With her natural elegance, warm persona and strong acting skills, Tripura Mishra rose to fame as one of the reigning queens of the golden period of Odia cinema during the 70’s. Not only that, her journey in the Odia film industry became eventful as she married the superstar of the Odia cinema, Sriram Panda. But, little did she know that her marriage to the iconic star would take a different turn in her life and leave her to face challenges of family and professional life all by her own.
My City Links talks to the actress of yesteryear who has not only set a benchmark for actresses of the subsequent generations to emulate, but also set an example of being a compassionate human being, despite all odds. Excerpts.
In spite of hailing from a traditional family, how did you manage to pursue a career in the film industry?
My father was a government servant and believed in leading a disciplined life and disliked the glamour trappings of the film industry. We as children were brought up in a strict atmosphere at home. Although he was not against us pursuing what we like, he was particular that we did not compromise on our studies. Even though I was good at academics, I had a weakness for performing arts. Moreover, since I was singing and dancing so well, he did not oppose me when I expressed my intent to join films. It was my brother who supported me when I wanted to do films.
During that time, they were looking for a fresh face for the movie Jajabara. When I appeared for the audition, I bagged the lead role. That role marked the beginning of my career in acting.
Tell us about your marriage with Sriram Panda.
I met Sriram Panda during the shooting of a movie. We turned into really good friends and gradually realised that we were in love with each other. When our families came to know about our relationship, my father did not accept it and asked me to stop working in films opposite him. So, we decided to label our relationship, and it was while shooting of the super hit Ollywood movie ‘Subarna Sita’, that we decided to get married.
You were among the most successful actresses of your times. Why did you decide to leave the industry all of a sudden?
After marriage, I felt my family life was getting hampered if I continued to work. Since, both of us had different styles of work, it had an influence on our personal lives as well as on our work. That was the major reason for me to give up my career. Funnily enough, even after being an actress, I disliked applying makeup on my face all the time. Strange as it may sound, I didn’t want to do movies for that reason too.
What made you take up teaching as a profession?
Thankfully, I always had the cushion of a good academic background. When I steered myself away from the film industry, I went on to complete my Master’s degree in Arts in 1983. Post my degree, I joined as a lecturer within a year.
Within the few years of your marriage to your husband, the superstar of Odia film industry during those times, suddenly chose to lead the life of an ascetic. How difficult was it for you to continue managing all the responsibilities of personal and professional life on your own?
We got married in 1979. In the year 1986, my husband decided to make a movie under our home production ‘Kurukhetra’. The movie did not run well and he incurred enormous financial losses. Disturbed and shaken, he took to the spiritual path to find solace. Soon after, he decided to become a disciple and wanted to renounce worldly life and stay in an ashram. We, as a family tried our best to stop him from doing so. His close friend from the industry, Prasant Nanda, too tried cajoling him to give up his idea. But we failed to persuade him to stay.
Many actresses of your era are now appearing on television. Is there a chance to see you on the small screen?
After 35 years, I started working in a tele serial again, but I found many changes in the working environment. I faced problems with the dates, so I could not continue working for a long time. It is a difficult industry, and I am yet to decide about working in the television industry. But if I get an opportunity to play a well scripted character, I will think about it.
What differences have you noticed in the industry during your time and now?
There is a vast difference when we look back at what kind of movies were being made during those days as compared to today. Although the number of movies has increased, the quality and content of the movies has gone down tremendously. These days, art is all about commerce and business is more important than good work. The main essence of our Odia culture has gone missing from our movies and we are relying more on cheaper remakes of other regional movies to make money.
You were a part of the censor board of the Odia film industry for four years. Does it play the role of an independently functioning regulatory board or is it only a dummy at the hands of the many stake holders of the industry?
The censor board of our state definitely has played a vital regulatory role, all the time. When I was a part of the board, we have removed many objectionable scenes and dialogues. But it has never happened that we have banned a movie. It is a small industry and people spend a lot of money to make a film. If required, we have to be a little flexible in approving it. But there have been only few such instances.
What would be your word of advice for all the young actresses of today?
I would want our young talent to be sincere to their work and not just chase fame and glamour. Good work will automatically bring them name and fame with time!