengal Board of Film Certificate and it was awarded with the go-ahead sign by the police commissioner of Lal Bazaar. With this censor certificate, the film eventually became a hit and not only did it draw in huge crowds but also went on to get released at Cinema Palace in Cuttack. Though there is no print available today as the original reel was damaged in a fire mishap, but you can listen to the mellifluous song renditions directed by Hari Charan Mohanty which were then distributed by Hindustan Records, on YouTube and a few other websites as well!
With Ollywood having completed 80 years in 2016, this movie still remains freshly etched in the memories of many people in Odisha.